We picked a warm day with lots of sun to walk around Old Town on top of the walls. Basically everyone we asked about Dubrovnik said this was the one thing we needed to do. It has all the benefits of clambering around a castle, hiking, and sightseeing in one.
Now bursting with tourists (and tour companies handing out flyers), the Pile Gate was clearly built to be intimidating. A wide moat is crossed by drawbridge leading through stone walls at least fifteen feet thick. The gate itself is intensely fortified, towers stand on each corner of the wall and another watches from across a small inlet.
Surviving an earthquake in 1667 and sieges all the way into the 1990s, Dubrovnik’s walls took on their current shape by the 1300s. Built up through the centuries, some spots are more than 80 feet high and seem to rise from the sea itself. Commanding views that allowed advance warning of an attack let us admire the city from a different angle.
A hundred or more steps took us to the top of the wall. Church towers stick up, easier to find from above than when wandering around the narrow streets. Almost every structure is made of white stone with a red roof. Many roof tiles are still unweathered – replaced after the 1991-1992 bombing during Croatia’s fight for independence. Lokrum Island, a forest reserve, sits just offshore, and other islands and boats dot the water.
We had to come back the next morning to see Lovrijenac, a separate defensive fortress outside the main walls. It turns out you can rent it for events; the afternoon we toured the walls we could see it being set up for a wedding reception.
The fort overlooks the rest of the city from a few hundred feet away. Using this rock as a fort goes back at least 1000 years, and it has been reinforced several times with cannons in mind. The view of the Old Town completely encapsulated by its wall is stunning.
Totally aside from the walls, one of the strange things we’ve noticed is feral cats. Our neighborhood in Split had a few that spent most of their time near the waterfront. But Dubrovnik takes it to a new level. A dozen cats seem to be in every quiet corner; they wait outside grocery stores and lounge around parking lots. I’m amazed there are any birds left.