With the sun shining and the days heating up we knew we wanted to try and get into the water. We had been drooling over the colors of the Adriatic Sea since our time in Montenegro, but it had been just too cold to get into. However, with the temperatures rising we figured this was the day to test the waters and jump in. During our exploring the day before we found a swimming spot close to Gradac Park and made that our destination.
Just downhill from the park we saw a group of people swimming the day before and the location was idyllic. Set at the base of a nunnery, of all places, you could tell this was a popular swimming hole later in the season but for now they were still setting up the palm leaf shades so we virtually had the spot to ourselves. Like many of the seasonal, makeshift bars in the Balkans this one had a few scattered concrete pads built over the rocky shoreline with a natural staircase leading in and out of the water. Since sea urchins are a serious concern here (they are everywhere in the Adriatic) we were sure to wear our water shoes when we went in. I’d like to say that it was amazing, that it felt like bath water and we swam for hours. In reality, the water was bitingly cold and I think I made it a good 15mins before having to get out with blue toes. Thankfully the sun was warmer than the water so it didn’t take long to regain feeling in my feet. Even though it was painfully cold I’m happy we jumped in as the water was so beautiful and full of marine life. Do bear in mind if you are looking for a beach holiday in Croatia, maybe wait util June as May is still too cold for pleasant swimming.
As we jumped in and out, we had the opportunity to watch the new beach goers as they arrived. We saw one woman in nothing but a two-piece swimsuit proceeded to jump right in and take off towards the next cove about 1 mile away. I have no idea how she did it without cramping up and going down in the water from hypothermia. Next, we saw an older heavyset man wearing only a speedo run circles around one of the concrete pads for about 30mins before joining the workman setting up the palm shades for a beer. We made sure to avert our eyes from that as he decided to place one leg over the other while sitting, still in only his speedo. Another man came and laid down right next to us and began a bizarre circular pattern of talking on his phone at max volume for a few minutes, getting off the phone, changing into a speedo, jumping in the water for about 5 mins, getting out, changing back into his shorts and calling someone else on the phone. Talk, change, rinse, change, talk, change, rinse, change, talk…. After the third round of this we decided we were ready to take off.
We had brought our lunch with us so we made our way back to our favorite picnic spot, the West Harbor (this is the last time I’ll say that I swear). Here we enjoyed sandwiches watching the groups of kayakers head out for Lokrum Island and the tourists passing between the city and fort. With our meal finished we were ready to take our turn on the walls. With a total of distance of 1,940m (6,365ft) you will have an opportunity to get some exercise in. That total doesn’t include the 1,000 plus stairs involved with the walk. If you have any physical limitations, especially knee issues, take that into consideration before buying your wall ticket. The experience is fantastic, but it isn’t worth ruining your entire trip over by flaring up an old injury. Also, be prepared by bringing along water and snacks as it gets hot up there.
Most estimates say it takes roughly 1-3hrs to do the walk, but it took us closer to four with a stop for a beer. We used the GPSmyCity app to find a great walking guide to use that really brought the architecture and history of the city to life. I highly recommend downloading this app for your travels as it’s a way to get free, offline information about where you are exploring.
The walk starts at the Pile Gate and goes only in a counterclockwise direction. Don’t worry, you will have plenty of people who don’t follow the directions and try to go the opposite way. Especially on the tiny staircase leading up to the wall top. We had read that sections were restored after being damaged during the 90’s conflicts, but we couldn’t really tell where. Bravo modern masons. For the bulk of the time you are totally exposed to the sun, so be sure to wear a hat as it gets hot, hot, hot. Even in May we were sweating. I will say the heat is worth the unbeatable views of the Old Town and the Adriatic below.
Since this was our “must-do” in Dubrovnik we were in no hurry. So naturally we stopped for a beer and a shade break along the way, which was actually cheaper than the Hole in the Wall Bar! With sparse crowds we managed to snag a table with the best view (in our opinion) making for a true happy half hour. Another bonus of the thin crowds was we could stop and look as long as we wanted at basically any view we wanted; and there are no shortage of views on this walk. Not like the usual wrestling match you end up playing with a complete stranger trying to get them to move an inch after standing in the same spot for 20mins straight trying to snap the perfect selfie. I’m all for taking your time and admiring views, and I’ll wait patiently for people doing that. But if your only goal is to snap a photo of yourself facing away from the scenery, object, whatever, be aware I’ll be all up in your personal space after your 15th attempt at a flattering photo.
As we walked along above the Old Town Harbor it was easy to imagine the old ships coming into port. Today you can watch the numerous tourists boats leaving for Lokrum and pretend they are old merchant ships preparing to sail to far off and distant lands. Or if you’d rather you can get behind some of the cannons still set on the walls and instead pretend to blow some ships away as they go cruising by. Perhaps my favorite view was from the top was the Minčeta Tower. Inside the top you could look down on the walls below to see just how massive the city walls are, and why they were such a good deterrent for attack. Plus it is a great spot to keep an eye out for Daenerys’ dragons. I could go on, and on about the top but I’ll keep the commentary to a minimum. Check our Gallery for more photos from atop the walls, especially the one where Jared was absorbed into a tour group of little old Chinese ladies.
The day had slipped away from us again and before we knew it we had been on the walls for close to four hours! During our reconnaissance mission the day before we had stumbled up a restaurant called Lady Pi-Pi. We chatted briefly with two men who had just exited the restaurant and they informed us we had to give it a try, particularly their BBQ plate. They also informed us to arrive 30mins before it opened as the lines were constantly out the door. We had decided earlier in the day that we would try to get there for dinner and to do so we needed to be off the city walls by about 1700. With it being close to our target timeframe we hurried through the end of the walls to get back into the city only to turn around walk back up almost as many stairs to the restaurant. I wasn’t kidding, all you do in and around Dubrovnik is walk up or down stairs. So. So. So. Many. Stairs.
It would be easy to miss Lady Pi-Pi as it is well off the beaten path at the base of the city walls. If you aren’t sure you’re at the right spot just look for the rather shocking water fountain the place gets its name from. I won’t say more, but a Google search will fill in any blanks if you haven’t figured it out yet. Lady Pi-Pi’s food is cooked right on an open flame grill in the center of the upper seating area and it is a complete flavor home run. After waiting about 35mins for the joint to open we were one of the first people in the doors giving us prime seating. As seating is scarce and the lines long, we ended up sharing our table with another couple. They were an American couple spending the year abroad so we enjoyed chatting and sharing travel tips with them throughout the meal. Plus after spending weeks on end with the same person it is always a welcome change to chat with new people. Being famished we obliterated the BBQ plate before us and put the beers away while we watched the sun begin to set over Dubrovnik. Not wanting to hog our table we left shortly after finishing and watched the sunset and the bats come out from a nearby vantage point.
This was the first night we spent inside the city after dark and I can’t recommend it enough. Dubrovnik is a lively place after the sun sets. With many of the landmarks illuminated you can watch the late night crowd start to arrive ready to paint the town red. We enjoyed roaming around the darkened alleys and seeing the place in a totally different way. It was hard to leave to catch the bus, but as it was the last one of the night, we forced ourselves to go. The only problem was the driver wouldn’t let us on because our bill was too big for him to break. After grabbing an overpriced taxi we finally made it back to the apartment for the night. It was a less than ideal way to end an otherwise fantastic day, but in the grand scheme we had zero complaints.