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The Jewel of the Adriatic (Dubrovnik)


By Nada Jaksic

 Ten years had passed since I last watched its palms sway in the mild warm breeze.  A decade had drifted since I felt the refreshing scent of the Adriatic Sea, mingled in with the intense fragrance of the tall pines that mysteriously emerge from its rocky coastline.  It felt like a lifetime since I last stepped inside its tall, powerful stone walls, looked up to its fortresses and walked down its marbled streets.

 Dubrovnik, located on the southernmost tip of Croatia, is the kind of place you must eventually return to; a place that grows and changes with times, yet in its core – always remains untouched.  Neither the devastating earthquake of 1667 nor the more recent Yugoslav conflict of the early 1990’s could shatter this Adriatic jewel, looking just as beautiful in the new millennium as it did in its medieval beginnings.

 Its old city, completed in the 13th century, and proclaimed a UNESCO world heritage site, lies under the rugged mountain of Srdj and bathes in the crystal clear waters of the Adriatic.  The white stone walls that entirely surround the city provide and incredible contrast to the turquoise waters that splash against its shores, making this tiny city stand out, almost glisten.  Perhaps this is where its nicknames “Jewel” and “Pearl” of the Adriatic come from.

 A walk on the top of the walls offers breathtaking views of the old city, as well as a glimpse of the surrounding area, highlighted by flower-adorned balconies, elegant palm trees and red bougainvilleas that climb along white facades.  Inside the walls is Stradun, Dubrovnik’s most famous street – a white marbled promenade always bustling with people.  At one end is St. Blaise church, at other, the famous Onofrio fountain, decorated with stone sculptures that have watched this fountain work for centuries. 

 When walking along Stradun, you are walking into history, as you pass by a Franciscan monastery with its 14th century pharmacy (Europe’s oldest), Rector’s and Sponza palaces and a 12th century cathedral.  You are drawn into the shops and cafés that line Stradun on both sides, and are invited into the charming narrow streets that emerge from it.

 When it gets too hot for sightseeing, take a splash at one of Dubrovnik’s many spectacular beaches or hop on a ferry to one of the secluded islands that hug this southern Adriatic shore.

 A day of sightseeing, swimming and sunbathing often makes for a large appetite.  Luckily, in Dubrovnik, you don’t have to walk very far for great dining.  You can enjoy a fresh daily catch of fish, calamari or scampi in one of the many outdoor restaurants, often to the sounds of live music that echo off the stone streets. 

 Although a day spent in Dubrovnik is something that must be experienced, English poet George Bernard Shaw put it simply into words:  “If you seek paradise on earth, you should come see Dubrovnik”.  Should you choose to do so, you too will want to return.