Dubrovnik’s new dawn continues our sensational run of great weather. Blue skies greet my upturned face as I poke my head out of the bedroom window shutters.
I have slept late, Pam has already been out and about and I find a bag of tasty fruit from the local street market on the table when I rise.
It is a blatant bribe to get me marching, I know it, Pam knows it. No truer words ever spoken than ‘the path to a man’s heart is via his stomach’.
Tried and true, we intend to follow our ‘explore a new town’ procedures. Find the tourist office and plan our walks to come.
As we leave the narrow apartment door and turn to face the Old Town we are a little surprised to see an apparently naked person seated on a balcony railing in front of us basking in the morning sun.
A closer look has us laughing at the statue we had mistaken for a friendly local naturist.
The waiter who had served us the previous night waves as we walk by. A trio of young women are having coffee at the table where we were sitting, one of them has a tiny dog in full Santa regalia that is drawing a constant flow of admirers.
We make our way through the flow of well dressed locals entering the Old Town, climb the stairs and leave the city walls.
Just across the bridge leading into the first gate is a small square with a statue of a satyr and nymph at its front. The back of this square has a railing to prevent the unwary from plunging down a cliff and falling into the crystal blue waters below. During the festive season there is a large market pavilion with local handicrafts and foodstuffs on sale to the visitors of the Old Town.
The tourist office lies nearby on the far edge of this busy square and we obtain a map of Dubrovnik and information regarding activities during the Christmas and New Year festivities.
After a quick glance at the map it is obvious that our first walk is going to be the circuit of the old stone walls that encircle Dubrovnik Stari Grad.
The existing walls and fortifications were mostly constructed during the 14th and 15th century however they continued to be extended and strengthened up until the 17th century.
With numerous additions and modifications during their history these walls are considered one of the great fortification systems of the Middle Ages as they were never breached by a hostile force.
A now dry moat that ran around the land side of the walls added to the protective shield encircling the town.
Tickets for the walk around the high walls are purchased at a booth at the foot of the wall immediately to our left as we re-enter the Old Town. We ask how long the walk will take and are told ‘the distance is just under two kilometers and it is hard to predict how long this will take because we may stop to take many photos’.
I find this to be a fantastically accurate answer to our question.
We climb the first of many stone stairs to come and turn left onto the stone path stretching out along the top of the wall.
I orient myself, we are facing a south westerly direction, we will be walking counter clockwise around the two kilometer circuit. In the direction we are walking we will come to the cliffs above the sea, to our right lies the Fort Lovrijenac (often called Dobrovnik’s Gibraltar), the wall turns left and climbs high above the cliffs as the wall meets the Adriatic.
Behind us lies the Minceta Tower section of the walls, Mount Srd and the Old Fort Imperial (built by Napoleon in 1808) and the cable car we have been advised to take to the top.
Immediately to our left below as we commence our wall top walk lies the large Onofrio’s Fountain. The stone paved Stradun and its strolling denizens stretch out before us down to the Sponza Palace.
The restored red tiled roofs of Dubrovnik fill most of the area contained by the walls.
Hey ho, off we go, the path atop the wall is high and narrow, we have seen photos during the busy period showing an uninterrupted ant trail of tourists shuffling around this trail.
Today drawing in balmy Dubrovnik air under the deep blue sky we can see some others in the distance however for all intense and purpose we are alone.
I stop and force my shoulders through the narrow doorway into the first lookout we come across and do my best to take photos through every defense slot.
Pam has walked ahead with my Pacerpoles without realising where I have disappeared to and her inquisitive smile greets me when I have been able to shuffle around enough in the confined space to enable me to exit.
Everywhere we look the views are remarkable, the day is magnificent, azure skies above, sapphire seas below.
The wall takes us past parts of Dubrovnik still in ruins from the Homeland war, which tempers our thoughts, and we turn left as the wall meets the cliffs facing the Adriatic and begin to climb the stairs upwards.
This section of the Old Wall has much lower stone walls to each side than previously to prevent falls over the edge. Precipitous views down the walls and then further down the cliffs into the Adriatic below to our right have my pulse rising as we climb.
Heights have never been my thing.
I am taking photo after photo, if this were the olden golden days where each shot was etched by light in silver nitrate derivatives it would be a costly walk indeed.
The ubiquitous modern miracle of digital photography has me unlocking the secret of being a ‘good photographer’.
Take a million photos and throw away the bad ones. Pixels come for free.
To take these million and more I have to have free hands, Pam is carrying my trusty Pacerpoles and decides the precipitous climb with the low side walls is the most opportunistic moment to gently push me towards the cliff side with one of my poles.
Ahh she is such a joker.
My legs turn to jelly for an instant then the adrenalin kicks in for real. Suddenly the climb is easy.
Mean motivation. Pam is becoming an expert.
My knocking knees will not allow me to lean over the edge to take the photos of the Adriatic below that Pam is requesting. I relinquish the iphone as Jonathan Livingston Seagull flies below us.
Intentional timing Pam call’s it, Lady Luck had nothing to do with it.
Ahead the wall stretches towards the island Lokrum that contains the Dubrovnik Botanical Garden and was a favoured holiday spot for the Austrian Arch Duke Maximilan who had built a holiday home there.
We come across an older American couple who have apparently decided that paying the 90 Kuna (AU $18) fee to tour the walls is far too high. They have risked life and limb to climb a ladder from a courtyard far below. The male is none too agile and is having trouble getting his legs over the edge, his courage outweighs his penury.
Finally he makes it and he and his female companion set off in the opposite way to all the frequent direction signs we have passed.
Each time we come to one of the small cylindrical observation/defense towers that project from the sides of the wall I pause to squeeze in and take shots through the defense slots.
Pam enters to take a look after me and I seize a golden opportunity of revenge.
Time served in the clink for cruel and mischievous behaviour.
We are at the highest point of the Adriatic side of the old wall and descend through a series of gates to the corner closest to the Lokrum island where we turn left and continue our lofty expedition.
Below us a sole fisherman in a tiny boat rows between the old town and Lokrum island to his favourite fishing spot.
Days of futures past.
A bird’s eye view from above, showing the Dubrovnik Stari Grad walls, would very roughly conform to a square with a rectangle tacked to the side protecting the harbour.
We have walked completely around the open ocean sides and now head back towards the red tiled town roofs alongside the moored vessels in the harbour before turning right once more and climbing towards the Ploce Gate area.
At the gate we turn left once more and make our way along the wall top path towards the highest part of the entire wall structure Minceta Tower.
Stairs followed by more stairs lie in wait for us and we will not be content until we have climbed the last and look from above over the entire old town.
Each drop of sweat has been worth it.
We meet a young guy taking a ‘selfie’ from the ramparts at the top and offer our assistance. Our new friend turns out to be a Japanese guy who lives in Singapore and works for the Australian airline Jetstar.
Yin, Yang, Apogee, Perigee …… though we are pilgrims no longer the Pilgrim’s Law of Undulation still binds us enduring …… from the pinnacle we descend.
The wall descending to our starting point offers vantage points showing private dark green courtyards full of fruiting citrus trees squared off between dwellings invisible from the passing narrow streets and stairs of the town below.
A terraced garden faces the southern sun’s gift of light and warmth.
All too soon we are descending the stone stairs to our point of entry, our blue skies squared off circuit complete.
Back on the broad stone lined Stradun we share a look as we stroll down towards our side street and the stairs of our return.
No words need to be spoken to express how great is our fortune.
Pam still winks to remind me.
Pam and Mick.