Discovering Dubrovnik, the Pearl of the Adriatic

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Bewitchingly beautiful, hyped up in heritage and delivering an evocative imagery of the enigma that the world nestles in is a particular Mediterranean existence that is vouched for its exquisite offerings of grandiose charm emerging out of the visage of its spectacular seafronting prominence. One of the most visited tourist destinations in Europe is the pearl of the Adriatic that the Croatian city of Dubrovnik is famously referred to as, gracing the shores by the glistening waters of the Adriatic Sea as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, an old city residing rather remarkably in a vibe that caters to all influences modern and contemporary even when being historically refined and sophisticated for centuries uptil now, presenting itself therefore as a confluence of visions and ideals and ideas that encompass all things profound into one single thought- the coming of age phenomenon that the famously wonderful walled city has come to be.

Indeed, the very mention of its walled prominence gives away immediately the premises of Dubrovnik’s grandeur. The walls might reveal themselves to one as the towering structures witnessed as part of the fictional city of King’s Landing in the HBO television series, Game of Thrones, asserting therefore a pop culture identity that the extravagant existence of the city comes to comfortably rest in. But beyond that and extending to times in more established history, these defensive stone walls that still nestles Dubrovnik in a place of safety, shielding its present day tourism reputation from other such ancient walled cities, had also been all the more significant as they are widely considered amongst the great fortification systems of the Middle Ages that no hostile army has been able to breach. Encircling a distance of almost some 2 kilometers around the area’s famed Old City, walking along these ancient 13th century walls is a must for any visitor to this magnificent city, whether it’s a first time detour or a return in anticipation of many more magics that Dubrovnik guards closely, for the allure of this mesmerising system of turrets and towers go well beyond their fortified status. Once the capital of the mighty Republic of Ragusa, the city walls today house also a range of numerous other tourist attractions that further propel their claim to fame. Forts like Minceta and St. John’s and Lawrence and Revelin and Bokar make up for their own world of diversified wonder even as the Minceta Tower plays out its own tale of unparalleled beauty. The highest point of the wall that affords onlookers a seemingly “unforgettable” view of the modern day city of Dubrovnik, complete with an enchanting summation of the terracotta rooftops of the Old Town and out to sea, the tower is one of the most beautiful cultural attractions, justifying its presence among the maze of what is the city’s globally recognized image, encompassing visions and views in such veritable variety that instantly make the walled city stand out in all its true, besotted elements.

dubrovnik walls
Source: Agoda

So iconic is Dubrovnik through all its brush with history and heritage and stuff that the limestone prominence of the city manifests as well along its main street known as the Stradun or the Placa. Running some 300 meters through the old town, encompassing a slice of its history till date as most of the historic buildings and monuments in Dubrovnik are situated along its also famed expanses, the Stradun is indeed a monumental touristry pursuit of the city that continues to live along its timeline extending more than a few hundred years. Exclusive to pedestrians, the Stradun serves as the main local promenade in Dubrovnik where visitors set foot not just to take in the region’s rich and classified legacy but also experience the laidback pace of life in the many cafes and shops and restaurants that line its illustrious length. Much like the other parts of the city, the Placa was also almost undone by the devastation that the earthquake of 1667 caused to Dubrovnik, but its unwinding trail continues to stretch, from as far back as the annals of history to the reaches of the present times.

The 1667 earthquake had indeed been a standout experience for the city that glistens today in all its ancientries and modernities alike in what is a commendable display of character, something that Dubrovnik has been holding so much pride in ever since its existence as the capital of the centuries old republic of Ragusa. Much of the present day gleams of the city emanates from its treasure trove of ancient architecture, of which Dubrovnik stems in pretty abundance. Boasting the oldest arboretum in the world, the Arboretum Trsteno, as well as the oldest pharmacy still in operation in Europe, the city has long attracted a long list of distinguished personalities, most notably George Bernard Shaw who termed the place Paradise on Earth owing of course to its immense amassment of treasures. Despite such exaltation though by someone as phenomenal as Shaw, it is the Game of Thrones reference that is the defining characteristic of the indeed otherworldly looking expanse of Dubrovnik. Not in just the City Walls though, the GoT link plays on as well in the tiny wooded island of Lokrum that houses an Iron Throne replica inside the Benedictine monastery. The mention of Lokrum though incites interest in being the hotspot of another very favorite of tourist activities, scuba diving, that which is best explored along all of Croatia in the city of Dubrovnik. With of course the exuberance of the underwater life of the majestic Adriatic Sea, scuba diving is a major reason why adventurous tourists particularly scout out Dubrovnik for their pursuits. And with options as incredible as the Elafiti archipelago and the islands of Lastovo-Korčula-Mljet to explore, the charming escapades of the city presents itself as also as favourable a prospect to sea kayakers, bathing itself in a dimension that complements so well its vibrant beauty.

Perhaps the best thing about experiencing Dubrovnik is the wholesome way in which it reveals to its explorers as a serendipitous occurrence of sights and sounds and shimmers that derive from the sunny brilliance of the city. With a weather that shines bright and clear for a stupendous two hundred and fifty days a year, the coastal identity of Dubrovnik is what spells radiance about it, dotted as it is by beaches and cliffs that are a joy, both to witness and to discover. The Elafiti archipelago is of course one such wonder even as numerous but rare worlds of sandy softness wait to be explored like the Banje beach or the Sveti Jakov beache ven as exceptions like the stony Copacabana beach and many such others that offer opportunities galore for a touristry experience amidst brilliant blue waters, picturesque views and the surreal feel of it all.

Returning though to the architectural manifestation that makes Dubrovnik stand out in its many baroque buildings and Renaissance structure. Even ordinarily, the city sums up a plethora of neatly overlapping red and orange tiles lain over its gleaming stone houses all lined alongside steep, narrow passageways making for a world of existence that carries indeed a life of its own. More celebrated would be specimens of architecture from modern day history like the 16th century Sponza Palace that houses today the National Archives. Once the cultural center of the Republic of Ragusa, the palace surprisingly survived the catastrophic 1667 earthquake with no damage at all. Of most prominence in the modern day however is the Luza square in front of the palace that serves as the venue of the opening ceremony for the much popular Dubrovnik Summer Festival ever year sometime in July and August. A celebration of the cultural expressions of the city steeped indeed in so much continuing heritage that which has lend Croatia much significance in cultural and scholarly history, attending the many live performances that make up this festival is for sure a must do activity for anyone who happens to be visiting the city during the summer months. The Luza square though also houses one of the most prominent symbols of the free city state of Ragusa in the form of the Dubrovnik Bell Tower. A more than a 100 feet high tower that was built in 1444, the tower was rebuilt in 1929 and restored in 1988, the tower is easily one of the most magnificent of landmarks of the Old Town and sports two bronze figures as the bell strikers, popular ‘zelenci’ (green twins) that are locally called Maro and Baro, occupying therefore a place of unique cultural significance within the heritage identity of the city.

Its seat of power during the heydays, Dubrovnik’s Rector’s Palace Museum is another stopover worthy of architectural interest. An originally 15th century structure, the palace has been housing the History Department of the Museum of Dubrovnik since 1872 and makes for an intriguing exploration for anyone with a definite leaning towards more concrete exploration of the walled city’s guarded history. But no trip to Dubrovnik would be complete if you do not take the opportunity to check out the a particular Church dedicated to its saint patron St. Blaise. Named thus the St. Blaise Church, this is the city’s most beloved standpoint of architecture and reverence. An 18th century structure that is located in the Old City area, it actually is a reconstruction of a 14th century work that was damaged beyond repair in the 1667 earthquake, even as the silver statue of St. Blaise miraculously escaped any form of destruction. A wide staircase and terrace makes for a prominent touristry part of the church, being one of the most popular spots in Dubrovnik to sit and watch the world go by, even as the city’s patron saint looks over all with his prophetic vision. Most visited however is the Franciscan Church and Monastery that which houses the aforementioned oldest pharmacy and a 17th century library that houses well over 20,000 books.

Despite however its amalgamation of the riches in architecture and history and legacy and heritage, it also is the natural bounty that Dubrovnik comes so blissfully ambling is that makes the city a cosmopolitan coming together of all things enticing. Despite the alleys of exemplary fame within which roams the fortified pride of the Old Town, offering a glimpse of the dazzling displays of delight that makes Dubrovnik stand out as the absolute queen of the Adriatic, the most awe inspiring view though is granted from the mountain behind it. A low mountain, Srd however does more than just render Dubrovnik with even magical a dimension, being significant also in lending the dynamic sounding city its trippy name and therefore being such a vital point of touristry focus. A part of the Dinaric Alps, Mount Srd endows Dubrovnik with the iconic backdrop of the Balkans and commands thus a status that grants easy access to it. With a cable car to hop on to ascend the mountain that had been home to the Siege of Dubrovnik as well, though you might of course trek along the rocky hiking path as well, what you lead yourself on to is an unfurling of the many elements of Dubrovnik in all its assortment of dazzling shades that has worked so well to make this dramatic destination every traveler’s dream come true in all the dynamic dimensions of it.


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