Visit Ston – Home of the European Wall of China

Lauren Simmonds

Dubrovnik has many charms of its own, as well as some outstanding day trips. Meet Ston. 

Once you’ve seen one wall you probably think you’ve seen them all but the chances are, if you’re staying in the walled city of Dubrovnik then you might even quite like them.

Ston is a picturesque township and municipality located about a 45 minute drive away from the city of Dubrovnik (depending on traffic), at the south of isthmus of the Peljesac peninsula. With a population of just 2,407 (2011 census) this humble Dalmatian village has a lot to shout about, from ancient salt pans and prize oysters to famous Ston strawberries and Stonske torte (Ston wedding cakes).

A former major fort of the Republic of Ragusa (Dubrovnik), Ston is embellished by imposing defence walls that are considered to be one of the most notable pieces of medieval architecture still remaining today. The walls are built with stone and were originally more than seven kilometres in length. Today, the town’s inner wall measures an incredible 890 metres in length and the ”Great Wall” outside the town has a massive circumference of 5 kilometres. The truly impressive walls extend to a quainter town on the northern side of the Peljesac isthmus, Mali Ston (Little Ston) before ending at the Bay of Mali Ston, an area noted for its long history of mariculture.

The former Republic of Ragusa had used the Peljesac area to build yet another line of defence against attack, a wall was constructed from Ston to Mali Ston, continually undergoing maintenance and renovation in order for the essential salt pans which were essential to Dubrovnik’s wealth to be properly protected. The same salt pans are still worked today. Following the collapse of the Ragusan Republic, demolition began, and by the time the Austrian authorities were in power, parts of the wall were used to build schools and other public buildings, as well as to make an arch for the occasion of the Austrian Emperor’s visit in 1884. Demolition continued over the years with the destruction of the wall around Mali Ston, following claims that the wall was actively damaging people’s health.

Today, the wall presents itself in the shape of an irregular pentangle, it is 5.5 kilometres in length and connects Ston to Mali Ston. 20 of the original 40 towers have survived through the centuries, along with 5 fortresses. Within the wall, three streets were made going from north to south, with three others going from east to west, resulting in the formation of fifteen equal blocks containing ten houses each. The city plan of Dubrovnik was used as a proposed model for Ston, but the model was followed even more closely in Ston than it was with Dubrovnik, owing to Ston being originally built on prepared terrain. Ston’s infrastructure was impressive for its time, with fully functioning sewers being built in the year 1581, making it one of the most remarkable places in Europe.

As I touched on earlier, Ston is also famous for its cake, Stonska torta. This wholly unusual dessert is a ”go to” recipe when there is call for celebration of any kind, making it a regular on dining tables on the Peljesac peninsula and popular in Dubrovnik. What makes this cake stand out from the rest is that it contains Maccaroni pasta. Yes, pasta. If you’d like to find out how to make a Stonska torta, click here.

The Dalmatian coast is known for mariculture, with crystal clear water, an abundance of marine life and traces of primitive oyster farming noted by Roman chroniclers, this isn’t new information. Ston is one of the most famous on the Croatian coast in this specialist field, and is the place most oyster connoisseurs dream about. The Grand Prix and Gold Medal for oysters from the Bay of Mali Ston was won in 1936 at the World Exposition in London. The award was given to a Dubrovnik company called Bistrina – cultivation and sale of oysters and other shellfish. By the end of the 1980’s, shellfish production in Ston reached new heights with 2000-3000 tons of mussels and 1.5 million oysters being cultivated per year. Today, shellfish cultivation in the Bay of Mali Ston is done with two species, the European Flat Oyster and the mussel Mytilus Galloprovincialis. When young, the oysters are cemented and hung on ropes, a tradition performed only in this area. Mussels are reared using either fixed or floating ”parks” and nylon sockets. Come mid March, Saint Joseph’s day (19th of March) is celebrated and the oysters are at their most delicious, usually served cold, freshly opened and with lemon juice. The Festival of Oysters is a gastro-event in Ston which showcases the diversity of the oyster and the age old traditions of the area.

Ston isn’t all about shellfish, fruit from Ston is equally delicious and strawberries take the top prize. Sometimes shown by local growers on Stradun in Dubrovnik when ripe, Ston strawberries are second to none.

There are several ways to arrive to Ston from Dubrovnik but the cheapest is by city bus (Libertas) who have several ”suburban” lines, click here to find out more.

As you may have gathered, Ston is a tiny place with an incredible history and a big character, and along with Hadrians Wall (England), its walls are some of the most impressive you will encounter within Europe.


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