If the Europe of your daydreams has walled cities, castles, medieval churches and ancient palaces filled with art treasures, instead of Starbucks, tourist traps, and traffic jams, then you’ll want to see Dubrovnik, Croatia’s Old World masterpiece.
The majestic ramparts encircling the city came into view as my wife, Liza, and I sailed the Adriatic Sea on the four-masted sailing ship, The Royal Clipper. It struck me that this was a view that the Venetians, the Ottomans, or any number of visitors, peaceful or otherwise, had marveled at for over a thousand years.
After taking a tender to the small pier, we entered the city’s gates and again came upon a scene that hasn’t changed much, except for the dress and accessories of the tourists, in a millennium. As you step onto the city’s main thoroughfare, the Placa Stradun, from the Old Port entrance, you are immediately surrounded by cathedrals, palaces, fountains and bell towers, yes the rich history of Europe at its grandest. You will even see the requisite statue of the Charlemagne-era hero, Roland. When you see Roland in a European city, you know it’s a city of certified antiquity. Other highlights were the Fransiscan Church and Monastery, containing one of the world’s oldest pharmacies, and the Serbian Orthodox Church, with its Museum of Icons. Many visitors take the opportunity to climb the steep steps to walk along the ramparts of the Old City Wall. A bad foot prevented me this time, but I have hopes of a return visit.
As a life-long history buff, I couldn’t just pass by monuments like the Sponza Palace, The Church of St. Blaise, (the city’s patron) the City Hall and the Rector’s Palace. Leaving this main square and entering into the maze of the city’s small side streets provided a different delight, as it gave the opportunity, to bargain with a jewelry merchant whose family has done business the same way for generations. If shopping for bling is not your thing, you could stop at a grocery to pick up a bottle of Zlatan Plavac, an excellent Croatian red wine.
Dining al fresco is part of the European experience, and Dubrovnik raises outdoor dining to an art form. With the City Walls, medieval churches, rich palaces and cobbled lanes surrounding you, it’ll make you wish the dining experience would last forever. An excellent seafood restaurant my wife and I enjoyed was the Proto Restaurant. Maybe everyone doesn’t favor octopus, but their Octopus Primorje-Style, offered as an appetizer, was the start of a memorable meal of Adriatic seafood delights.
Dubrovnik’s airport, thankfully not in the Old City, is served by major international airlines, including Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, and Aer Lingus. The Royal Clipper, a five-masted brigantine “tall ship,” includes Dubrovnik as a stop on its Mediterranean cruise route, starting at Rome’s port of Civitavecchia, and ending in Venice. Entering Venice beneath the Star Clipper’s stately sails is indeed a thrilling end to a fantastic voyage (www.starclippers.com).
Source: eTN Global Travel Industry News