Croatia's Medieval Walled City

Among the world's 10 best preserved medieval walled cities is the beautiful seaside port of Dubrovnik, Croatia. Sitting on the coast of the sparkling mediterranean sea, Dubrovnik served in ancient times as a resting port for ships at night.

 a major road leading to the Church in the walled city

a major road leading to the Church in the walled city

The “Old Town”, as they call it, with its red roofs and creamy beige architecture, is entirely surrounded by walls up to 25 meters high. Often and repeatedly under attack for control by many neighboring states, it's turbulent history involved a great fire that destroyed nearly the whole city in 1296 and a month long siege by the Napoleon Army that led to 3,000 cannonballs being fired onto the city. Today though, the Old Town has been restored in all its glory. 

 entrance to the "Old Town"

entrance to the "Old Town"

 map of the Old Town

map of the Old Town

 red roofs

red roofs

Stepping foot inside the "Old Town" felt a bit magical. With nearly all the original architecture intact, I stood there envisioning how life would have been back hundreds of years ago, the people that crossed this very same street everyday...sailing, trading, living. Would they have been all that different from you and me?

There were gorgeous, wonderfully preserved churches, villas, shops, and sea ports. Even the oldest pharmacy in Europe that dated back to the 1300s...

 the "main street" of the city

the "main street" of the city

and palaces with magnificent architectural designs.

 inside a palace in the city

inside a palace in the city

Unsurprisingly, Dubrovnik’s greatest achievements were in the field of marine technology and sea trade. Ivan Rblijanin once lived there as one of the most famous cannon and bell founders of his time. Sea chests made in city boasted some of strongest and most advanced locking systems. Huge fleets of merchant ships called Argosies travelled all over the world, founding even some settlements in India and America.

 streets

streets

 streets

streets

Unfortunately, as many treasured old cities and cultures around the world, Dubrovnik has become increasing touristic. For the first time, I finally understood why history was so important.

Increasing globalization, especially in cities today in Asia, has so quickly erased memories of our past. Culture and civilization will forever be changing, and waves of technology and innovation will inevitably destroy in their paths cultures and past ways of life. And so it's imperative that we pass along stories of the past and where we came from, and do everything possible to preserve and remember. Otherwise everything will forever be lost. 

 looking up at the walls that surrounded the city

looking up at the walls that surrounded the city

Despite Dubrovnik’s turbulent history, the city itself always aspired to live in peace and freedom. It believed in free trade, with its ships sailing a white flag with the Latin word for freedom, Libertas. Even its prison system was seen as quite revolutionary as some captives were only imprisoned during the day and was allowed to return home at night to their families. 

Today, the city is now protected in UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites and has a steady population of about 42,000 with tens of thousands of visitors per day.

Flight to Venice!

Before you think I'm finally going to explore the far distant lands of Venice, Italy, I have to first manage some expectations and tell you that we are merely spending the morning here. 

Venice is a major port on the mediterranean, and that is the only clue to where I am headed for the next week! While it's is no long distance trip from Paris, here are some essentials I always bring with me on the plane (and elsewhere on vacation ;) ). 

The Essentials

  • Bag - this will fit everything!
  • Wallet - in my favorite tuscan yellow, perfect for spring, summer and fall
  • Sunglasses - oh there will be sun!
  • Frames - contacts can get dry on the plane
  • Passport - can't leave without this one!
  • iPad with Next Issue Magazines
  • iPhone & headphones

For Last-Minute Touchups

  • Sugar Tinted Lip Treatment in Rosé - color and moisture all in one
  • Cover FX Powder Compact - for a perfect shine free complexion right off the plane 
  • Coco Chanel Mademoiselle Perfume - packed in a travel sized container from Muji
  • Mentos Gum - favorite mint now in gum form!

For Comfort

  • Kusmi Tea in Earl Grey - this gift size container is the perfect travel companion!
  • Contact Case - with solution already inside!
  • Tissues - I'll be happy I have these
  • Fuzzy socks (not pictured)
  • Eye Mask for sleeping (not pictured)

Good bye Paris! See yah in a week! 

PS. I have two scheduled posts coming this next week, so be sure to check it out. <3

 
 
 


Bordeaux Vineyards

"We cannot talk about Bordeaux wine without talking about ze terroir," our tour guide articulated proudly with her thumb and index fingers together, stressing the r's (arhhhh's) in her last word. "Bordeaux's vineyards are deeh-vided into 60 appellations (regions) of 284,000 acres. Each type of wine is adapt-zeed to its region and...terroir (-arhh). You cannot make Margaux wine in Saint-Émilion. No no! You must make Margaux wine in Marrhhgaux. The Margaux wine varieties have been adapted to ze terroir (-arhhhh). Any-zing else will be no good." She looked at us. "You understand?"

It was a 45-min drive from downtown Bordeaux to the Châteaux (literally castle, but here meaning entities of vineyards, usually 100-150 acres, owned and operated separately either by families or now, modern day companies of shareholders). On many of these vineyards still sit castles of all sorts, which back then hosted the families who owned them as country estates away from the city. 

 One of the real Château's on the Château

One of the real Château's on the Château

Today, we were just 20 miles northwest of the city of Bordeaux, in the region of Margaux, famous for producing some of the best red wines in the world (or should I say ze :P).

As we drove past hundreds of acres of vineyards, we learned that Romans first planted them 3000 years ago. During this extraordinarily long history, the wine varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec, were especially created for the specific terrain of Bordeaux. And so despite being planted elsewhere in the world, they will never produce as well as here in France.

My immediate impression was that the vines all appeared much shorter than I had imagined, just 1-2 meters above ground. Apparently, because Bordeaux wines are known to last a long time (up to 3-4 decades), this requires that the juice be more concentrated than others, to allow for the gradual thinning of taste without loss of body or flavor. To accomplish this, Bordeaux vines are pruned extraordinarily short, resulting in the production of much less, but far more concentrated juice.

 Bordeaux Vineyards - it's hard to get a picture just driving! They are highly protected from people walking through them (mostly forbidden) to ensure the highest of quality.

Bordeaux Vineyards - it's hard to get a picture just driving! They are highly protected from people walking through them (mostly forbidden) to ensure the highest of quality.

In a country obsessed with everything natural (GMO's are banned entirely), it's not a surprise that Bordeaux vineyards are never irrigated. This is called the hydro-stress method, which forces vines to grow enormous roots of 8-12 meters into the ground to find water. The average around the world is just 3-4 meters.

 Château Margaux's facilities for fermentation

Château Margaux's facilities for fermentation

Most châteaux produce their wines on site, from harvesting to fermentation to aging. And so in these enormous barrels (many of which are now steel instead of wood to facilitate cleaning), the grapes are canned for fermentation. 

It was surprising to see how clean and high-tech these facilities were. In Margaux, drones are used to take pictures of the vineyards from above to differentiate the already ripe grapes from those still needing some time. 

And of course the aging process, which takes place in these oak barrels (each of which costs up to 900 euros, and changed every couple of years), helps to add that wonderful oak flavor to the red wine. 

 Oak Barrels for aging

Oak Barrels for aging

And the most important thing that I learned on my tour? That a wine from Bordeaux is never just a Cabernet, or a Merlot. It's always always a blend, and named only after its appellation. So next time you see a wine named Merlot, you know it's definitely not from Bordeaux (or France)!

We went on the Ophorus Wine Tour, which was excellent.

This post is part of the 12-day, 5-city Eurotrip in July 2014.