A Dubrovnik wall walk (pre-pandemic) exploring its historic core allowed me to drift down medieval streets, like a curious cat. When I managed to avoid the crowds of tourists who flock to this prominent tourist destination in the Mediterranean Sea, I could lap up views of the old town. Peering over the thick walls built in the 9th century, I felt like leaping down to swim in the Adriatic Sea. Everywhere I saw turquoise blue waters encircled by granite stones and lush green moss. Looking up, the city’s rooftops rose like an orange wave.
Known as the “Pearl of the Adriatic, UNESCO named the Old City of Dubrovnik as a World Heritage Site in 1979. It was an important sea power in the Mediterranean starting in the 13th century. Despite the damage caused by the 1667 earthquake, Dubrovnik preserved its Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque churches. Bullet holes lodged in wooden doors are still visible from the armed conflict in the 1990s.
I think of the playwright George Bernard Shaw who described it so well:
“Those who are looking for paradise should come and see Dubrovnik.”George Bernard Shaw
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When I try to rationalize why Dubrovnik captured my imagination, I can only answer felines—not architecture, history, or museums (all of which I also love). But I also agree with the tagline for Croatia Tourism: “Full of life.” The tourism bureau also lists “Full of nature,” “Full of bike rides,” and “Full of World Heritage.” I would add “Full of Felines.”
Travel for me involves making a physical connection with culture. And Croatia allowed me to interact with its felines. I wish a savvy film director would make the Croatian-version of Kedi. This brilliant Turkish film documents the thousands of street cats that freely roam the metropolis of Istanbul, Turkey. I would like to see felines strutting on a Dubrovnik wall walk.
I would have content to spend my entire visit chasing cats in Old Town Dubrovnik. Croatia seems to have more cats per capita than any other European country which I have visited—maybe because C is the first letter of the country’s name. I fall in love with the Cats of Croatia.
During my Dubrovnik wall walk, I occasionally spy a cat playing in the backyard. Colorful laundry hanging on a rope flaps in the wind.
Vegetable plants are beginning to die off in the autumn. The flowers still bloom riotously. A black and white cat hides on a marble-topped table below. But it is impossible to get near a cat to pet him. On another terrace, I spy a calico cat asleep near a rock. I wonder if he dreams of fish leaping out of the Adriatic or sliced and deboned by fishermen who ply the waters in their boats.
Continuing my walk around the fortified city, I constantly survey my surroundings. Then I see it.
This courtyard is nestled in a forest of potted plants. Tiers of roses climb along the stone walls. A trio of peacock blue wooden benches is in the center, askew. A lime green end table sits between two benches. During the hottest days of summer, a beige cloth umbrella can be raised to provide cool shelter. Weaving in and out of the benches are cats.
The scene looked idyllic. A black and white cat sat happily on a blue bench. Nearby a cat lover held a bundle of fur in his lap. Other cats strolled by the benches. I captured a photo of this outdoor cat café while standing above on a higher level. Then I frantically searched for steps to descend.
When I appeared below, I stood quietly to the side. I wanted to see if the beautiful tabby cat might befriend me. Sitting quietly on the bench, I bide my time. Eventually, when the cat sees that I am not looking at her or calling her, she decides to investigate.
“The smallest feline is a masterpiece.”Leonardo da Vinci
Slowly she circles the bench then approaches my shoes. With one leap, she jumps into my lap. Now it is my time to pet her. If only I had some cat food to reward her.
I decided to follow the grey and white cat who leaves his cat family behind. He leads me toward the stone steps. A narrow alley is ahead. Looking up, I see a lavender dress, and white shirt, and blue shorts hang down from a ledge. Always there are pots of plants hugging the walls. Dubrovnik is a green place.
My feline friend leads me to more street cats in Old Town. All I had to do was sit on a brick wall, ignoring them. Soon a young calico cat wove her way toward me, like an embroidery needle sliding in and out of fabric. I barely breathed as the cat walked over to rub again my legs. Now I won’t move. It is too precious to simply meet these beautiful cats who may be street cats or (hopefully) live in homes in this walled city.
With only eight hours for my Dubrovnik wall walk, I must exhaust every option—hike from the city entrance at the Pile Gate (built in 1537) to the Ploce Gate to the east. Watching the drawbridge come down at sunset will be one of many Croaian memories that I long treasure of my visit to this country. The city is locked up for the night. I wonder if any Croatian cats ever get locked ou
The red rooftops in Old Town glow like gold at sunset. These orange-tiled rooftops shape my memory of my Dubrovnik wall walk. They seem to stretch for miles out to the sea—beige homes wearing their orange tile “hats” framed against a misty sky stretching toward the sea. I obsessively point and click photo after photo, hoping to capture this otherworldly place forever.
Up above looms Fort Minceta. It protected residents from attack by land. There is also Fort Bokar and Fort Lawrence.
Carved Cat Mask
My Dubrovnik wall walk requires a lot of walking—up steps, down steps, and around corridors. At times, I felt like I wandered in a labyrinth that would permanently trap me in the Old City. The combination of paths and passages was a puzzle, especially as the sun began to slip down in the sky.
I greeted sunset at Large Onofrio’s Fountain. There were no cats to be seen . . . except at this fountain . . when I prepared to leave Old Town. There were 16 water taps at the large rounded polygonal shape structure. Italian architect Onofrio di Giordano della Cava designed 16 carved masks plus a statue of a dog. Water spewed from a pipe. One of the masks portrayed a big cat, perhaps a panther. I stared long and hard at its proud face.
I remember Henry James’ passage in The Portrait of a Lady. To paraphrase, “I have always been fond of history, and here [in Dubrovnik] was history in the stones of the street . . . “ and the cats in the courtyards.