During our stay in Dubrovnik we had several little ‘day’ adventures to surrounding towns and places, and did these all on the super cheap.
The small town of Komolac, northeast of Dubrovnik, is home to the shortest river in Europe and the second shortest river in the world: the Ombla River. I, in my adventurous wisdom, wanted to walk there as it is only ten kilometres away. I deducted that I simply follow the Port of Gruz coastline out to the Franjo Trudman Bridge and then walk along the inlet, Rijeka Dubrovacka, to Komolac. We got to the bridge okay, but from there on there simply was no footpath or way of walking along the busy road and, even I, thought it was unsafe, let alone the cautious Di.
It was a short walk back to the Port Gruz bus station and there on the street we caught a bus out to Komolac for 12 Kunas (AUD$1.20) each. You can catch either bus 1A, 1B, 1C. Once at Komolac get off the bus at the Marina, you cannot miss it, it is full of boats!!!
We then had a simply beautiful walk from the marina around the inlet with the mountains towering above us.
There are signs to the river Ombla and, sadly, you can only get near to the river and not actually next to it, as there is a hydroelectric power plant being constructed nearby. The closest Di and I could get to the river was near a building destroyed and gutted in the war of 1991; the building was part of a vineyard.
The course of the Ombla River, when it leaves its source at the bottom of a karst mountain, is a staggering 30 metres (98 feet), before it cascades two metres into the Rijeka Dubrovacka embankment of the Adriatic Sea – thus source to sea in 30 metres.
As I said, it would have been nicer to get closer to the rivers’ source but standing where we were with the flowing water, the war-torn building and towering mountains, it was a unique little location.
After leaving the Ombla River, we wandered a short distance further along the main road and came to the Velike Gospe Church up on the mountain side. You can take the road up to the church or take the narrow steps the weave through the houses.
The church offers some great views of the inlet, the marina and the mountains and was well worth the small hike up the stairway.
It then started to rain and we chose to catch bus 1A back to Dubrovnik (12 Kunas each), there are several restaurants and bars around the marina and near the Ombla River you could try, but being mid-November these were all closed; in summer it would be a lovely place for lunch. The total cost was 48 Kunas (less than AUD$10) to visit one of the least known and most interesting places in Dubrovnik.
If you do not mind a bit of walking, I am talking about 14 kilometres round trip, I walked the coastline from Gradac Park near Fort Lovrijenac, right around the Lapad headland to Port Gruz and then back to Old Town. It is a long walk but it is free and gives some outstanding views of the other parts of Dubrovnik, especially as the sun is sinking on the horizon.
A rough guide of the walk: from Fort Lovrijenac go on the path leading to Sulic Beach and then up to Gradac Park. These are narrow streets from Fort Lovrijenac that wind through old buildings and leads to the lovely coastline park, Gradac Park, which is littered with small ruins.
Follow the path through the park until it takes you to the road and follow the coastline around to the Bellevue Hotel and Bellevue Beach. The hotel is a grand old place and the rugged rocky coastline has an easy path down to a scenic beach.
From there, follow the coastline through the streets to Suma Park and walk through the park.
The park has a few churches on the headlands, but is basically just a walking trail. Follow the headland and the streets towards Lapad Beach. There is a lovely little bay here with great views out to the islands. I was there as the sun was just starting to set and it was an orgy of gorgeous sunset photos!!!!
At Lapad Beach a walking trail starts that takes you around the headlands and joins up with the Setnica Walking Trail. This trail weaves in and out of many resorts, bars, cafes from the Lapad beach until it just becomes a trail around the waters’ edge with the occasional resort or bar, such as the Coral Beach Club.
As you round the headland point you say goodbye to the setting sun and hello to Franjo Trudman Bridge and Port Gruz. The views are simply awesome.
This takes you past the port and then it is up a street called Ante Starcevica and then down the street called branitelja Dubrovnika and you are back at Fort Lovrijenac and have covered a whopping 14 kilometres and deserve a beer or three! The cost prior to the beer = free!!!
The third little adventure is out to Trsteno Arboretum, a 15th century botanical garden with the most picturesque harbour, and is littered throughout with old ruins. These old ruins also served as scenes in the TV series Game of Thrones. It takes a twenty minute bus ride to Trsteno on bus number 12 from Port Graz bus terminal. The cost was 15 kunas each (AUD$3 each) one way.
Trsteno is a small town and if you blink you may miss it, so ask the bus driver to tell you when you get there or follow on google map. There are signs in Trsteno to the arboretum (an Arboretum is a garden with many different types of trees). When we went there no one was at the ticket office and the gates were open so, lucky us, we never paid, we just walked in. When we left no one was at the gate either so I guess they were not charging an entry fee that day (normal cost 50 Kunas each). In fact the day we were there we saw about eight people only in the large grounds of the Arboretum.
There are many paths, viewing areas, fountains, an aqueduct, monuments and some old buildings scattered throughout the top part of the arboretum – it is all very pretty.
Whilst we were there a Chinese couple were scampering around like we were checking out the filming locations. The lovely Chinese lady was using the website www.moviemaps.org to find her locations and I must admit it was a better site than the ones I was using – check it out!
You weave your way down through the gardens and you come to a small harbour. Sadly, several of the buildings here were destroyed in the Croatian War of 1991 and have not been restored. However, the harbour is a very beautiful little spot with crystal clear water and some amazing islands located just off it. The harbour of course was used in GoT.
The climb up the hill is through ruins dating back 600 years – all of which were used in Season 3 and 4 of Game of Thrones. The climb up this area is not hard, the history is great and views are wonderful.
On our way back through the gardens a cat followed us like a little puppy dog and went wherever we went – if we called it, it always came running and all it seemed to want was a little affection – don’t we all!!!
As we came out of the gardens we saw bus number 12 pulling into the bus stop and raced over and just managed to catch it – it has been awhile since I ran, let me tell you, and the dodgy knee was okay. We were at the Trsteno Arboretum for three hours and it was a beautiful experience. The cost by bus for us was 60 kunas round trip for the two of us and, as I said, we did not pay an entry fee. The town of Trsteno does have several churches you may like to see but we are getting a little ‘churched out’!
Please refer to our Facebook page for more Game of Thrones scenes from Trsteno and Croatia.
The fourth, and final, little adventure was to Fort Imperial that sits on the mountain overlooking Dubrovnik called Srd Hill. You can get the cable car up to the fort and save yourself loads of time and energy, or you can walk and have an exhilarating walk and it’s all for free!!! The cable car is not cheap it is 170 Kunas round trip each, so for the two of us it would have been 340 Kunas or about AUD$70, which is over half of our daily budget – so we walked.
From Old Town you work your way up through the city until you reach the Jadranska Cesta road. You can see the walking trail winding its way up the mountain from the roadway. There are signs that direct you to the trail. These signs depict a cross which is next to the cable car, the fort and a museum.
After about 15 minutes of this rough track, you emerge above the tree line and the path levels out and is not as steep. The path here becomes about a dozen 100 metre switch back paths; by this I mean the path has long zig zags up the mountain.
Once above the tree line the view below is quite stunning and it stretches right along the coastline. I also found we were very exposed to the sun and, after we started walking, on a slightly, chilly morning, it soon became very hot and Di was stripping a layer off on each bend of the path – luckily she had many, many layers!!!! A note here to make sure you bring water and in the summer, perhaps lots of water.
The climb from the roadway took about 50 minutes to reach the fort – we did take our time and repeatedly stopped at each bend to take a multitude of photos. At each bend was a sculpture of some sort depicting a religious scene.
As you get higher along the trail the panoramic views take in Dubrovnik, the Old Town, Lokrum island, Port Gruz, the Adriatic Sea and outlying islands – the view gives you the incentive to just keep stripping off and going up!!!!!
Fort Imperial was built in 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars and is 412 metres above sea level. The Fort is pretty run down and, to be honest, little effort seems to have been put into the fort to maintain it. Having said that, it is home to the Croatia Homeland War Museum. It costs 30 Kunas each to enter the museum, Di was happy to find a nice air-conditioned spot to get her breath back so she headed to the restaurant and I went into the museum alone.
The museum was okay, the photos of the war in Dubrovnik were interesting, especially seeing several landmarks in Old Town on fire etc. It did give me more a broader understanding of the war but ONLY, of course, from a Croatian perspective – the war after the breakup of the former Yugoslavia has many perspectives.
The entry fee allows you to go on the very rundown roof of the fort for probably the best views from the mountain.
From the mountain you also get good views of the mountain range inland. We didn’t do it, but if you are keen enough, there is another fort, Fort Strincjera, a further 1.5 kilometres hike along the mountain ridge.
Di’s knee often gives her a bit of pain when walking down hill for long periods, so she caught the cable car down for 85 kunas whilst I walked down. Catching the cable car down was very quick and, luckily for her, was not crowded.
We did hear that in summer the cable car gets very crowded and photo clicking spots are hotly disputed. On exiting the cable car Tyrion Lannister was there to greet her – there are so many Game of Thrones souvenir shops in Dubrovnik now!!!
The hike up to Fort Imperial is a bit tricky finding the entry point to the trail as the entry point is on a main highway above the city – but there are signs; the trick is finding the signs. Google map does show the trail and its entry point. The cost for us to go to Fort Imperial was 115 kunas (AUD$23) and that was made up of, my entry to the museum 30 kunas and Di’s cable car ride down – you could easily do it all for free – but I guess you should visit the museum whilst you are up there.
We loved our time in Dubrovnik and would recommend it – personally though I preferred Split to Dubrovnik (though the Dubrovnik Walled City is special) and would easily go back and stay in Split, whereas at Dubrovnik I would be more interested in going to the islands. During our time in Dubrovnik, mid-November, even the 10 minute ferry ride to Lokrum Island was shut down; so off-season travel does have its disadvantages. Do we recommend Croatia, ABSOLUTELY!!!! I say this even though we never got to any islands this trip – next time we will.
We now head to Bosnia.
The adventure continues………………….