& Lokrum, Rožat, Kupari and Cavtat
Kurt Hielscher visited Dubrovnik for the first time a few years before WWI. He was on his way to Egypt and the steamer where he was travelling with made a stop in Dubrovnik for one day. Afterwards, he kept his wish to return to the Dalmatian coast ànd desire to also discover its hinterland. His wish was fulfilled by the invitation of the government of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes to make a third photo album after Spain, Germany and Italy. Kurt Hielscher gave space for some 18 out of the 192 photos of Dubrovnik in his photobook "Jugoslavien" that was published in 1926.
My first visit to the Pearl of the Adriatic was in 2004. At the time, we were travelling three months around the Balkans all the way up to Istanbul. Unfortunately, I did not take Kurt Hielscher's photobook. Since then we passed Dubrovnik several times during the summer on our way to Montenegro. We avoided the crowds and a stop in the summer heat, but in the summer of 2018 I copuld not resist to make an attempt to stop, but there was no way we could park the van somewhere close to the centre and then we decided to move on. Fortunately, I was able to deal with my frustration in the spring of 2019.
Dubrovnik, 1926. Photo: Kurt Hielscher.
Dubrovnik, 26th of April 2019. Photo: Casper Molenaar.
The photo above is taken from a viewpoint some 450 meters upstairs from Pile Gate the westside entrance to the old centre. The viewpoint is a calm place when I was there in late April 2019. I guess most tourists dive into the city on arrival and do not take the effort to go up for the steep walk to Gornji Kono street near the Jadranska Cesta, the main road passing Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik is about the walls, the fortresses but also about its roofs (and not about Game of Thrones if you'd ask me), because the roofs tell the stories of the last war. Within the city walls one can distinct the new ones, the ones damaged during the war and the old ones, the ones that remained undamaged. Within the walls all the roofs are restored. In front of this photo however, there's one roof half collapsed, which leaves the question whether this one was damaged during the war or collapsed due to antiquity?
View from the City Walls at the Pile Gate west of the city center with the main street Stradun and the Zvonik, the clock tower at the east end side, the day after the Half Marathon, Sunday the 28th of April 2019. Photo: Casper Molenaar.
Onofrio's Fountain and the Crkva sv. Spasa, the St. Saviour Church, 1926. Photo: Kurt Hielscher.
Onofrio's Fountain and the Crkva sv. Spasa, the St. Saviour Church, 26th of April 2019. Photo: Casper Molenaar.
Maybe the biggest difference in between the photos of Onofrio's Fountain in 1926 and 2019 is kučak, the dog, not visible though on both photos. The dog is on the other side of the fountain facing the church and has been there since the 15th century, as a guard. Kučak became severely damaged during the great earthquake of 1667, but the dog remained in place till the beginning of the 19th century. Since 2016 the dog is back. Well a replica. The original is in a museum. The fountain is from 1438 and the end of a 12 kilometer long watersupply system.
"Odakle si?" "Where are you from?", asked the guy when I ordered ice-creams for my family in my most decent Croatian after waiting for a while in the eternal queue. "Ja sam iz Nizozemske". Taken by surprise he shook his head and smiled at the same time. I asked him: "A ti?". The answer was "Tetovo". I responded: "Ah, Šarena Džamija, very nice!" I got a pat on the back and we shook hands. These kind of short, but warm and exuberant expressions of enthusiasm I really like when my love for the region becomes noticed.
Portal of the Franciscan Monastery, 1926. Photo: Kurt Hielscher.
Portal of the Franciscan Monastery, 26th of April 2019. Photo: Casper Molenaar
No way I could make the photo from the portal without any ice-eating tourists sitting in front of it. Even a few days later when we came back late in the evening, it was just after 10pm, so quite late for the kids, people were still sitting there. But I must say the ice here at Ice Cream Shop Dubrovnik was suprisingly affordable and tasty and we were received with great hospitality every time we passed the days afterwards.
Franciscan Monastery, 1926. Photo: Kurt Hielscher
Franciscan Monastery, 28th of April 2019. Photo: Casper Molenaar.
The courtyard of the Franciscan Monastery evokes romantic feelings I noticed! When I was here for the first time in 2004, Kim and I felt it too, but this time I was strolling around Dubrovnik on my own to capture the Kurt Hielscher's photo while the rest of the family concentrated recreational activities. Here I found all those lovely couples deeply in love with one another here and felt pity I did not take Kim with me this time. I made something like 20 photos, every one with people on it. This might not be the best shot but I think it is a really loving one.
Little Onofrio's Fountain, Dubrovnik, 1926. Photo: Kurt Hielscher.
Little Onofrio's Fountain, Dubrovnik, 26th of April (yes, it was Easter two days before) 2019
View on the harbour from the east side of the city walls near the Dominican Monastery and with Kim on the right side.
Vestibule of the Rector's Palace, Dubrovnik, Croatia, 1926
Vestibule of the Rector's Palace, Dubrovnik, Croatia, 1926
The covered entrance of the Vestibule of the Knežev Dvor, the Rector's Palace with its columns and decorated benches is a great place to chill and hang for a while, feel Dubrovniks history and see what's going on. Nowadays one will see groups of tourists entering or exiting the Dubrovački Muzeji, the Dubrovnik Museums, that are housed here in the Knežev Dvor. Two days later we came back in the evening. It was raining and then one can find a place to hide from the rain here. Don't ever try to run away from the rain in Dubrovnik because the streets are totally slippery. Because of the evening rain the streets were calm and we found some rest realizing again how beautiful Dubrovnik is, when it is calm.
Courtyard of the Rector's Palace, 1926. Photo: Kurt Hielscher
Courtyard of the Rector's Palace, 26th of of April 2019. Photo: Casper Molenaar
"Of course, no problem", the ticket saleslady said when I came to the Rector's Palace only to make this one photo of its courtyard. "Give me five minute and I just stay here in the courtyard". No entrance fee was needed. Between the 14th century and 1808 it was the seat of the Rector of the Republic of Ragusa. Not much seemed changed over the past decades, but within the previous centuries there were severe damages like a fire (1435) and two earthquakes (1520 and 1667). The main differences between Kurt Hielscher's and my photo can be explained by his length and/or lens and of course, today's tourists. Since 1872 the History Department of the Museum of Dubrovnik is housed here.
Dubrovnik is about the red rooftops. While strolling around the city walls with the changing angle, the mozaïk of red rooftops turn along as a visual spectacle. With a closer look, one can see the differences in shades, telling the stories of the dramatic events of the siege of Dubrovnik in between October 1991 and May 1992. Durnig the siege over 11.000 buildings were damaged.
the roofs tell the stories of the last war
Here Kim is educating our boys with help from a map at one of the entrance gates that show the damage caused by the siege: direct impacts, damaged roofs and burnt facilities.
Most people enter the historical center of Dubrovnik from its western Pile Gate. The Onofrio fountain on your right hand side will catch your eye immediately as does the clock tower in the distance at the end of Dobrovnik's main street Stradun. Maybe you'll notice the portal to the Franciscan Monastery on the left or your attention might be drawn by the Ice Cream Shop Dubrovnik, but a few steps further you'll definitely turn back to face Pile Gate to check where you just came from: you'll notice the stairs going up to the Dubrovačke Zidine, the Dubrovnik City Walls, just behind the charming Crkva sv. Spasa, the St. Saviour Church.
At the end of Stradun, and now I am skipping some 250 meters, just before the gate on the left you'll see a series of arches and a darkgreen very solid iron door with "Dogana" (=customs) written just above it underneath a coat of arms. This is the entrance to the Palača Sponza which was built between 1516 and 1522 and today houses the city archives. The door is probably closed, so you can stand with your back against it and take a look towards Luža Square with the small Onofrio Fountain on the left, the Katedrala Marijina Uznesenja in the distance and the impressive Crkva sv. Blaža on the right, and there you go: here you'll have the view of this stunning photo made by Kurt Hielscher in 1926. (except for the Crkva sv. Blaža, which is not to be seen on it). To get exactly In the footsteps of Kurt Hielscher here is not possible with the door closed, so this was the best shot I could make. A day later in the evening however, there was a private party going on and the door opened every now and then. I took my chances and asked if I could go in for a few seconds to make the photo. I got the permission but I screwed it up. I won't share any of the photos I made here. And I noticed that not only the door within the gate should have been opened but the entire gate. So I asked again, but the gentle lady did not have the key for that, so I think I'd better organize my own private party here someday.
Luža Square with the small Onofrio Fountain on the left and the Katedrala Marijina Uznesenja in the distance, 1926. Photo: Kurt Hielscher.
Luža Square with the small Onofrio Fountain on the left and the Katedrala Marijina Uznesenja in the distance, 26th of April 2019. Photo: Casper Molenaar
Palača Sponza with the iron door with "Dogana" written just above it from which Kurt Hielscher made his photo from Luža Square, 26th of April 2019. Photo: Casper Molenaar
Court of the Dominican Monastery, 1926. Photo: Kurt Hielscher.
Court of the Dominican Monastery, 28th of April 2019. Photo: Casper Molenaar
When I showed the cashier of the Dominican Monastery the old photo of Kurt Hielscher and explained what I was doing, again I was allowed free entrance to make the photo, something that seems to happen all the time and people, locals as well as other visitors show interest in my project. It must be an awkward sight, a man with all these copies trying to make the exact same photo on the copy. They ask: "Why?" Sometimes I ask myself the same question. Sometimes I feel determined and sometimes it just make me happy when I discover new places or experience the magic of stepping into an old photo while I had imagined what it would have been like a dozens of times before arrival on the spot.
View from the southern ends of the city walls on the enchanting Adriatic.
View from the Dubrovnik city walls on the impressive Minčeta, 1926. Photo: Kurt Hielscher.
View from the Dubrovnik city walls on the impressive Minčeta, 28th of April 2019. Photo: Casper Molenaar.
Well, this might be an impressive duo with a lot of changes at first sight, but the truth is that I took my photo from a closer distance than Kurt Hielscher did in 1926. So close, yet so far away. The angle is fine though. I also took another photo from the right distance, but then the right height was not possible. I decided this was my best shot. Anyway, it was worth the effort and also the entrance fee to stroll around the city walls. As a pennywise Dutchman I have to note that since 2011 the entrance fee for the City Walls has been raised from 30 to 200 Kn, so almost sevenfold in 8 years. In 2004, when I was there too, the price was the same as in 2011. But let there be no misunderstanding, Dubrovnik is wonderful and the views from its walls like magic.
Happy family, 28th of April 2019. Selfie.
Have you seen Game of Thrones? I did not. Well, except for that one scene in which Dubrovnik is demolished. What's it called, "Kings Landing"? I can not watch that. I hate it, also because of the shops, the t-shirts, the crowds, the overtourism, the madness: Dubrovnik got lost by its citizens and it makes me sad. For that reason I avoided Dubrovnik in the past years. But hey, I still had to make these photos, so I decided to make them kind of off- season, at the end of April.
Fort Bokar shot from Beach Sulić, 1926. Photo: Kurt Hielscher.
Fort Bokar shot from Beach Sulić , 28th of April 2019. Photo: Casper Molenaar.
These photos from Kurt Hielscher are taken from Beach Sulić, just a bay further to the west and from the City Center than the Kolorina Bay, where GoTh-fans tumble over one another to make the best selfie. Beach Bar Dodo is now situated on the spot where Kurt Hielscher's "stone huts" were once situated. On their Facebook page they advertise with "avoid the crowds", come to our "hidden gem, carved into a stone cliff" and I must say that at first sight the proportion of locals is way higher than in the other bay and it is way more quiet. It was hard though for me to find the right angle with a lot of distractions. I saw some guests of the bar staring at me: "no, not another crazy tourist, not here".
"Stone Huts" at Beach Sulić, 1926. Photo: Kurt Hielscher.
Beach Bar Dodo at Beach Sulić, 28th of April 2019. Photo: Casper Molenaar.
Well, this is not such a satisfying duophoto for such a beautiful place as the Monastery of Sveti Jakov is on situated. Next to that it is something like a beautiful and pleasant 25 minutes' walk from the old town of Dubrovnik, because you will notice you will leave the crowds behind. There's a beautiful beach as well. The Monastery is also good visible from the sea.
The Monastery of Sveti Jakov, "St. Giacomo's Monastery", near Dubrovnik, 1926. Photo: Kurt Hielscher
The Monastery of Sveti Jakov near Dubrovnik, 28th of April 2019. Photo: Casper Molenaar.
The rock at the island of Lokrum with Dubrovnik in the distance, 1926. Photo: Kurt Hielscher.
The rock and my oldest son at the island of Lokrum with Dubrovnik in the distance, 26th of April 2019. Photo: Casper Molenaar.
When I was on the boat from Dubrovnik to the island of Lokrum with my family, I did not expect to find this rock. I knew how big the island was, maybe not too big, but probably too big to explore the whole of it when having a daytrip with your family. I was not sure. I also did not know how big this rock was, but when we strolled around the Monastery and moved on towards the coastline of the island on the most mainstream path, the first thing you see is this big rock. It turned out this part of the island is like a natural playgarden for the kids. They can climb on and jump off the rocks, search for crabs in numerous little wells. It is also a good place for a picknick, because the rocks are flat and plain, so we did, with a beautiful view on Dubrovnik in the distance.
More rocks on Lokrum, 1926. Photo: Kurt Hielscher.
More rocks on Lokrum, 26th of April 2019. Photo: Casper Molenaar.
Rocks and more rocks on Lokrum, 1926. Photo: Kurt Hielscher.
Even more rocks on Lokrum, 26th of April, 2019. Photo: Casper Molenaar.
Next to rocks, we also found rabbits, peacocks, a botanical garden and a salt lake called mrtvo more, dead sea. The lake is connected with the Adriatic via an underground channel. Ofcourse we went for a swim. And we found the Benedictine Monastery where Kurt Hielscher made his photo. I always try to make my photo the same size as Kurt Hielscher's next to the same angle by putting attention to distance but height is often a pitfall. Therefore, I found this combination as the best solution, not the same size.
Benedictine Monastery, Lokrum, 1926. Photo: Kurt Hielscher.
Benedictine Monastery, Lokrum, 26th of April 2019. Photo: Casper Molenaar.
Garbage bags instead of plants, probably due to some off-season works, but quite a contrast with the photo from Kurt Hielscher. The Monastery complex dates back to 1023 but in the 15th century the Benedictine Monks were forced to leave the island. Upon their eviction from the Island, the monks passed a curse on any who possessed the island. Okay then, one thing, I have to admit that I tried the iron throne (of GoTh) in the catacombs of the Monastery, but I'll keep the photo for my private archive. Anyway, we enjoyed our stroll around the monastery complex and had quite a day on the island of Lokrum.
View on Kupari and Cavtat in the distance, 27th of April 2019. Photo: Casper Molenaar.
View on Kupari and Cavtat in the distance, 1926. Photo: Kurt Hielscher.
Kupari Beach, 27th of April 2019. Photo: Kim van Ierssel
The abandoned hotels of Kupari Beach
When Kurt Hielscher was here in 1926, the Grand Hotel, just a few dozens of meters from a beautiful sandy (!) beach, was just opened for the rich. Later, during the 1960's, the Grand Hotel became a holiday resort for the higher ranks of the JNA and some four other hotels were built. Now, Kupari Beach is known as the bay of abandoned hotels. During the last war, all the hotels were destroyed by the JNA, while some of its commanders must have been guests in the years before.
I believe it is crazy that such a beautiful beach so nearby Dubrovnik has been left like this for years and still is. Nothing seems to be going on. We discovered it accidentally. We were just looking for a beach along the nearby coast to go for a swim with the kids. We ended up strolling around two of the hotels and after that we went for a swim. There were only a handful of people at the beach but we were the only ones that went straight into the water. I guess others found it too cold.
At the banks of the Ombla in Rožat
In the summer of 2018 we decided to skip Dubrovnik on our way to Montenegro. Instead, we took the old road along the Bay of Rožat. We went for a swim in the bay and I wanted to take two of Kurt Hielscher's photos of which I knew he made somewhere here in the bay. After the swim, there wasn't enough time left to find the right spot, I realised when we passed the right angle and it was too late to go back. So in April 2019 a second chance occured.
But also then, when we took more time to find the places, it was not so easy, though we could recognize the hills easily. The harbor on the other side of the bay was distracting, so we just decided to park the car near the monastery, the most likely spot for Kurt Hielscher to have stopped in 1926, I guessed, and it turned correct so I could make the first photo.
At the banks of the Ombla at the Ulica Rožat Donji so not not the main, Gornji/upper, road, just a few hundreds of meters from the Monastery, 1926. Photo: Kurt Hielscher.
At the banks of the Ombla at the Ulica Rožat Donji so not not the main, Gornji/upper, road, just a few hundreds of meters from the Monastery, 27th of April, 2019. Photo: Casper Molenaar.
After that, we went to the other side of the bay to visit the harbor and have an ice-cream when Kim recognized the old fence (see photo below) that was visible on the old photo as a marking point in the landscape. So we went back to the other side of the bay again, found the fence, which made it a lot easier to find the right spot, indeed a few hundred meters away from the monastery. If you take a close look, you can see that the ornamentation on the left pole is still there, but the right one is missing on today's photo.
View on the fence at the opposite side of the bay. Take a close look at Kurt Hielscher's photo to see this gate, 27th of April 2019. Photo: Casper Molenaar.
At the banks of the Ombla, just in front of the Monastery, 1926. Photo: Kurt Hielscher.
At the banks of the Ombla, just in front of the Monastery, 27th of April 2019. Photo: Casper Molenaar.
The harbor is worth visiting if you like to stare at modern yachts. It is also a starting point to rent a boat for many. Here in Komolac, we were impressed by the Ljetnikovac Sorkočević or Sorkočević Summer House, a beautiful building with peaceful gardens. Though a photosession of a just married couple was held there that day, we wondered why this place was not really a huge tourist attraction. The municipality of Dubrovnik could use this place to get tourists out of the overcrowded city center, we thought. Later, I found out that they are actually planning to do so. There will be a museum and a restaurant and maybe even more. So we gotta come back, just curious how long it will take this time.
The Ljetnikovac Sorkočević or Sorkočević Summer House at the opposite site of the Ombla in Komolac.