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Legends of Dubrovnik - the first Dubrovnik ice-cream

By  Feb 23, 2016

”Love is in the air, la la la la…..” Ah, no, wait, have to change the lyrics, ”Heat is in the air, uf uf uf uf…..” Could anybody splash me with the bottle of cold water or better still bucket of cold water, please? Did you know that during the summer months one of the customs of the ancient Republic of Dubrovnik was to serve different kinds of sweets to its VIP guests with one or two pieces of ice or snowballs aside?

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice-cream

Yes, it’s true, but not only VIP guests enjoyed the benefits of ice. By order of the rectors of the Republic ice or snow had to be delivered to the members of the state councils so they could enjoy cool drinks during state sessions. The snow in Dubrovnik falls approximately once every five years so the big Q arises – how and where from the old Dubrovnikers supplied ice and maintained it in the frozen state during summer when the daily temperatures reached 35C?

According to the documents there was a special service in the 16th century for supplying ice from the nearby mountain in Konavle called Snježnica. (By the way, Snježnica is 1234 meters high and you should visit it because panoramic view over Konavle region is stunning). There were three ice caves in the mountain specially made for the collecting of ice during winter months by the peasants popularly called ”ledari”.

This business was supervised by the soldiers from Dubrovnik and sometimes by the duke of Konavle who was based in Cavtat. The ice caves were closed down by the padlocks and straw and branches were put atop to keep ice in the frozen state as long as possible. Ice from the mountain was delivered on horses and mules to Cavtat and then transferred to Dubrovnik by small ships. According to the researchers during three summer months the Dubrovnik aristocracy used approximately 170 kilos of ice a day!

Selling of ice was also organised in the city in a little shop located in the Street of ice! There was a kind of primitive fridge in the shop’s cellar where ”munčelice” were put to chill (munčelice- special glass bottles filled with soft drinks). So the next time you order a cold drink in Dubrovnik think of the trouble they went to all those years ago just to hear the rattle of ice cubes in a glass.