Croatia celebrated free museum day this past Thursday which gave me a wonderful chance to revisit my favorite place here in Dubrovnik Old Town, the Rupe Museum. It’s always missed by tourists who never leave the Stradun, but it is not hard to find. Located above Siroka Ulica (Big Street), so named because it is much wider than any other of the narrow side passageways off the Stradun, the museum is just about 65 steps up the street. The Rupe Museum was built in 1590 as granary storage with 15 rupes (holes) in the floor to hold grain during those days. The thick walls also provided refuge for locals during the shelling of Dubrovnik during the 1991 Homeland War.
Whenever I plan on visiting the Rupe, I do not go directly there. I make the journey part of the anticipation, taking the scenic route to enhance the feelings. I start at Gundulic Square, the place where the morning green market is held. There’s a set of steps which some locals like to compare to the Spanish Steps in Rome. I never miss this opportunity to visit Saint Ignatius Church at the top to admire the stunning beauty within the basilica. This area is the oldest part of town and was once an island named Laus. It is quiet and peaceful, and I make sure to take time to catch a whiff of orange blossoms or during summer the sweet fragrance wafting down from the sweet juicy succulent fig trees. My jaunt always begins very early morning to avoid the sun on many of our hot steamy summer days and never am without my Ronchi hat made by the loving hands of Marija. Humm, there’s another story to come soon.
At the Sveti Marija area I descend a few polished steps on the side street and finally reach my desired destination, the Rupe Museum. Excitement grows as I begin magical hours admiring the gift of my ancestral customs and artifacts from a time long since gone.
The first floor display is changed frequently and often has magnificent works of our local artists. These days only 3 of the original 15 holes remain open for guests to view. The old stone building is refreshingly cool and time passes slowly and comfortably. Making my way up to the second level takes me back to my very first visit in 1954. My mother’s home, which has been in our family since 1642, was filled with similar fishing nets, looms and cooking utensils and I can’t help reminiscing about my grandfather and my aunt as they showed me how to use many of the same items I see before my teary eyes.
I have saved the best for last! Original national clothing, many of them hundreds of years old are encased in glass to preserve them for future generations. We have many different styles of costumes, each unique to a specific region. My mother was born in Orebic, a small village on the Peljesac peninsula and she told me my grandmother was the last woman in the village to marry wearing the traditional wedding costume. To preserve these fragile items, photography is forbidden, but I have attached some of the museums photos for you to enjoy. As I head out I pause to enjoy the view at the window overlooking the magical roof tops of Dubrovnik and Minceta tower. It never fails to grip my heart and soul.
During late summer there is a fig tree just below the entrance and it is always calls to me to enjoy one of the soft juicy succulent figs. How many of you have ever enjoyed a freshly picked ripe fig? It has been perfect day with many hours of joy and pleasure as I begin the short walk down to Siroka Ulica once again entering the hustle and bustle of the old town. Do not miss the Rupe and better yet let me share the ultimate experience with you. A visit is so much better when you know the stories of what you are seeing.