Hands up who knows what an arboretum is.
I don’t know about you, but all I’m hearing right now is a whole bunch of crickets and maybe the faint echo of tumbleweed drifting past in the wind.
An arboterum, for those of you who don’t know, is, according to Oxford Dictionaries, a botanical garden devoted to trees. Although, for the sake of fluffing this piece up a bit, let’s take a look at this bloody fantastic description provided by the Free Dictionary:
A place where an extensive variety of woody plants are cultivated for scientific, educational, and ornamental purposes
I guess somebody out there had a lot on their mind when they apparently forgot the word for “woody plants“.
Given that I sort of maybe kind of have a pretty extensive educational background in Latin languages, I should have twigged (no pun intended) what an arboretum was by the word alone.
Arbor is Latin for tree.
Árbol is Spanish for tree. The first full book I read in Spanish was called El otro árbol de Guernica. It was the bane of my pre-University existence and so árbol is a word I will never forget.
Albero is Italian for tree.
Arbre is Catalan (and French, apparently) for tree.
Arboretum, in Latin, quite literally means a place grown with trees arbor (tree) + etum (the suffix used in Latin to form the name of gardens and woods).
Etymologically it all makes sense.
And as a person who makes a living out of speaking the aforementioned languages, I should have made the link. But I didn’t.
What I expected was a blooming garden full of pretty flowers in exotic colours, maybe some butterflies flying about the place and a hummingbird or two. You know, your typical botanical garden image.
What I got was basically an organised forest. A lot of trees, all neatly planted in little clusters or rows, the occasional hornet and a fishpond.
Situated about 18km away from the city of Dubrovnik, Trsteno Arboretum is the oldest arboretum in that part of the world.
Which part of the world is that? I hear you ask. Well, I couldn’t tell you. I got that fact from Wikipedia, and the tiny writing next to it says [clarification needed] but I assume it means the Balkans? Eastern Europe? Europe in general?
Either way, it’s a really old arboretum, dating back to at least the late 15th century. Super old. It was originally created by the noble Gozze family, local to the area, but since 1948 it’s been the property of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts. It sustained some damage as a result of the Croatian War of Independence and a forest fire in 2000, but it’s still holding out, going and growing strong.
As much as I love a good tree (and I really do!), I didn’t actually visit for the trees. The only reason I went to Trsteno Arboretum was because I’m a bloody big Game of Thrones fan and I mean, how could I not not visit the palace gardens of the Red Keep?!
Is it sad that I visited the arboretum solely for the sake of that view? Maybe, but I don’t even care because I was a Tyrell for the day!
You can walk the whole of the arboretum and pretty much see all it has to offer in less than an hour, which brings about the question of why so many people on TripAdvisor and other review sites recommend it as “the perfect way to spend an afternoon“.
Unless you’re absolutely fanatical about all things trees, I promise you that you’ll be done in an hour! Maybe one and a half in the summer when things are looking a little more lively. An afternoon would be pushing it big time.
Within the grounds of the arboretum, aside from an absolute multitude of trees, there’s also a pretty cute looking building, a former summer residence. These days I think it’s some sort of hotel/restaurant type place. I mean, it has a Trip Advisor recommended sticker so has to be something, right?
There’s also a tiny little church and a pretty jazzy fountain which sort of forms part of the fish pond. I really want to say it’s a koi pond but I’m as much a fish expert as I am a tree expert so I’ll hold off on any potentially inaccurate observations there.
Spending an hour walking around the gardens was nice. Pleasant, even. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s the best place where an extensive variety of woody plants are cultivated for scientific, educational, and ornamental purposes I’ve ever been to!
Related: In Pictures: 48 Hours in Dubrovnik
Opening Times & Prices
May to October: 7am-7pm
November to April: 8am-4pm
Entry is apparently 5oKN per adult and 30KN per child. However, I’m not entirely sure how well-enforced that is. I didn’t pay. Not because I’m a criminal, but because there wasn’t a choice. The ticket booth was all locked up but the gates wide open, so either they just didn’t care or I broke all sorts of laws that day!
How to Get to Trsteno Arboretum
Getting to Trsteno from Dubrovnik is super easy. Obviously if you have a car you can, you know, drive. Otherwise bus is definitely your best bet.
There are at least 7 daily departures from the main Dubrovnik bus station:
7:15am, 08:00am, 10:00am, 14:15pm, 15:30pm, 16:00pm and 21:00pm
The ride takes between 20 to 40 minutes and costs somewhere between 2 to 3 Euros, although in Croatian Kuna of course.
There’ll be signs leading up to your stop, but if you don’t see these and your bus driver isn’t helpful just look for a really big tree!
To come back, the buses leave from the bus stop next to the aforementioned big tree at:
6:17am, 10:16am, 12:20am, 15:30pm and 21:20pm
And finally, the pièce de résistance…
The Really Big Tree
Okay, so this is without a doubt the shining glory of Trsteno Arboretum. This, ladies and gentle folk, is an oriental plane tree and is apparently all kinds of a big deal. There are two at the arboretum and according to Wikipedia (and the sign at the arboretum) they are unique specimens of its kind in Europe and more than 500 years old.
I’ll admit, up close they are frighteningly large. Also, I saw three different Korean couples cycle past, stop to take a gazillion photos of and with the tree and then move on without even entering inside of the arboretum. So yeah, I guess oriental plane trees are famous in the tree world!