When I stroll Dubrovnik during the tourist season I overhear the guides and know some of what they say is just not accurate. The tourists listen and then repeat it on internet forums and so, misinformation is spread and we get further and further from the truth.
Today, it is time to get the true facts about the cross atop Mt.Srd. After much research including extensive discussion with my friend Father Mirko from the Dominican Monastery, I must share with you the accurate details.
The cross, a gift from the Archdiocese of Brac, was constructed with the luminous white stone quarried there. The island of Brac is located about 100 kilometers north of Dubrovnik, near the town of Split. The cross was erected in 1935 as a celebration of 2,000 years since the birth of Jesus. It was destroyed by mortars and shelling during the war in 1991, as was the cable car used to reach the top of Mt Srd. After the war ended, reconstruction of the cross was done and again is positioned atop the mountain overlooking the town.
The fastest and easiest method of transportation to the mountain top is via the cable car which reopened in 2011. For travelers who are more adventurous and in shape, there is the serpentine path which can be walked; this option is not for the faint hearted. Along the path there are thirteen markers which are the Stations of the Cross; many pray at each station. Stations of the Cross are a series of artistic representations which are typically placed at intervals along the side walls of Roman Catholic churches and often depict Christ carrying the cross to his crucifixion.
On certain religious holidays there are residents who make their way up the serpentine path. They are always accompanied by the Dubrovnik Trubonari (guards of honor) carrying their old musket rifles which are shot off once they reach the mountaintop reminding the locals an important event is happening in town.
It is important that travelers learn the accurate history of the town and have a rewarding experience of our culture. Take the time and find the services of a private guide to have a quality tour. It is a reality that you get what you pay for and more often than not a large group is not the best choices for guests. Because an opportunity is presented to you and inexpensive does not mean it is a good value.
As with most professions, there are outstanding workers and those who choose only to show up. Dubrovnik has a vast number of tour guides with an in depth knowledge of the cultural and historical aspects of the town. We do indeed also have those few who are not locally born and bred and are here only for the season with limited knowledge. It is important to pick a guide with good references to enhance your visit to Dubrovnik.
Yen Baet photos
How many steps on the city wall? This is the most frequently asked question by people planning to visit Dubrovnik. Few people realize, until they visit and explore the old town, that the area within the wall is actually bowl-shaped. A far more interesting question should be: how many steps are there in the old part of town?
A few years ago a research team armed with cameras and recording devices spent time counting all the steps. They discovered there are a grand total of 4,343 steps within the perimeter of the wall. The city wall has a grand total of 1,080 steps which does include the three entrances.
For travelers with mobility problems, strolling down the brightly shining limestone Stradun offers no problems. The majority of the steps are either on the northern and southern parts of town and I tend to avoid those areas with my creaking knee problem. There are other routes which are often hidden and guests seem to miss out on seeing many areas of the town which are interesting and unique without a guide.
Or example, the street we call Iza Grad begins at the Pile Brsalje and the walk will take you around the outside of the wall to the high point of MincetaTower and eventually to the Ploce gate entrance. About half way is the well hidden and less known entrance to town which is Buza gate facing Mt.Srd. This is not to be confused with the Buza bars which are on the seaside of town outside the wall on the azure Adriatic Sea, a very popular location outside of the walls to savor a glass of wine while enjoying the blue sky turning to shades of red and golden at sunset. Visiting the Buza Bars requires climbing steps.
The best hidden gems of town are in the less traveled areas up or down many, many steps. Dubrovnik has steps, 5,423 to be exact and the glorious hidden gems are up there waiting to be discovered. Rest up, bring some water, a hat and sunglasses and get ready to roam.
One of the most captivating legends of Dubrovnik is connected to one of our more intriguing gargoyles. This stone face, referred to as Maskeron, is attached to the outer wall of the Franciscan Monastery, just a few meters from the small entrance. The Monastery was completely rebuilt after the devastating earthquake of 1667. At that time the Maskeron had a pipe protruding from its mouth for the drainage of rainwater from the rooftop. The pipe is long gone and perhaps this is when the legend began.
The top is worn down, slippery as polished marble. It sits a short distance above the ground but extends only a very small 15 centimeters (6 inches) from the wall.
During the high tourist season many people attempt to balance on the slick top of the Maskeron. And since few arrive in our town with little or no research, they assume it is only a balancing stone, but beer consumption also contributes to attempts. Often as we stroll the Stradun during the late evening hours, we stop to watch.
Let me share with you the legend of the stone edifice of the much misunderstood Maskeron. If you are able to hop onto the worn, very slick stone face and balance with both feet, and then remove your shirt while facing the wall, legend has it that you will find true love.
Many have attempted, very few are victorious.
Spring is upon us, the season of rebirth, renewal and rejuvenation. The sun is shining and buds have begun to appear on the trees as the flowers blossom. The air is perfumed with the sweet fragrance of the hyacinths growing profusely in our neighbor’s yards. The Stradun is bursting with locals strolling and greeting friends as they pause for a leisurely coffee at the outdoor cafes which have opened again after the extensive winter hibernation.
Easter Sunday, is a time for ancient customs to be celebrated. Hand woven palms adorn homes and the aroma of Pinca, the sweet Easter bread baking is in the air in anticipation of the Easter Sunday family luncheon. Hand painted eggs decorated with the precision of an artist creating a masterpiece are given to loved ones and the frequent phrase heard is Sretan Uskrs (Happy Easter).
Psanica is a decorated Croatian Easter egg originating from an ancient Slavic custom which dates back to pagan times. The name is a derivative of the Croatian word which means writing. This year Krizevci, a town in Northern Croatia, presented the village of Orebic with a giant egg which was created by artists from the School of Naïve Art. This is an artistic technique often characterized by a childlike simplicity in its subject manner and the artists are thought to have very little training which is often untrue. The egg has been painted depicting vintage traditional motives depicting scenes of Orebic which is known as the sea captains’ town. I know it well because it is the birthplace of my mother, Tera Mrgudic Sosa, with her family tree traced back to 1642. Sretan Uskrs
Giant egg photos by Carol Saric