Saturday, October 24

Cavtat


I travel a lot – for business and leisure. After a while one town starts to look much like the last; one local icon invites comparison with another and each hotel feels like the last. It takes something rather quirky and unexpected to make a lasting impact. Cavtat (pronounced "tsavtat"), a small village nestled on a narrow pine-clad peninsular, is one such place. We based ourselves here on the advice of my Uncle and Aunt (Thanks Dick and Jan). Without their tip I’m sure we’d have never bothered.

Cavtat consists of largely plain stone buildings, capped by bright, red-tiled roofs. Its sea-front plaza looks out across a small, sheltered bay dotted with simple fishing boat. It’s not fancy by any stretch of the imagination. However, the combination of simplicity in such an idyllic location is magic. My travel-wary soul was replenished moments after sighting Cavtat from the opposing shore of its postcard perfect harbour.


Cavtat is the original Dubrovnik. Like so many towns in the area it began life as a Greek settlement. Called Epidauros at the time, it fell under Roman rule in 228 BC and became a colony in the Roman province of Dalmatia. In the early 7th Century invading Slavs and Avars ransacked the town. Refugees who fled the violence eventually created a new settlement 17 kilometres up the coast. This new town eventually became the city of Dubrovnik.


Beyond bucket-loads of natural beauty, Cavtat is also an incredibly convenient location. It’s five kilometers from the airport, half an hour by bus or 40 minutes by boat from Dubrovnik and within easy reach of day trips to Montenegro. We stayed at Hotel Croatia, a rather uninspiring concrete hulk on a hill overlooking the harbour. Despite its ugly exterior the hotel bar offered stunning views of Cavtat. Our room ialso held a balcony looking out across small islands dotting the Adriatic Sea.


We spent our first afternoon in Croatia wandering the shores of Cavtat harbour, dining at a simply water-front restaurant and venturing up a small hill to see the Racic Mausoleum. This popular local sight is a domed art-deco chapel built on the edge of the town’s cemetery. Designed by sculptor Ivan Mestrovic, it’s a striking white stone building that maintains a silent vigil over the distant seawall defenses of Dubrovnik. It’s a spectacular view that’s simply wasted on the dead.


Spectacular coastal views aren’t hard to find in Croatia. On our third day in the country we hired a car and made plans to drive south to the Montenegrin town of Kotor. Enroute to the border we took a detour to Prevlaka, a long, narrow peninsular that constitutes the southernmost tip of Croatia. This landmark location sits at the entrance of the Gulf of Kotor and thus provides a picturesque view of the coast. In 1991 the Yugoslav National Army captured the area and based itself her for the duration of the siege of Dubronvik. Signs of their presence remain today, including taunting graffiti painted on the walls of old Austro-Hungarian fort at Point Ostra.


Garry and I spent more than an hour at Prevlaka, walking 2.5 kilometres from the national park carpark to Point Ostra. As we walked I struggled to reconcile the peaceful view with the concept that this was a battle zone less than twenty years ago. The UN was still monitoring the area until 2002 when it was finally given back to Croatia. I still struggle with the concept this peninsular and Dubrovnik were both European war zone in my lifetime.

1 comment:

rhonda said...

Considering the weather, your photos are terrific and it sounds as though you had a great weekend regardless. Even with the lack of sunshine it's certainly a very picturesque destination.