Coffee (even plain old decaf) just tastes better when you're sitting at a cafe in Europe.
We had a private tour scheduled later in the afternoon, so we wanted to spend our time doing something that was fairly nearby, and would still allow us a bit of time to relax before the tour.
We had discussed trying to go up to Mount Srd, the highest point in Dubrovnik, but thought we would have to drive up it, as most of the travel books stated that the reconstruction of the cable car (damaged in the war) had not yet been completed. We only had a rental car for a couple of days, and did not believe we would have the time to make the trip with the other timelines (aka border crossings) we had to work around. So, we were thrilled when we found out that everything was open and working. We wandered around the the city outside of the walls for a bit and eventually stumbled upon the cable car entrance. It was a quick ride (about 3 minutes), and it was so neat to see the city get smaller and smaller as we went up.
The feeling of possibly falling off a mountain in a cable car was totally worth it to see this.
Quite possibly my favorite picture from the trip. I loved taking the time to sit at the top of the mountain and overlook everything.
Apparently I felt so zen, that I broke out a yoga move (note, I do not actually do yoga, so I am not sure if this is a legitimate pose or not. I'm just being a goofball, because that's how I roll).
Ryan, on the other hand, felt like Superman.
Or possibly, like a world class diver.
The original cross overlooking the city was destroyed in the war. The fragments of the old cross were blessed by Pope John Paul II in 2003, and are being used in the foundations of new churches throughout the city.
The lack of trees around the mountaintop is mostly due to wildfire, not the war. Due to the fear of landmines in the area, locals did not fight the fires after the war as aggressively as they normally would have done.
Communications tower. The Croatian flag was flown above the tower to give hope to the besieged residents below.
Next to the tower is Fort Imperial. The fort houses the "War of Independence Museum." The exhibit is still a bit of a work in progress (lots of random artillery just sitting out in the open on the floor), but was definitely worth the visit.
It was crazy to see that the weapons and armor used to fight in the war looked like they came from 50 years ago, not 20 years ago (probably because they did).
Yes, those are a bunch of weapons surrounded by bullets sitting out in the open on the floor.
There were large pictures on many of the fort walls depicting the damage done throughout the war. Looking at the city now, it can be hard to imagine that there ever was a war. The pictures really emphasized just how bad things were.
Bombs hitting the port and walls.
City coming under fire.
This is the same square across from our sobe.
Map of the city outlining the damages.
Grave just outside of the fort.
After the museum and a quick lunch, we took the cable car back down to meet up with our personal tour guide, Maja. She took us around the town, and we stopped at places such as the Franciscan Monastery, the Rectors Palace, the Sponza Palace, Big Onofio's Fountain, and many others. I was really happy that we took the time to do this, because it allowed us to learn about the town from someone who lives there, see all different sites, and ask questions without being a part of a large over-crowded tour group.
Inside the Franciscan Monastery.
Outside the Monastery.
Stradun at dusk. Interesting fact we learned from Maja- A U.S. travel association helped pay for the marble walkway on the Stradun to be repaired after the war. Dubrovnik, more than most areas, knew that the key to their recovery was getting the tourists back as quickly as possible.
Maja even took the time to tell us about her own experiences during the war. She explained to us that at the time, her son was ten years old, and her daughter was in college. Right after the war began, her daughter left to go and take classes for a year in England. However, even though she had all of the proper paperwork, she was stopped at the German border, and wasn't allowed to proceed any further. Fortunately, she was able to find family friends to stay with in Germany. Unfortunately, due to the siege, neither Maja or her daughter could communicate with each other. It wasn't until the siege ended that Maja learned her daughter never made it to England, and her daughter learned that her family was alive. I can only imagine the stress this must have cause on them (and the countless others who also lived through horrible situations throughout the war).
It is definitely possible to get swept away in all of the beauty that surrounds the city. Because the town has done so many repairs and has recovered faster than most of their neighboring cities and countries, it is easy to turn a blind eye to what happened here in 1991. We were both glad that we took the time to learn about how the war affected the city itself, and that we took the time to learn from someone who was there to witness it, how it affected the people that lived through it.
If you would like to learn more about the siege of Dubrovnik, please go here.
As always, here is a video with all of our pics from the day: