Visiting the Trsteno Arboretum

After visiting both Mostar and Montenegro in successive 12 hour trips and many days of hiking up mountains, climbing city walls and the excitement of long car rides and boat trips I felt like I needed an easy day.  I’d already seen more than everything that I hoped I would see and had such a good time that I could most definitely cut my holiday short right here and right now.

Not really being in the mood for museums, partly as I spend much of my life in museums but also because Dubrovnik itself is just too good to miss, I wanted to do something outdoors and I decided to visit the Tresteno Arboretum.

The gardens are said to be the oldest on the eastern side of the Adriatic Sea and were created by the wealthy Gučetić-Gozze family all the way back in the 15th century with such wonders as an aqueduct, fountain and pavilion all looking out over the view of the sea and some of the 1200 islands that line the Croatian coast.

For a long time it remained in private hands but when Yugoslavia fell under Communism it entered state ownership and the gardens were expanded into a scientific institute.  Sadly in the 1990’s the beautiful gardens were deliberately targeted by the Serbian Navy and many rare exhibits were destroyed.  Occupying soldiers also looted everything of value.  It is said that the gardens will take 80 years to reach their former glory.

The gardens are now known around the world for being the filming location for the palace gardens of Kings Landing in Game of Thrones.  If there is a plot to be hatched then this is the place to do it.  The Queen of Thorns practically seemed to live here before King Joffreys wedding.

The gardens are around 22km / 15 miles north of Dubrovnik and though there are bus routes that serve it, at this time of year they are very irregular and run just a few times a day.  Coupled with the fact that I’m on the wrong side of Dubrovnik and would need to get another bus first to cross the city made me decide to get a taxi.

I went to the taxi rank outside Pile Gate, the entrance to the Old City of Dubrovnik.  There was no one around the line of taxis though I soon found a couple of them playing cards under a tree in a nearby park.   My driver was called Davor, Croatian for David.  He was a nice middle-aged man who spoke English much better than what he believed.

As we drove through Dubrovnik the beautiful streets gave way to the coastline and soon after crossing over the large Franja Tudmana bridge we were enjoying some of the serene views on this quiet coastal highway.   All the while Davor giving a running commentary of where I should visit next time I return to Croatia.  He decided on the island of Otok Sipan which said had the nicest beaches and the best all round experience of Croatia before admitting that it was where he grew up.

All too soon we arrived at Trsteno, the gardens are a little way of the main road.  Devour parked up and in the very laid back and casual manner of all my holiday haggling wherever I go, we decided to ignore the taxi meter and that he would stay for 90 minutes I went inside.  The journey there and back plus the wait would cost about £40, quite a lot of money for half a day but unknown to him, that was always my plan and I never intended to wait 3 or 4 hours for the bus back.

Some of the reviews on Trip Advisor state that the gardens are a little run-down and I have to say I do agree with them.  They are stunning and beautiful in places and yet at the same time disappointing.  It was the only place on my entire week away where my expectations were let down.  It was slightly made up for the fact that I didn’t pay a penny to get in.  Yes I walked and walked around the gardens and even went to the only building there but couldn’t find anyone to pay.  Twice I saw an official but by the time I walked to him, he had vanished and I didn’t see anyone else the whole time I was there so it was rather surreal.

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The fountain of Neptune.

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The iconic view of the pavilion.

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This made me laugh for some reason.  100 God years 🙂

The garden is full of mostly Mediterranean and sub-tropical plants and they are great to explore.  I really liked the fountain of Neptune with the water nymphs.  I entered a creepy looking building which I later found out to be an olive press mill.

Many parts of the garden I did recognise from Game of Thrones though the famous pavilion was closed due to structural problems, perhaps indicative of the gardens as a whole.  A little disappointed, I walked out of the gardens and found a little lane that took me down to the Adriatic Sea and a small harbour.

It was the most heavenly scene with the Cypress wooded hillsides, beautiful villas and pretty little harbour, complete with a small waterfall.  I sat there for most of the remaining 45 minutes just soaking in the views and the sun and watching the occasional boat sail by.

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Trsteno Harbour 

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Before I left, my interest had been piqued by a ruined building so in the way that I do but probably shouldn’t, I went for a wee investigation.  I found a likely shelled villa or luxury hotel right on the sea-front.  A little way further through the garden and some overgrown arches I found some steps that led down to the sea.  Embedded in the rock was the remains of an swimming pool connected to the sea and also some sort or bath of jacuzzi.

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Once a beautiful seaside property now in ruins from the war of the 1990’s.

After looking it over I then realised it was also the location on Game of Thrones where the one-handed Jaime Lannister and Bronn had their sword fight.

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My curiosity satisfied, I sadly called it a day though I could have remained at Trsteno harbour forever.  I did walk right back through the gardens doing my best to pay but could find no-one so I met Davor who was enjoying a cigarette whilst reading in a shady glade near the car.

Davor was a really nice chap and we hit it off to such a degree I decided to use him for my return trip to the Airport on my last day.  Like me he had worked in a good office job before being made redundant and I knew he could likely do with the money.

Having arrived back in Dubrovnik I visited the Jedro Pizzeria.  It was the second time I had eaten there in the week.  I absolutely adored their Dalmatian ham on the very large and home-made style pizza along with a few other items of their menu.  For some reason they became of the opinion that I was some sort of official food reviewer or blogger and so they told me that this second meal would be even better than the first and incredibly it was.

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My first pizza at Jedro…. I’m afraid the second was so tempting that I just got on and ate it!

I really liked eating there in the shady narrow street as the two chefs sat outside a few tables away drinking beer.  I stayed there as long as I feasibly could before making back for my place.

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Jedro Pizzeria where the staff are as chilled as the diners

 

 

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About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including a #1 seller, I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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6 Responses to Visiting the Trsteno Arboretum

  1. merrildsmith says:

    It’s all still lovely, but it’s a shame that so much has been destroyed–deliberately and not.
    I’ve never watched Game of Thrones, but the gardens and area are still interesting. I also enjoyed your side jaunts. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Merril. It is a shame, especially in Mostar where they don’t have enough money to make repairs. You’d never know Dubrovnik had been devastated though. One day I will post up some photos of what it was like. I also have plenty of some lanes and alleys.

      Yes I think my side-trips can be the most interesting. I ended up in some very bizarre place in Dubrovnik that had me fleeing!

      Even on this day when looking for the sea I realised I was walking through someone’s garden only when I heard their voices behind some bushes . You can see how I once ended up stuck in a minefield and sinking on the Nile!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. nearlywes says:

    Sometimes I believe the aging of a place and the crumbled foundation that happens with time shows the character the place holds. I mean yes we should clean it up, but also it shows that even though parts have been destroyed a place like that can still be beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think you’re right and I wouldn’t condemn the gardens as much as some have. I can see how it could be beautiful in a different way if it were kept pristine but as you say, crumbling foundations are and a slightly overgrown feeling about the place are endearing in their own way.

      Considering how it was ruined by war just 20 years ago, it is incredible how good it looks now. I hope the current Game of Thrones craze will help finance it though so everyone can enjoy it in the years to come.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Like

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