Have Love Will Travel
Goodbye, people of Dubrovnik

Thursday 27th May 2010

Early to bed, early to rise, as they say but there should also be a saying about "sleep by a refuse tip and you'll wake with the bin men". At least it meant we had a head start with our packing. We needed the extra time as we struggled to shove everything back into the suitcase. "Next time we'll pay for two" we decided as Julie sat on top whilst I fought with the zip. Having worked up an appetite left our apartment for some breakfast.

We returned to Cafe Celle right on the corner of Luza Square at the end of the Stradun. We had noticed yesterday whilst we had coffee on wrote our postcards that they had quite a reasonable breakfast menu.

The asparagus omelette and a cheese and ham toastie were very tasty and just what the tummy ordered. It was now about 9:30am and it was already very busy down the old town main street.

The cleaner/owner, we weren't too sure, had seen us earlier and said that there wasn't any rush to vacate the room which was a great bonus. We made use of our extra time by visiting the Rector's Palace. "Eh? Rectum? What did you say?" asked Julie.

From the outside the Rector's loggia or porch was probably the most attractive building in Dubrovnik. The inside the palace was slightly more modest. We entered into a large inner courtyard where to the left a staircase dog legged up to the next floor.

We completely ignored the bust of a famous Ragusan seaman and merchant Miho Pracat and headed straight for the steps.

Here we found one of the palace's most unique features, a carving of a giant right hand holding the handrail.

There's been a building here since the middles ages but Onofrio de la Cava the architect who also had big and little fountains on either end of the Stradun is attributed with building the palace. With an earthquake and a couple of gunpowder explosion it has been often added to along the centuries.

At the height of its importance the palace was the seat of government, the Rector governed the Republic from here. It was interesting to read that a Rector was elected and served for a one-month period.

That's quite a radical political concept.

Even more bizarre, during that time he wasn't allowed to leave the Palace unless it was on public duty.

An inscription in Latin above the door to the Grand Council chamber reminded the senators to forget their private lives and concentrate of civic duty instead. "obliti privatorum publica curate"

On the first floor we entered the former hall of the Lesser Council. On display were the original brass soldiers who once struck the bell of the clock-tower. Today replica imposters were hitting the two tonne bell, the only original piece still in place.

The two soldiers even had names, Maro and Baro. Sadly I wasn't allowed to take a photo of them.

I couldn't even sneak a snapshot as it was well marshalled by a beady eyed security guard watching every breath we took.

I resorted to taking a photo of the poster outside to at least remind me of what they looked like close up.

We walked around the remaining staterooms up on this floor and the rooms on a Mezzanine level.

There was quite an extensive Cultural Historical Museum with artwork, robes, coat of arms, portraits, coins from the Ragusan mint, historical documents, furniture and many more artefacts.

Other rooms such as the Rector's chamber were mocked up to look like they would have centuries ago.

We returned down stairs where I entered through a low doorway into a dark damp prison cell. Julie couldn't bring herself to follow and waited outside.

Inside I sat down on a stone seat where an overwhelming thought about who had sat here before me over the centuries and what was their fate took hold. I suddenly felt quite unnerved and returned into the atrium before someone locked me in.

When I left I noticed a crudely carved dragon etched into the stone door frame.

It got me thinking if I had a hammer and chisel I wouldn't have wasted time on some interior decorating I'd be doing some serious digging.

Before leaving the Rector's Palace we entered another vaulted room similar to the prison cells.

This was now home to a gallery of black and white photographs covering Dubrovnik 's suffering during the 1991-92 siege. Atmospheric images showed the city lost in smoke, ablaze, in ruin, its citizens in despair.

There was one poignant photograph of a simple graffiti message scribbled on a boarded up shop front saying "Goodnight, people of Dubrovnik".

It was, as it was in Mostar, very dramatic and emotional to see. We both viewed in silence.

It was difficult to comprehend how this beautiful part of the world descended into madness during those years.

After spending quite some time staring at the beautiful arches of the palace's loggia we left the Rector's Palace with plenty of time before our pick-up to the airport.

Instead of cramming in another last minute sightseeing we decided to sit down in Gundulic Square to enjoy a coffee and watch the people mill around the market.

This last hour flew by and our time here was soon up.

We collected our luggage from the apartment and returned our key to the lady who was busy cleaning.
It took us over 15 minutes to wheel our suitcase through the packed streets of the stari grad, stopping en route for some last chance photos such as the Sponza Palace and its impressive iron door with the city's coat of arms and the word Dogana below it.

We walked out through Ploce gate, with each step we looked back longingly at the city trying to squeeze every last drop out.

Leaving Dubrovnik was difficult. We wanted to stay.

By the time we popped into a small supermarket to buy some water the taxi arrived. We couldn't have timed it any better.

We drove out along Petra Kresimira a narrow road rising up the craggy hillside. I turned back to have one last look at the city before it disappeared from view.

We were very sad indeed to leave. We had thoroughly enjoyed our few days here and wished it didn't have to come to an end.

Within twenty minutes we had reached the international airport and prepared ourselves for take off.

Julie was more anxious than normal after the shudder we experienced on the flight over and the hour delay due to French traffic control strike didn't help matters.

Once on board it all went fine. We were even given one last view of the city as we followed the coast North.

There's nowhere else in the world quite like it I don't think. The Pearl of the Adriatic was possibly the most beautiful city we've visited.

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