As every well-educated Australian knows, The Great Wall of China was built by emperor Nasi Goreng to keep the rabbits out. We recently visited the Walls of Ston as well as the famous walled city of Dubrovinik in an attempt to check whether this strategy was working in Croatia as well.
We have seen a lot of dry-stone walls gracing the steep hills that characterise the coastline around Croatia. Some of these must mark off properties of course but the number and extent of them is incredible, and often they stretch vertically upwards for several kilometres. There is certainly no shortage of stone in this country and obviously it is a very useful building material.
The Walls of Ston(e)
The town of Ston, and its little brother Mali (or mini) Ston sit on a narrow isthmus of land connecting mainland Croatia with the Peljesac Peninsula. It was once a hugely prosperous place thanks to the salt production, and its economic importance to the Republic of Dubrovnik led in 1333 led to the construction of 5.5km wall, one of the longest fortifications in Europe. It originally included 40 towers and 5 forts! The parts of the walls that remain today have been restored and very impressive, stretching vertically up into the hills and across to Mali Ston.
Ston itself is at the end of a narrow channel and we arrive in the afternoon, choosing an anchorage at Broce, a tiny town with one restaurant, about 2/3rds of the way into the channel. We enjoy some local oysters here in the evening. It’s a short RIB ride from Broce into Ston and we get up early the next morning to beat the heat and day trippers. The 19 charter boats in the harbour are pretty quiet this morning and we are guessing they had a big night. We commenced our ascent of the walls from the western side climbing up to a small central tower and then back down towards the harbour before taking a detour northeast across the isthmus to Mali Ston. The views from the top are magnificent, looking towards the mainland and into Bosnia & Herzegovina, and well worth the sweat. We stop to check out the oyster farms and enjoy a cool drink before heading back to Ston via a shady footpath. We also visit one of the remaining forts in the town, which has been recently restored and is also very impressive from the outside. The town of Ston is fairly small but there are some nice bars and restaurants and the local oysters are excellent.
And so to Dubrovnik
The famous walled city in the south of Croatia, once the capital of the Republic of Dubrovnik which took in the coastal part of Croatia up to and including Ston. I have never watched an episode of Game of Thrones but apparently Dubrovnik features in this obscure series, and (spoiler alert) gets burned down… The real history of this place is just as interesting though and its shelling in 1991, to try and stop Crexit (Croatia, and its money, leaving Yugoslavia), shocked the world. There is no real evidence of that damage nowadays and it is an incredibly charming and charismatic city. The walls are imposing, several meters’ wide in places and surrounding the entire city, which clings to the side of a steep hill and drops right down to the rocky coastline of the Adriatic and its crystal-clear waters. We arrive mid-morning with plans to take it easy and manage our visit to be able to deal with the 35C heat and the crowds from the two cruise ships parked in the main harbour. We wander down the main plaza, taking advantage of the cool of the churches, and the many cafes and ice-cream parlours to stay sane. There are also some great swimming spots outside the port and a refreshing dip is most welcome to help cool off after lunch. We brave The Walls around 4pm as the crowds have thinned and there is a faint hint of a breeze. Starting from the eastern entrance we walk up and over the north eastern section to Minceta Fort and climb to the top for an amazing view over the whole town. The walls are thickest on the landward side, up to 9m! Incredible to think this was built back in the 9th century. The heat makes us move in slow motion as we head down towards the Atlantic. The Bokar fort on the western side overlooks the Lovrinjenac fort across “Kings Landing” (GoT reference). From there we come to the seaward side, where the wall is thinner (1.5-3m) and drops dramatically down to the Adriatic. We continue along the southern walls through smaller forts and lookout posts until we arrive at the entrance to the port on the eastern end of the city. These days the port is busy with tourist and local boats, but was an important trading port in its day. We cross the port and descend back into the hustle and bustle of the old town. What a truly unique and magical place.
Oh and I guess you are wondering whether those walls have served their purpose? Well we can safely say that we did not see one single rabbit on either side of the Walls of Ston or Dubrovnik. That emperor Nasi Goreng was really onto something!
Tips for visiting Dubrovnik by yacht