Springtime kick-off the right way

First days of spring knock on the door. Meteorologically only, of course – we need to wait a few more weeks for real spring to start. The trees grow new leaves and the daffodils bloomed, too. Dubrovnik was showered with heavy rain in the morning but already by early afternoon the wind changed direction, the air became crisper and the humidity went away. The remaining puddles of water mirrored the sun’s reflection and the city soon buzzed with life again.

All of a sudden, there seems to be something new going on in Dubrovnik. The long beauty sleep is finally finished, all the dreams people had for the Town are coming true. Even though the time of the mascarade is over, the main street and the old port still wear a disguise.

Just like with Game of Thrones, Star Wars or the Indian spectacle Fan, Dubrovnik is once more the perfect set for another long awaited blockbuster: Robin Hood: Origins. The preparations lasted longer than usual, the scaffolding and the decor for the film-shooting grew in shape slowly. This gradual development allowed the locals to use their imagination about how it might all look like on the big screen.

Set up of Nottingham on Stradun

Stradun becomes Nottingham

Film tourism - Dubrovnik

Robin Hood filming in Dubrovnik

Hollywood movie shooting in Dubrovnik

View to Robin Hood filming from our Domino Apartment

Now, the newspaper headlines and social networks are full of juicy titles and photos featuring the stars of Robin Hood: the Academy Award-winning Jamie Foxx and the very popular Jamie Dornan. The filming is undergoing day and night on different locations, parallel to the everyday town life. The film is set for release by end of March 2018 and Leonardo Di Caprio, another famous Oscar awarded actor, will be producing this atypical interpretation of a well-known classic. All the facts point to a major success; Dubrovnik is again honoured to play a significant role in the process.

Tourists are a rare sight to see, but not completely absent. There are enough connecting flights and accommodation options but the most important part is the weather. It is much better than in most European countries! There are some surprises from time to time, but the average winter temperature of 10°C/50°F and plenty of sun exposure vouch for a relaxing weekend getaway.

Snow in Dubrovnik in January 2017

Dubrovnik Winter Wonderland (photo by 2THESign)

What could attract you to visit Dubrovnik during low season is the fact that you can do it even on a tight budget – the basic prices are much lower than the very popular summer months. An added bonus that is definitely an important highlight: you do not need to elbow your way through the crowds and all the beauty of the city and its surroundings seem almost heightened by the quiet tones of the mild springtime sun.

The openness of the space around you and the simplicity of the locals’ lifestyle will enchant you. Everything seems to move at a slow pace, the mood is lighter, the smiles on peoples’ faces genuine. When you are not hunting for a glimpse of a famous Hollywood star or researching the museums for more stories about different habits, rituals and cultural heritage, you will be out and about.

If you are a food enthusiast, keep in mind that March is the perfect time to be in this region! The oyster season is celebrated in Ston town on St Joseph day, March 19th. The oysters from Ston are unique in the world, small in size but full of flavour; a true delicacy enjoyed only in Croatia.

 

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Oyster Festival in Ston

 

Those first-hand impressions of faraway places stick with you forever and spark the curiosity to find out some more. So, for this spring keep Dubrovnik in mind.

Wedding in Dubrovnik, Croatia
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Happily Ever After starts in Dubrovnik

How weddings became The Thing to Do

Many people come to Dubrovnik to admire the best known UNESCO site in Croatia, many more to see the Game of Thrones filming locations, but what stands out as a trend now is to get married in this historical setting, paved with polished stone and breathtaking facades. How could one resist the allure of such a perfect stage? When flying in, the shimmering blue sea opens the scene to a city carved in the cliffs, surrounded by walls built centuries ago and filled with distinctive red rooftops.

Dubrovnik as seen from plane

Arrival in Dubrovnik

The bell towers of churches ornated in styles of renaissance and baroque announce the beginning of another love story. Every year, couples from around the world come to inhale this magical atmosphere and walk hand in hand down Stradun, the main promenade where no person is spared the attention. Picking a time to take photos of that special day has become a demanding task – Dubrovnik is always full of people! Nevertheless, when a Bride to Be starts walking towards a camera, everyone around smiles and lets her enjoy her glory. The fact is that those are going to be outstanding and unrivaled photos.

Weddings and honeymoons in Dubrovnik

Just married

Wedding planners, hotels and all the necessary arrangements can be found with ease. Organising such a joyous ceremony has become a matter of prestige and more and more people want to engage in making it as perfect as possible. The choice is yours, from a traditional wedding in one of many churches like the patron St Blaise’s and then a dinner on a lush hotel terrace or something more laid-back like a beach wedding. Why not consider sailing into the sunset, literally, on board a real 17th-century galleon replica, (maybe even with a pirate theme)? How about saying I DO on top of mount Srđ with a post-card view of the whole region? If you want a big celebration or just an intimate gathering of the people you hold most dear, Dubrovnik has the choice for you.

Wedding ceremony at the Kazbek hotel, Dubrovnik

Cheers to the Newly-Weds

Croatian Wedding Traditions

The locals favor their own traditions: most weddings take place Saturdays and then the bells are ringing all over town. The custom demands that the groom’s party comes to pick up the bride at her parents’ house with a lot of music and singing to set the mood. The road to the church and then to the dinner venue must never be repeated and every car honks the horn during the drive to chase away any bad spirits. You will often see the couple enter the church together and walk down the aisle accompanied by the best man and maid of honor. When exiting as newly-weds they are showered by the crowd with applause, flower petals, rice and more singing – sometimes even rain is considered welcome as it is a sign of a prosperous marriage.

Since the locals need to find a different location for their honeymoon and not many spots compare to Dubrovnik’s beauty, the choice is hard. It is almost enough to just take time off work and enjoy the romantic setting of the town where they fell in love in the first place like so many couples come to do.

Honeymoon at Hotel Kazbek, Dubrovnik

I DO in Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik has the ideal aura for all things romantic – weddings, honeymoons and special anniversaries. It is a small town full of charm, its hosts do their best to make you feel right at home. How not to think about coming back again on that significant date, relive a moment that is all about a perfect union? After all, your happiness is key to Have and to Hold – Dubrovnik will always give its finest for your adventure to be remembered as your most remarkable yet.

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Dubrovnik, a perfect background for your wedding photos

Photographs courtesy of Ana, Sandra and Kristina

Lokrum island near Dubrovnik

Lokrum – the green oasis of Dubrovnik

It is an island of legends, love and lush green vegetation. Located just a stone’s throw from the historic city walls of Dubrovnik the island of Lokrum has always had a strong position in the rise of the city. With hidden coves, covered walkways and untouched nature the island is THE place to escape the hustle and bustle of Dubrovnik through the summer months, go where the locals go.

Lokrum island near Dubrovnik

Lokrum – an island waiting to be explored

The earliest mention of Lokrum stretches back to 1023 when Benedictine monks became owners of the island; you can still see their influence today with the monastery in the centre of the island. In fact most of the manicured gardens you see on the island also come from the monks, they were certainly busy! Over the years the island has changed hands a fair few times, it has been a turbulent history. There is even a legend that King Richard the Lionheart landed on the island after being shipwrecked nearby.

Modern day Lokrum is an oasis of tranquillity, a green island in a sea of turquoise. Just a short ten-minute ferry ride from the Old City of Dubrovnik and you are a world away, a haven of peace. Our advice is to get a morning ferry and spend a whole day on the island; there are plenty of cafes and restaurants so you’ll be spoilt for choice.

Here are a few tips to make your Lokrum day go with a bang. If you are a family then one of the best places for children to swim is the so called “Dead Sea” which is a shallow lake-like area on the east of the island. If you fancy exploring a little then take a circular walk, start at the “Portoc” where the ferry lands and head west. A sunning pathway takes you through Mediterranean nature and fauna, the views back to the Old City are panoramic and unique. Just keep following the path, you can’t really get lost as after all you are on an island, and after 40 minutes you will get to the northern side where many beaches and attractions are located. And when on Lokrum you just have to dive into the crystal clear Adriatic. Search for a cove of your own, find the shade of a pine tree, roll out a towel, open a good book and unwind in the sunshine.

Peacocks on Lokrum

The peacocks are always happy to pose for photos

Time for lunch, wander off to the monastery where you’ll find a good restaurant or over to the playing fields and another great restaurant, and take a few photos of the peacocks along the way. The peacocks were introduced a few years ago and are protected on Lokrum, they are always happy to pose for photos. They aren’t the only protected species; the whole of the island was proclaimed a Special Forest Vegetation Reserve in 1976.

Lokrum is truly a summer joy, a sanctuary for a romantic day, a heaven for families and an island waiting to be explored.

Game of Thrones in Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik and the Game of Thrones – best friends forever

If you have ever been to Dubrovnik then it will be clear why Game of Thrones loves the city. The two are inseparable, a match made in heaven. Six years ago when the producers at HBO decided to film a historical fantasy series you would have been forgiven in thinking that they always had Dubrovnik on their minds. The truth was that they had never been to the city; Dubrovnik was not ever at the back of their minds. But a twist of fate, could well have been destiny brought the Game of Thrones cast and crew here.

“As soon as I walked through the city gates I thought I was walking into a dream, is was as if I had entered a living breathing scene from the series,” said one of the producers of the show to us on a visit here. He isn’t wrong. From that day, five seasons ago, Dubrovnik has been the capital of the seven kingdoms, Kings Landing. It has also been the capital of the world for the millions of fans of the popular series. Little did we know all those seasons ago what the Game of Thrones effect would be, we are truly best friends forever.

At King's Landing during GOT filming

Bronn (Jerome Flynn) and Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) – a scene from GOT filming in Dubrovnik

“Where did they film Game of Thrones,” if I had a Euro for every time I had been asked that question we would be sailing off into the sunset on a mega yacht. There are around twelve locations in and around the city, from the island of Lokrum, the Trsteno Arboretum and the historic walls themselves. Pick up a “GOT” map at the Dubrovnik Tourist Board and follow your nose. Yes, lots of computer generated graphics were used but the scenes where the Lannister family did their deeds are easily recognizable. These walls haven’t changed their look for hundreds of years; with a map you’ll soon be able to relive the action scenes in your imagination. There are many, many Game of Thrones tours in the city, some great, some a rip-off, but with a good map and an imagination you can pretty much do it all yourself.

Filming of a scene of Game of Thrones in Dubrovnik

Lena Heady as Cersei Lannister during filming of GOT in Dubrovnik

But if you are looking for the inside scoop then why not visit the city when they are actually filming the series. There is a chance of seeing Tyrion Lannister up close and personal. The cast and crew normally make their way to our city on the Adriatic at the end of summer, September and October are popular months for filming, so keep your ear to the ground and your eye online and you find the dates. After all when the Game of Thrones comes to town it is hard to keep it a secret.

King's Landing

“The Greatest City that Ever Was or Will Be!”

Lindjo folklore ensemble

Dance to the rhythm of Dubrovnik

With the cry into the night air, the first tunes from the Lijerica, the twist and twirl of the colourful dancers, this is Lindjo.

One of the absolute points on your “must do” list whilst in Dubrovnik is to attend a performance by the folklore ensemble Lindjo. With over fifty years of tradition the Lindjo ensemble is one of the columns of culture on which Dubrovnik is founded.

An explosion of song and dance and the Lindjo begins. The energy is overflowing, the passion incredible and the moves enthralling. The Lijerica plucks away its monotonous tone, the dance leader cries instructions to the circle of dancers, the harmony is outstanding.

Formed in 1965 the Lindjo dance ensemble performs traditional songs and dances from the Dubrovnik region. It is like watching history come to life. Dances passed down from generations, costumes created over hundreds of years and lyrics aimed to shock and amuse. History and traditions respected in a single dance.

The audience around me fall into silence, a silent awe, as the young dancers perform…”they are really unbelievable and so nice to see so many young people dancing,” I hear the English couple next to me.

Traditional dance of Dubrovnik

Dance to the rhythm​ of Dubrovnik

Through the summer months the Lindjo dancers are kept very busy. Apart from performing in the Dubrovnik Summer Festival they also dance three times a week in the Lazaretto complex. They also take this little piece of Dubrovnik on tour all over the world, great ambassadors for the city. They are accompanied by the traditional instrument, the Lijerica, a pear-shaped, three-stringed instrument which is played with a bow. It might look easy to get a tune from, but believe me it isn’t, far from it.

“And I can, thank God, raise my leg high in the air,” echoes out in the Dubrovnik evening sky, the dance leader has a firm grip on his troupe, his booming lyrics continue unabated.

In times when the authenticity of many world destinations is under question the Lindjo performers are without doubt as authentic as the City Walls themselves. To understand the society, the culture and the very spirit of Dubrovnik, the city that you have chosen to holiday in an evening with the Lindjo Folklore Ensemble is an evening that will create memories for a lifetime. This is the soul, the heartbeat of the city in a dance.

The crescendo of applause as the whole ensemble takes a bow is deafening, cries of “bravo” ring around, once again Lindjo has found a new group of fans.

Dubrovnik style Easter eggs

Easter in Dubrovnik – values that live on

“No, don’t break it…it’s beautiful,” I gasped in amazement at the scene in front of me. Easter in Dubrovnik is a time of traditions, a time of family and a time of fresh beginnings. It feels like a new chapter, a page has been turned, and yet the culture of the past is respected. Value is the key word. It is also a great time to visit Dubrovnik; it really feels like you are at the start of something special.

Easter isn’t really just a day, although Easter Sunday is the height of the celebrations, there is a week of events to experience. Which is how I came to be feeling sorry for an egg? One of the many traditions of Easter in Dubrovnik is painted eggs. Now I am not talking about whitewashed eggs in one colour, no far from it, these are tiny masterpieces. Incredibly decorated eggs with pictures, scenes and even messages displayed on them, pure miniature works of art.

Children at school, grandparents at home and even companies produce their own hand-decorated eggs. Some carry messages like, “Bless you this Easter,” and all of them are glorious. After so much time and effort has been put into painting them they are broken, egg on egg in a kind of conker competition. However if you are lucky enough to be in Dubrovnik for the Easter period then it is your job to save a few, what a perfect and unique souvenir. I have a few tucked away.

Easter at the Kazbek, Dubrovnik

Easter atmosphere at Boutique Hotel Kazbek

You have to try some of the delicacies at Easter time, such as the special cake that is made, Pinca, we love it. And don’t be surprised if you see palm decorations everywhere, on Palm Sunday it is traditional to take plaited palm leaves to church. But it isn’t only in church that you’ll see these plaited palm leaves, every home and shop will proudly have palm decorations on show.

Often tourists will ask about the special celebrations and traditions in Dubrovnik for Easter, they are fascinated that these customs are still alive and kicking. The idea of just giving out chocolate Easter eggs still hasn’t invaded Dubrovnik’s culture. And as the weather breaks, the sun stays longer in the blue sky and the nature can almost be heard awakening it is truly an inspirational time to visit Dubrovnik.

Discover the beauties and the values that make Dubrovnik a unique city to be in, and these very values are highlighted the most at Easter time. Make your own Easter memories in Dubrovnik…and save a few eggs as a memento.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Discover the beauties and the values that make Dubrovnik a unique city to be in

St. Blaise's Procession through Dubrovnik Old City

Feel the soul of Dubrovnik on the Day of Saint Blaise

Christmas, Easter, New Year…yes they are all important and rightly have their place on the Dubrovnik calendar. However, there is one day in Dubrovnik that puts all these in the shadow, the Day of St. Blaise. To start to explain the significance of St. Blaise for Dubrovnik and its citizens would…well let’s just say that you could fill a novel. Here is a brief story on why the people of Dubrovnik love their patron saint. You will often hear that St. Blaise, or St. Vlaho as he is locally known, is known as the protector of Dubrovnik, there is a reason behind that.

Dubrovnik by night, st. Blaise church

St. Blaise church in Dubrovnik Old City

The year was 971 and Venetian war galleons had dropped anchor near Dubrovnik and requested to stock up their ships with water and supplies. It looked harmless but was the cover for a cunning plan to capture the city. The Venetians used the opportunity to spy on the city’s defences for an upcoming attack. This is where the hero of the story, St. Blaise, enters. Realising the Venetians plan St. Blaise warned the priests of St. Stephens Church who rang their bells to alert the city of the attack. The plan, almost a Trojan Horse style plan, had failed, Dubrovnik was a still a free independent state. Since that time the day of St. Blaise, the 3rd of February, has been marked in Dubrovnik, to remember the saint who saved the city.

St. Blaise procession takes place through streets of Dubrovnik Old City, Croatia

St. Blaise Feast

To be in Dubrovnik for the Day of St. Blaise is indeed an honour. It is a time that Dubrovnik and its citizens treasure traditions and join together in a spirit of celebration. Banners, flags, sacral decorations and costumes fill the Old City, Dubrovnik pulls out all the stops when the Day of St. Blaise come around. It is a time that you can feel the true soul of the city. Once you have experienced on the Day of St. Blaise you will never look at Dubrovnik with the same eyes ever again. Traditional meals are served and whole families make the pilgrimage to the Stradun in the heart of the Old City dressed in their “Sunday best,” this is a time to show respect to Dubrovnik’s protector.

Although it is not a national state holiday it certainly is a holiday in Dubrovnik, and rightly so. It is truly a privilege to be in Dubrovnik on the 3rd of February, away from the summer sunshine, and yet bathed in a warm glow.

 

St. Blaise church, Dubrovnik Old City

Stained glass windows on St. Blaise church (photo source Flickr