Dubrovnik was the first port of call.
We arrived at 8:00am and I headed to the top deck to get some pictures. We passed many villas clinging to the steep cliffs the rise straight up out to the sea.
Entering the Port of Gruž, you pass the Franjo Tuđman bridge spanning the Rijeka Dubrovačka (inlet).
Work on the bridge design was started in 1989. Actual construction started in 1998, after the war of independence. It was finished in 2002.
I was intrigued by the design. The first section is a cantilever design - but with no tension element. Pre-stressed girders and the large concrete abutment form a balanced cantilever. The second section is half a cable stay bridge with the support on the shore. The two sections are independent. There is a large expansion joint where the sections meet.
As we entered the harbour a naval vessel was passing by. I thought it was part of the Croatian Navy. I found out later it was a French Tripartite class minesweeper.
The Dubrovnik Card
I had planned to get a 'Dubrovnik Card' once we got into port. The card includes a day pass on all the city buses. There are also discounts for select tourist attractions. The main bus depot was at the port and riding the local bus was a great option.
The Dubrovnik tourism website said the 'Dubrovnik Card' was available at the port -- just try to try to find out where!
The two buildings across from where we were docked had signs saying 'Tourist Information'. They were both closed. The port office was at the other end of the port. We didn't feel like walking down there in case they didn't have the card.
After getting some Kuna from the ATM ( next to the bus depot ) we got a tickets on the Holland America shuttle bus. We had already wasted an hour try to find out where to buy the card.
Entering the 'Old City'
All the buses to the 'Old City' stop at the 'Gate of Pile'. Following the crowd, we walked down the path across a drawbridge spanning the moat. From there we passed through the fortified gateway that opens onto the main street - the Stradun.
Inside the gate, to the right, is tourist information office. Inside the office is a ticket booth where we bought I bought tickets to explore the wall and picked up a map. They only take credit cards and Kuna - while Croatia is part of the EU, Euros are not widely accepted.
Main Entrance to Old City
To the left is the entrance to the top of the wall. Most people use this entrance — we are not most people.
We walked down the Stradun toward the 'Gate of Ploče'. A narrow street, to the left of the clock tower, leads out of the 'Old City'. Look to the right, near St Luke's Church, for a small ticket booth and stairs to the top of the wall.
The steps at the 'Gate of Ploče' entrance to the wall lead to the highest section of the wall with views on the inner harbour and looks out across the city to the Adriatic. Looking out from the wall, you can see some older defenses and great views of the new city.
You walk counterclockwise around the wall which widens and narrows all around the perimeter. We used the wide spots to let the younger, faster, walkers go by. Steps, some very steep, tend to be very narrow and form a 'bottleneck'. Again, we let the faster people by and waited our turn.
There is no rest areas from the 'Gate of Ploče' entrance to the 'Gate of Pile'. The crowds pick up at the 'Gate of Pile'. That section is much narrower with many steps, and we found ourselves in a long line snaking its way along the wall. The view from this section, to the Porporela entrance to the wall wasn't as interesting.
Looking into the city, you were mainly looking into people's backyards. (Some buildings in this section were higher than the wall.) To the outside is the harbour. There are rest areas and a souvenir stand in this section.
We left the wall at the Porporela entrance. While we didn't go there, there is a restaurant at the foot of the Porporlea entrance that is right on the harbour.
After a cup of tea at Konoba Amoret, we headed back towards the Stradum. Rubbing the nose of the statue of Marin Drzic for luck, we started exploring the side streets. As you walk back to the 'Gate of Pile' the side streets on the right are narrow and uphill. The streets on the left and seemed wider. They both lead to streets that parallel the Stratum and are lined with small shops and restaurants. Not surprisingly, the narrower uphill streets were less crowded.
Around the Port
After taking the shuttle back to the port we went for a walk around the port area.
There is a small supermarket just outside the port, and we went in there, just to get a taste of what was available. It wasn't unlike any small supermarket you would have seen in Canada ten years ago. No oversized shopping carts to encourage over buying and the lighting wasn't as bright as the newer stores, but the shelves were well stock and there was a wide variety of produce. A steady stream of customers indicated to us that the economy was fairly strong.
Further along we saw a number of luxury yachts and a number of boats offering harbour cruises. This area had been targeted during the Croatian War of Independence, but there was little evidence of the damage. Many of the building appeared to be fairly new and the whole area was very busy with a number of apartment towers, stores, hotels and restaurants.