Exploring the Streets of Dubrovnik… Armchair Travel

In this armchair travel post, Peggy and I walk the streets of Dubrovnik reliving our 2013 visit. We were there off-season a few weeks before Christmas, happily putting up with rainy weather to avoid the crowds of tourists!

The Stradun, Dubrovnik's main thoroughfare, lit up by sun after a rain storm.
The Stradun, Dubrovnik’s main thoroughfare, wet after a rain storm.

Luck was with us— the rain held off while we were on the walls of Dubrovnik and waited for us to descend to the Stradun, the city’s main thoroughfare. Lunch and pizza occupied most of the downpour. Afterwards we were treated to shiny, wet streets.

Our pizza, Croatian style.
Our pizza, Croatian style.

In its first life the Stradun had been a winding canal separating Dubrovnik’s Roman and Slav populations. The canal was filled in during the Eleventh Century and brought the two populations together. A devastating earthquake took out most of the town in 1667 and Dubrovnik rebuilt the road to its present straight alignment.

Narrow pedestrian ways shoot off in both directions from the Stradun and invite exploration. Plazas anchor both ends of the street. Since we arrived in December, Dubrovnik was preparing for the holidays. Two Christmas trees competed for our attention in Luza Square. I found one outlined by a window in the old Customs House to be particularly dramatic.

Walkways such as this and the one below branch off from the Stradun in Dubrovnik, Croatia and invite exploration.
Walkways such as this and the one below branch off from the Stradun in Dubrovnik, Croatia and invite exploration.
Dubrovnik walkway.
Dubrovnik walkway. No crowd here.
We visited Dubrovnik in December and found the city preparing for the holidays. In this picture,a Christmas tree is gracefully outlined by a window in Sponza Palace, the old custom house.
With Christmas coming, the city was decorated to celebrate. Here, a Christmas tree is gracefully outlined by a window in Sponza Palace, the old custom-house.
Another photo of Sponza Palace, the Christmas Tree and Dubrovnik's clock tower.
Another photo of Sponza Palace, the Christmas Tree and Dubrovnik’s clock tower.

The town’s bell tower and clock, St. Blaise’s Church and Orlando’s Column and are also prominent features of Luza Square. Both St. Blaise and Orlando symbolize Dubrovnik’s fierce sense of independence.

A close up of the Dubrovnik clock tower.
A close up of the Dubrovnik clock tower. A digital clock at the bottom adds a touch of modernization.

St. Blaise was an early third century Christian Martyr from Armenia who was so holy that wild animals were said to drop by his cave for a blessing. The Romans used steel combs to flay off his skin and then beheaded him. Since the combs resembled those used for carding wool, Blaise became the Patron Saint of the wool trade. Go figure.

He earned the everlasting gratitude of Dubrovnik by appearing in a vision to a local priest to warn of an imminent invasion by the Venetians in 971. Ever since, the locals have loved St. Blaise and disliked Venice. They celebrate his birthday by parading various parts of his body through the city on February 3.

St. Blaise, the Patron Saint of Dubrovnik, holds a model of the city in his hand. This particular statue is found in the Pile Gate at one of the city's main entrances. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)
St. Blaise, the Patron Saint of Dubrovnik, holds a model of the city in his hand. This particular statue is found in the Pile Gate at one of the city’s main entrances. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

Orlando is known as the legendary knight Roland in Northern Europe. The story is that he rescued Dubrovnik from a siege by the Saracens in the Eighth Century. The fact that the dates of Roland’s life don’t match those of Orlando doesn’t seem to matter. He wasn’t from Venice. Also of note— his arm was used as the standard measure of cloth in Dubrovnik.

The Orlando column in Luza Square. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
The Orlando column in Luza Square. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

The Pile Gate, Franciscan Monastery, and Onofrio’s Fountain are located at the other end of the Stradun. The fountain is a subject of my next blog. The Monastery houses a peaceful cloister and a small but interesting museum that features a pharmacy that opened in 1317— and St. Luke’s finger.

The Franciscan Monastery in Dubrovnik.
The Franciscan Monastery in Dubrovnik caught in the sunlight.
In 1337 the Franciscans opened one of the first phamacies in Europe as part of their commitment to provide medical care.
In 1317 the Franciscans opened one of the first pharmacies in Europe as part of their commitment to provide medical care.

NEXT POST: I’ll conclude our visit to Dubrovnik by looking at gargoyles, St. Luke’s finger, and other oddities that caught my attention.

18 thoughts on “Exploring the Streets of Dubrovnik… Armchair Travel

    • Laughing, AC. When I did my 750 mile backpack trek down the Pacific Crest Trail two summers ago, I was climbing mountains in hundred degree F heat. Definitely not the way to go! –Curt

  1. We too always enjoy travel in the off season Curt. Although people are wearing coats, it doesn’t seem excessively cold, and it sure was nice not to have cruise ship crowds.

    • It’s especially important with the more popular tourist locations, Ray. If we are traveling during high season, we try to visit places that aren’t high on most bucket lists. With a little planning, it is easy to get away from the crowds and still find beautiful, historical, and interesting cultural locations, as you know. –Curt

  2. “They celebrate his birthday by parading various parts of his body through the city on February 3.” Maybe it’s just me, but I think I’d prefer to be venerated in a different way…

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