This time on our way back we spent some time in Dubrovnik. It is easy to understand why the people of Dubrovnik are proud of their city – about 20 years after the war, which destroyed many buildings of the city.
In former times it was first of all a refugee colony for the people of Epidaurum (today’s Cavtat, a small beach town further south), who fled from invading Avar and Slav tribes. At that time the land south of Stradun, as the main thoroughfare through the Old Town is popularly called, was an island, offering some protection from attack, but, of course, the walls began to rise giving those first fearful citizens their shelter. That was back in the 7th century. At that time, these lands were under the protection of Byzantium. Following the Crusades, Venice took over, and then the Croatian-Hungarian kingdom. But in the 14th century, by the force of skilled diplomacy, the nobles of Dubrovnik bargained their freedom, and this became a city-state which flourished for four centuries, maintaining independence from feared invaders such as the Turks, and, indeed, cultivating profitable relations with them.
The skill of the people of Dubrovnik in trade and in many other areas led to this tiny city state, then known as the Republic of Ragusa, becoming such a powerful force in the Adriatic, that it seriously rivalled Venice’s dominance in the region. By the way, did you know that the famous Italian fashion designer Ottavio Missoni was born here in 1921? And during the heyday of the city’s development, art and culture flourished, leading to a love for harmony, a love for music, and a love for literature which much shaped the language of Croatian that we can hear today.
One of the oldest European synagogues
With every step in the old town we got the feeling of being in a living museum. Not in vain the city is today a famous World Heritage site. A rather liberal political system, for example, abolished slavery at a very early stage in 1418. And alongside with respect for humanitarian concerns came the love for freedom. Here you will often see the word “Libertas”, emblazoned on everything from flags to the sides of buses. It’s hard to believe that this freedom of the tiny Republic of Ragusa, and this economic and political power lasted all the way to the beginning of the 19th century when the Dubrovnik nobles were tricked by Napoleon to letting his armies into the city in 1806. So it is no surprise that the sense of individuality and collective pride is still so strong.
Did you know that one of the oldest synagogues in Europe is located in the heart of Dubrovnik’s old town? Jews came to Dubrovnik in the 15th century and made an important cultural contribution to the development of the Republic.
Royal romance and famous nudist beach
One of the greatest romances of all time once happened here. King Edward VIII and his true love Miss Wallace Simpson spent time cruising around the Adriatic Sea and Dubrovnik was their favourite destination. In 1936 the yacht Nahlin was chartered by King Edward VIII and used by him and Miss Simpson during a cruise in the Adriatic Sea. The yacht was later sold to the Royal Family of Romania for 120.000 Pound and renamed “Libertatea”. During their cruise of the Croatian Adriatic the Nahlin was accompagnied by the British Royal Navy destroyer HMS Grafton and HMS Gloworm.
The famous couple can also claim to have brought nudist tourism to Croatia. During their cruise they stopped at the island of Rab where the King obtained a special permission from the local government to swim without clothes. The permission was granted and nudist tourism was born in Croatia. In fact, the same beach was named by CNN as one of the top ten nudist beaches in the world.
Returning from the 1936 Adriatic cruise the King faced criticism when he announced he would marry Miss Simpson. Choosing not to end his relationship with Simpson, Edward abdicated, meaning that his reign of 326 days is one of the shortest of any British monarch.
We enjoyed our stay in a nice small hotel outside the buzzling town of Dubrovnik. The Villa Konalic (My recommendation: www.villa-konalic.com) is located in the suburb of Moskovica, about 20 minutes by bus from the old town, and pleasantly located at the banks of a sidearm of the Adriatic sea. Hotel Manager Jasna is the good soul of the house. Just a great and economic place when you want to discover Dubrovnik.
The island of Korcula is well known for its olive trees and vineyards. 60 % of the island is covered with forest and macchia. The beaches are small and mostly stony. Venice influenced the style of the houses, especially in Korcula-Town with its churches and palaces.
We stayed at the small village of Lumbarda near Korcula-Town. The first time of this trip we got rain. Therefore no sunbath at the beach but a trip around the island.
Back into history
Vela Spila, an archaeological site near Vela Luka at the other end of the island, is the most significant prehistoric archaeological site in the Mediterranean region. The Cave interior measures about 1.500 square meter and only a small part has been excavated by now. The continuous inhabitation has been established from the culmination of the last Ice Age (18.000 B.C.) to the middle Bronze Age (2.000 B.C.), and every now and then to the newer times. We talked to an archaeologist who was just working at the site. She was happy about the progress of the excavations and said, that even The New York Times reported some days ago about their latest artefacts found in the earth. The amount of artefacts, their importance, and diverse and prolific ornamentation defines Vela Spila as one of the basis of the contemporary civilization. We went there by car, but it is also possible to walk or ride a bicycle. For sure you will be rewarded with a wonderful view to the bay of Vela Luka, which is a nearby small town and ferry destination.
A small excursion into the world of Croatian wines
Now some information about Croatian wines, especially those from Korcula. Compared to the rest of the region of Dalmatia, which is known for its red wines, the island of Korcula is known for the quality of its white wines, particularly for Grk, which is grown at the hills of Lumbarda, and for the Posip and Rukatac grown in the central region of the island. The most popular red wine is Plavac Mali.
Grk (white wine): Lumbarda is renowned for its Grk, made from the identically named indigenous type of grapes which grow well in the sandy wineyards of the village. It is not known whether Grk got its name from its refined bitter taste (grk means bitter in Croatian) or from the Greeks, who established a settlement in the area back in the 3rd century B.C. An archaeological monument from that period, the Psephism, records the foundation of Lumbarda and the early years of its wine-growing and wine-making already 2.300 years ago.
The result of this wine-growing tradition combined with modern technology and oenology is a dry wine, which is recognisable by its lightgreen-yellow colour with golden reflections. It has a rich, harmonious and well-rounded taste with a slightly bitter finish. It contains 12 – 14 % alcohol with relatively little acidity. The wine Grk goes best with all sea-food, as well as with white meat, but can also be served as an aperitif. It should be served cold at 12 – 13 degrees.
Plavac Mali (red wine): Besides Grk, Lumbarda also grows Plavac Mali – a variety of red grapes chosen not only because it makes a good wine but also to help grow the Grk. Unlike most varieties of wines Grk has a female flower only, so to achieve fertilisation at the time of flowering it requires a pollinator which flowers at the same time.
Plavac Mali is an indigenous sort belonging to southern Dalmatia and Croatia’s most popular and best known wine abroad. Due to its high reputation for more than six centuries this wine used to obtain top prices among other Dalmatian wines. The best Plavac Mali comes from steep southern slopes – on the islands of Brac, Hvar, Korcula and Vis, and from those of the Peljesac peninsula. Lumbarda also produces a high quality. The dry wine from Plavac Mali grapes is dark red, even garnet colour, with traces of purple, and has a rich bouquet embedded in a cultivar aroma and a warm, full and well rounded taste. It contains 12 – 15 % alcohol. Plavac Mali goes well with dark meat, especially wild game, and also with fish and strongly flavoured quality cheeses. It should be served at 18 degrees.
The end of my South East European Travel Diary. Hope you liked it! Looking forward to your comments.
Photo Collage Title: Nicola Mesken (www.nicola-mesken.com)
All other photos: sl4lifestyle