Our first port on the Carnival Magic inaugural cruise was Dubrovnik, in Croatia. Before the trip, I didn’t know much about the city, other than it had been part of the former Yugoslavia. I had read some information on TripAdvisor and knew that the city’s Old Town walls were one of the top tourist attractions. I later learned that the old city is an UNESCO World Heritage site.
Dubrovnik’s port is about a 40 minute walk from Old Town. Most people get there by bus, but we chose to go on foot, mostly because I suspected we would see some interesting things along the way. The four individuals in our party were glad we took that route, as we were able to see parts of the marina, and some old neighborhoods prior to arriving at the gates of the Old Town. We even stopped off for a round of beers at a local pub and drank the local Croat beer.
The Old Town in Dubrovnik, built between the 13th and 15th centuries, has city walls, a main city gate and fortressed look-out towers. It reminded me a bit of the medieval hilltop towns that you see in Tuscany. The elevated forts were added to the walls in the 15th century to protect against invasion from the Turks. The walls span 1.2 miles, are 82 ft. high, and up to 20 ft thick at some points. Even today, the wall appears in good condition and has been maintained well.
The same can be said for many of the residential homes inside the walls. We were told by our waiter that after Croatia became an independent sovereign state in 1991, foreigners were offering some pretty good money, in Croat standards, to purchase homes within the Old Town, so many people sold.
At the front gate, we decided to get some lunch before touring, so we backtracked a few blocks to select a dining spot a little more quaint and less touristy. We ate at Sesame Taverna, which turned out to serve one of the best meals I had on the trip (even better than meals I had on board). We started with complimentary anchovies over tomato and lettuce, all placed on a light pastry-like cracker. We followed that with a cheese assortment plate with olives. The entrees, which we all shared, included margarita pasta, white risotto, black risotto (with squid ink for color), and a blue cheese pasta (deliously creamy).
I had been told in advance by Tim, Carnival’s VP of PR, that Croatian wines were very good. In fact some people regard them as good as many Italian wines. We ordered two red bottles during dinner – Mendek Moziac and Kozlovic Teran (even better). Both were chance orders by our expert picker, Cruise Radio personality Matt Basford. The first wine tasted like a bold California wine, not an earthy old-world wine. I asked the waiter about the second – his English was pretty good, and he explained that the wine was from a variety of Zinfandel grapes. I reported back to Tim, and he explained to me that the Zinfandel grape originated in Croatia (and another variety in the heel of Italy).
The Old Town is more commercial than what I experienced in Montepulciano and Volterra, similar walled cities in Tuscany – probably because Dubrovnik gets lots of day visitors through the port. Because of this, there are a lot of jewelry stores, chocolate shops, restaurants, t-shirt shops, ladies bag shops, and places to buy various other trinkets. Fortunately, I didn’t see any men painted silver or gold – a sure sign of a tourist trap.
Despite the commercialism, I found the Old Town incredibly facinating, with endless staircases branching upward in all directions up hills from the main pedestrian arteries. From there, it’s an endless maze of little cobblestoned walkways through all the residential areas. Almost all of the buildings are constructed of what appears to be large limestone blocks, and the roofs are almost exclusively curved clay shingles.
We returned to the ship just before 5:30 pm, the latest time to board. One day didn’t give us nearly enough time to see Dubrovnik. I’d like to go back so I can walk the city wall and really explore the city and its history.
This trip was sponsored by Carnival Cruise Lines, but the opinions are solely those of the writer.
Don Faust | Partner, Contributor and Photo Editor of the travel site www.caroundtheworld.com, winner of 2010 Lowell Thomas travel writing award.