BY JANET STEINBERG
"If you want to see heaven on Earth, come to Dubrovnik". George Bernard Shaw
Henceforth, when I hear the word ‘Dalmatian’, I won’t think of that regal white dog with black spots. Instead, I will think of that exquisite Dalmatian Coast which I recently had the pleasure of sailing along on two different Crystal Serenity cruises.
The jewel in the crown of this impressive Croatian coast, with its 1185 islands, islets and reefs, is Dubrovnik, affectionately dubbed “The Pearl of the Adriatic”.
Dubrovnik is a city where every stone is steeped in history. Yet, it is a pulsating city that is alive in the present. In this ancient walled city, perfumed by sea air, there is a confluence of the past and the present.
|THE ANCIENT WALLS OF THE OLD CITY HUG THE CROATIAN COAST|
Dubrovnik is a unique blend of European flavors, a city of fascinating diversity, rich in history and culture. It is a museum in and of itself. One of the most romantic cities in the world, Dubrovnik is what Europe used to be.
The city’s fortified Old City is framed by its ancient walls, soaring limestone cliffs, and a dazzling Adriatic Sea. The thick, medieval, stone walls and the system of turrets and towers that encircle the city once protected the vulnerable city from would-be conquerors. Moats ran around the outside section of the city walls. The medieval town center, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is known locally as Stari Grad.
Within those walls the streets are paved in marble and lined with historic palaces, fountains, museums, churches and a synagogue that is the world’s oldest Sephardic synagogue still in use today and the second oldest synagogue in Europe.
|WITHIN THE ANCIENT WALLS, THE STREETS ARE PAVED IN MARBLE|
The Baroque-style Old Synagogue of Dubrovnik is located on the tiny Ulica Zudioska (“Jewish Street”). Established in the 14h century, this treasure managed to survive a devastating earthquake, two World Wars, a Communist regime, and the 1991 Homeland War with Yugoslavia. The Synagogue now functions mainly as a museum showcasing ancient artifacts and ritual items.
The Franciscan monastery, one of the many finely built monasteries in the Old City, is situated at the very beginning of Placa, to the left of the Pile (pronounced Pea-lay) Gate entrance to the Old City. Its Cloister is one of the most valuable late Romanesque creations on the Croatian shores of the Adriatic.
The third oldest, continuously functioning pharmacy in the world still operates within the Franciscan Monastery. However, the pharmacy’s original fixtures are now protected in the museum within the Monastery. The museum also spotlights a missile (Udar Granate) shot into the concrete wall on December 6, 1991, during the Homeland War. The Franciscan monastery's library possesses 30,000 volumes.
|THE THIRD OLDEST, CONTINUOUSLY FUNCTIONING PHARMACY IN THE WORLD|
The Morning Market in the Old City is a great place to get a glimpse of the real people who live in what has become a major tourist destination. The warm smiles and the cheery broken English welcomes of the vendors are sincere. The marketplace is the place to buy souvenirs, lavender products, the work of local artisans, and what the fruit vendors tout as “the best figs in Croatia”.
|THE MORNING MARKET|
If you are into fine jewelry, make a stop at Clara Stones Jewellery Store, located at Naljeskoviceva 8. Clara Stones creative team comes up with eclectic combinations of corals, pearls, and gemstones. The unique handcrafted designs range in price from $35 to $20,000
Directly across from Clara Stones is Dolce Vita, the place that my guide recommended for the best ice cream in Dubrovnik. It doesn’t have the fancy display of the ice cream shops on the main street, but it reputed to be better and less expensive.
The Onofrio fountains were named after the Neapolitan engineer Onofrio who designed the fountains and the aqueduct that supplied Dubrovnik with its water in 1444. The two Fountains of Onofrio decorate the beginning and the end of the pedestrian main street known as the Stradun.
The 16-sided Big Onofrio fountain ejects water out of the mouths of its stone masks. Little Onofrio Fountain is part of the same water project as its larger cousin to the west but was built to supply water to the market place on Luza Square. Dubrovnik was one of few European cities that had safe spring water
|THE 16-SIDED BIG ONOFRIO FOUNTAIN|
For an overall view of the terracotta red roofed Old City of Dubrovnik, and for a nominal price, you can walk around the top of the city’s ancient walls. While climbing the narrow steps to the top of the wall, you will continuously discover new views.
Adjacent to the Pile Gate is the Dubravka Restaurant, a huge reasonably priced restaurant with magnificent terrace views of fortresses and the Adriatic Sea. Located on the Brsalje Square at the Pile Gate entrance to the Old City, it offers a great selection of fresh seafood and Croatian specialties.
Restaurant Mimoza, just a short walk from the Old Town, (across from the Hilton Imperial Hotel) was established in 1953. It is said to be one of the best restaurants in the Dubrovnik. The restaurant serves indigenous traditional Mediterranean delicacies including fish, lamb, and veal. Start with their fresh seafood sampler.
As Liza Minnelli’s sang in the song “Ring Them Bells”… “You must try Dubrovnik before you go home…”
|CRYSTAL SERENITY DEPARTS DUBROVNIK|
JANET STEINBERG is the winner of 38 national Travel Writer Awards and an International Travel Consultant with The Travel Authority in Mariemont, Ohio.