Halima Ali walks the medieval walls of Dubrovnik
Even though I’m perched up high on Dubrovnik’s ramparts, I still have to stand on tiptoes, struggling to peek over a wall at what I’ve glimpsed but can barely believe. On a lofty lone rock out at sea, sit a man and woman in deep conversation. I can’t imagine how they got up there — they’re dressed in swimwear, but have no climbing gear with them.
I can just make out one possible route, assuming they jumped from a jagged ledge on a nearby rock. But the only way off their elevated, and very exclusive, little outcrop is down. Surely they can’t jump from that high up? “People jump from everywhere here,” my guide tells me later.
I peer down at the choppy Adriatic. After an unusually cold spring, it’s not really warm enough to swim, but that hasn’t put everyone off. Groups of tourists brave the biting water — some immediately regretting their foolishness and quickly swimming back to the safety of rocks, or the stony beach that’s typical of the area.
I’m steering clear of the water and sticking to walking the length of the walls that surround the Old Town. Dating back to the 10th century in parts and reaching over 80ft in height, they’re made up of a series of forts, towers and military structures, once a vital defence against potential invasions.
A steep staircase just inside the Pile Gate — the main entrance to the Old Town — has led me here. It’s late afternoon; passengers from the morning cruise ships have departed and the steep, exposed, sections of the wall are easier to bear now the temperature has dropped. To my right, I can see the shimmering blue sea dotted with ships, a smattering of Croatia’s 1,244 islands — including the nearby Lokrum — and a man struggling against the waves to make his way inland in a rickety-looking rowboat.
To my left is the limestone-paved Stradun — the main thoroughfare of the Old Town, which is full of tourists shopping, taking pictures and eating ice cream. Elsewhere, I hear plates smash in someone’s kitchen and I find myself peering into back gardens full of washing and – in one case — cuddly toys hanging out to dry. Some houses look worn, with the tiniest of windows and crumbling facades, while others have been modernised, with double-glazing. All, though, feature the traditional terracotta rooftops that spread across the whole city.
Watching my footing on the uneven cobbles, I pass bell towers, a church, cats napping in gardens, and the picturesque harbour speckled with boats. All the while, people wander through the labyrinth of alleyways below. At a particularly high point on the walls, as I stop to catch my breath, rambunctious shouts get my attention and I’m treated to a bird’s-eye view of kids playing football on a stone pitch.
Dubrovnik’s walls may have been intended to keep out strangers, but today they’ve given me a private view into the everyday life of the city’s people. And, having walked for a couple of hours, perhaps it’s time to head back down to join them.
This blog was published on CountryByCountry