The ancient city of Dubrovnik
While traveling around Dalmatia, we visited the city of Dubrovnik, called the pearl of the Adriatic. Dubrovnik is one of the most impressive cities in Europe. By that I do not mean its size, but rather feelings. When you walk along the city walls and the ancient streets, you get a feeling that you returned to ancient times, because the surrounding architecture has practically not changed over the centuries. Dubrovnik’s Old Town has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979. This city is one of the most visited destinations on the Adriatic coast, although the city has a population of less than 50 thousand. The city had its heyday in the 15th and 16th centuries, when it was a strong city-state, but in 1991, when war broke out between Serbia and Croatia after the break-up of Yugoslavia, the city suffered quite severely from firing, although visitors no longer feel it.
The only inconvenience if you drive your car may be finding a parking space; once you find it, you can spend at least half a day walking around the city.
As another additional entertainment when traveling around Dalmatia and visiting Dubrovnik, I can recommend visiting the island of Lokrum, which is located in the Adriatic Sea only about 600 meters from the city. It is a small island (about 0.8 square kilometres) with the status of a National Reserve and a Special Forest Vegetation Reserve. The island of Lokrum can be reached by a small boat departing from a pier located next to the city walls of Dubrovnik. The island has widespread Mediterranean flora – bay trees, oaks, pines, cypresses, olive trees, agaves, cacti, magnolias and palm trees. Also interesting is the “Dead Sea” at the southern end of the island, which is actually a small lake connected to the sea, however it is separated from the sea by rocks. And, of course, it is worth hanging out on one of the island’s beaches and swimming in the Adriatic Sea (do not forget to bring your towels with you!). Return trip by boat to the island also offers wonderful views towards Dubrovnik city.
On one of the trips around Dalmatia, we decided to spend several days in a small campsite on the Peljesac peninsula. This choice allowed us to visit the surrounding area without any restrictions, depending on the mood. In the evenings during weekend, a small stage for musicians was built there on the beach and partying went on until midnight! The campsite was properly equipped (shower, toilet) and besides, children could play with our neighbours – a family of turtles living in the campsite garden.
The second largest Croatian peninsula, Peljesac (approximately 350 square kilometres), is located in the southern part of Croatia. The peninsula is attractive in a way that it is not overcrowded – the environment is beautiful and natural enough. There are many vineyards on the peninsula, the wine is strong, aromatic and of high quality. It is possible to visit winemakers and buy wine from the producer’s cellar at a good price.
Shortly after arriving on the peninsula, there are two towns – Ston and Mali Ston. They are located on a narrow strip of land connecting the Peljesac peninsula with the Balkan peninsula. During Roman times, Ston was a significant centre of salt production, but closer to the present day (in the 14th century) it became the second most important city in the Republic of Dubrovnik. I am not a big fan of architecture (although there are places worth seeing in this town), so I think the most exciting attractions in this area are oyster farms. The people living in the area are mainly engaged in farming, fishing, shellfish fishing, salt production and, of course, serving tourists. Mali Ston is especially famous for its oyster farms located in the Mali Ston Canal. In the area you can find many restaurants offering freshly caught oysters and other seafood, which I definitely worth tasting, because the oysters grown in this region taste especially good.
One of the largest islands in Croatia is Korcula, which is easiest to access from the Pelješac peninsula; on the map, Korcula looks like a continuation of the Pelješac peninsula. The island and the peninsula are separated by about 1.2 kilometers wide canal; it takes about 20 minutes to get to Korcula by mid-size boat. This short trip is well worth for a walk around Korcula town. The trip itself is also interesting, because the view from the sea to the island is known as one of the most beautiful landscapes of the Adriatic.
The town was built in the 15th century and has remarkable buildings, cosy narrow and shady streets and, of course, many cafes and souvenir shops.
Motorways in Croatia
I would like to mention the Croatian motorways; those are important when traveling around Dalmatia. Of course, there are no high-speed highways on the islands; small roads are magical when you can observe the surrounding landscapes while driving, especially before sunset. In the continental part of the country, many kilometres of new high-speed motorways have been built in recent decades to connect the southern and northern parts of Croatia; the journey around Dalmatia can be divided into both high-speed and slower sections. Most of the new motorways are toll roads with a ticketing system, but it is worth paying for their use, as this can save a lot of time when comparing driving on regular roads along the coast or over the mountains (it is possible to calculate the cost of Croatian toll roads).
According to Croatian standards, high-speed roads are roads with at least three lanes in each direction (including the curb lane), with a minimum speed limit of 80 kilometres per hour. The maximum speed limit is 130 kilometres per hour, although to be honest, you can drive at speeds of 140 kilometres per hour without much trouble (140 km / h is the speed at which the traffic police would not impose any sanctions).
However, in terms of conventional highways, small roads have one significant advantage – there are many small restaurants and cafes on the side, which offer travellers the opportunity to eat deliciously and relax during the second part of the day. As you pass by during the first half of the day, it is exciting to observe whole goats placed on long skewers in barbecue ovens to serve meat to passers-by for lunch after a few hours of grilling.