Today is our last day in Dubrovnik before we ease down the coast of Montenegro, and we woke up to torrential rain and crazy thunder and lightning. In Vancouver we’re known for rain, but this was some RAIN. We took our time getting ready, bought a couple of umbrellas and headed for a leisurely breakfast overlooking the old marina. We watched as tour after tour group paraded by, a walking rainbow of waterproof ponchos shuffling by.
After breakfast we headed to the first of two monasteries we wanted to see, this one being Dominican. The Dominican Monastery is known for its beautiful chapel and peaceful cloister, as well as a good collection of artwork. As I am not a religious person, I try to enjoy the monasteries and cathedrals for what they are – architectural feats and priceless pieces of art.
The entrance fee is a pittance, but we paid in trying to navigate around the tour groups, walking slowly and bleeding into every walkable crevice so that when we got caught in a tour group, we kind of had to make the same movements as the tour group.
We made our way to the cloister right away, quiet and lush, an oasis in the middle of the busy arid city.
We moved into the small art gallery, filled with dim and dark brush strokes depicting Jesus suffering and the sainted patrons who helped bank roll the church. What I was most interested in was a 15th century book of motets and mass (think post chant, pre JS Bach), with square runes instead of round note heads. I wish I could read them.
After enough time fawning over the relics of martyrs, we headed towards the other monastery of interest, the Franciscan. In order to get there, we had to cross town, shoulder to shoulder with every other person ever, so we decided to take a less busy back alley.
A back alley in old Dubrovnik is a delightful thing – lined with quaint cafes and restaurants, lamps, greenery, cats and galleries – out of the sun and myriad of people. We reached the Franciscan Monastery, paid not the right amount (the front desk clerk could be described as “day drunk” and gave us a deal) and entered again into a serene cloister, very similar to the Dominican one.
The main reason why we wanted to visit this monastery was because it houses one of the oldest still operational pharmacies in the world (3rd oldest in Europe). There was a small museum and gallery in this monastery as well, with a wall dedicated to the ancient instruments and bottles of tinctures from the days of yore.
There were again more paintings, relics, and a few hymnals from the 14th, 15th and 16th century, but the most impactful thing for me, was a framed hole in the wall labeled “shell shot December 6 1991”. We haven’t talked a lot about the Balkan War on this trip, but on the previous mentioned date the Yugoslav Army (later called the Serbian Army) bombarded Dubrovnik’s old town, leading to worldwide condemnation and sanctions. The army retreated and left Croatia to declare their independence (only to siege Sarajevo for 4 horrible bloody years that somehow evaded the notice of the West). I think the reason that the Balkan War resonates with me is not only because I fell in love with Bosnia 5 years ago, but because I remember the War. I was young, but I remember hearing names like “Sarajevo”, “Serbia” and “Milosovic”, and we have been able to speak with people who lived through it. Anyway.
We were keeping our eyes to the skies as we had read that there was another storm moving into the city, so we decided to grab a drink by Onofrio Fountain (our waiter asked “do you have somewhere safe to go? There will be storm”) and an ice cream while we watched the black clouds roll in (I had mint chocolate, Pa had “Game of Thrones” flavour, which is dark chocolate and rum). We got back to our apartment in time to hear the skies to rumble and light, followed by the deluge. We listened to podcasts and played games on our devices as we waited out the weather. Around 1700hrs the clouds broke, the blue skies came back and we headed to a beautiful restaurant for some happy hour cocktails (Pa had Glenmorangie scotch, Ma had some sort of virgin berry cinnamon concoction and I had a raspberry rum cocktail) and a delicious dinner of roasted chicken and ratatouille.
As the sun set over the old city, we wandered back to our apartment for the last time, taking in the smells of lavender and incense and the golden glow of the buildings.