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Dubrovnik and final thoughts

As I sit at home in Los Angeles a day after my country’s Independence Day celebrations, I look back on my Legends of Croatia tour and the word ‘history’ instantly comes to mind.

As I sit at home in Los Angeles a day after my country’s Independence Day celebrations, I look back on my Legends of Croatia tour and the word ‘history’ instantly comes to mind. At a mere 238 years old, the United States is a baby of a nation compared to most of those in Europe, and any legends of these lands that stretch back more than a few hundred years would be from the Native American Indians, passed down by spoken word from generation to generation within their tribes and sadly, slowly, fading away with each year.

But thousand-year-old legends are alive and well in Croatia, and it was a pleasure to not only learn about them, but to see them played out before my eyes. Croatia, it’s land and people, have been through quite a lot over it’s lengthy existence. From Romans and Ottomans to Soviets, control over the land has been contested by many. And with the country’s still recent hard-won independence, the pride the people have in their country’s history is something to behold and respect.

When you last heard from me, I was laid up ill in Orebic, nodding off in bed while fighting the drowsiness effect of cold medicine. Meanwhile, my bloggers-in-arms were seeing the famous Wall of Stone, which I still regret missing.

However, the next day I had regained some health, and it was off to the fantastic city of Dubrovnik. It was my second visit to the walled port city, and was quickly reminded of it’s popularity. We had been off the main tourist track of Dalmatia for the bulk of the tour, and now we ran head on into the teeming hordes of Croatia’s top tourist attraction.

Yes, a typical day in Dubrovnik means fighting through multiple groups of photo-snapping cruise ship passengers on shore leave, but there is a reason for the crowds- Dubrovnik is a fascinating place. It simply IS history.

Every one of Dubrovnik’s hilly stone streets tell a story (and provide the backdrop for the city of King’s Landing in Game of Thrones! Sorry to geek out just there…) Here we learned about one of the legends of the city- the Legend of St. Vlaho.

The legend has it that as the sneaky Venetians were set to invade the city, an army of men unexpectedly appeared to defend it, led by a gray-bearded old man carrying a stick who called himself St. Vlaho. He said he was sent from above to safeguard Dubrovnik, and the next day the Venetians were defeated.

Now that I think about it, St. Vlaho description sounds an awful lot like Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings. I imagine him staring down the Venetians with his staff in hand yelling “None shall pass!” I’m starting to wonder just where J.R.R. Tolkein got his ideas.

During a walk along the city walls, we looked out to the nearby island of Lokrum, and learned the legend of it’s curse. It goes that Benedictine monks on the island were ordered to evacuate by the French and their monastery closed. They responded by dripping candle wax on the pathways around the island, cursing it for anyone who visited it.

Owners of the island over the years have tended to die by tragic or mysterious circumstances. Now, it is a popular daytime destination for hikers and sunbathers, but no one stays overnight. Cursed indeed.

The English contingent of my group seemed please to hear of Richard the Lionheart’s experiences in Dubrovnik. The Anglo-Norman king washed ashore in Lokrum back in 1192 after returning from the Crusades, and vowed to build a church where he was rescued The locals convinced him to build the Cathedral of Assumption within Dubrovnik’s walls instead. It stood until an earthquake demolished it in 1667.

For our final legend of the day and the tour itself, we traveled by ferry to the nearby town of Cavtat and cave called Sipun. Legend had it that a dragon lived in the cave, and St. Ilar persuaded it to leave by opening up a pathway in the sea, Moses-style. The dragon left, and the people burned the dragon on the nearby beach at Mlini, where a church now stands.

A fun group of actors, men, women and children, shot their scenes at both the cave and on the beach. I got a kick out of passersby staring at dozens of costumed locals pulling a giant foam dragon through the streets and on the ferry. As the sun set in the distance, we burned the dragon (which went up quite quickly) under the watchful eye of the local fire department. With cheers and a puff of smoke, the Legends of Croatia tour ended.

I have to thank Lea, Ashley, and the rest of the crew of Touristar.tv for allowing me to learn and experience so much about Croatia and it’s history. I never would have found most of the places we visited on my own, and surely wouldn’t have learned of the stories that made the so unique.

I also had a wonderful time meeting y fellow nloggers: Joanna, Paul, Alex, and Igor. I’m happy to say I made some new friends as well along the way, and they made the trip even more enjoyable.

And most of all, thank you to the kind people of Croatia for your hospitality, and the hard work of all the actors, guides and hosts we encountered along the way.

And if you see fit to send any extra wine, prsut, or octopus salad my way, I would most appreciate it!

Hvala!

Mike Siegel

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