“Those who seek paradise on earth,” observed George Bernard Shaw, renowned Irish playwright, “should come to Dubrovnik.”
I wholeheartedly agree with the Dublin-born Nobel laureate as I pull back the curtains, step out onto the balcony of my five-star digs at the Palace Hotel and marvel at the deep-blue Adriatic, dotted with islands as far as the eye can see and twinkling in the early morning light. Looks like a great start to day two of my short stay in “paradise,” and, sadly, the last day of this journey.
Breakfast taken and bicuspids buffed, I join up with the intrepid “band of merry media” — 18 travel writers and photographers invited by Insight Vacations (Insight) to sample a portion of its Dalmatian Riviera itinerary — and board the luxury motor coach for the short ride back to the Grad (Old Town).
It’s a leisurely day in the Pearl of the Adriatic and we can choose to do whatever we please. One group forms up and goes thataway, another in the opposite direction. Before I know it, everyone’s vanished. “Hey, something I said?“
With more than a millennium of history, Dubrovnik is one of Europe’s cultural centers.
It started out in the 7th century as a tiny community of refugees who fled from nearby Epidaurus, an ancient Greek colony, when it was destroyed by Slavic invaders. The Pearl flourished and grew into the independent Republic of Dubrovnik.
Adopting a seafaring way, its fleet of merchant ships cruised the southern ends of the Adriatic and was the envy of the Most Serene Republic of Venice to the north for nearly five centuries, until both were conquered by Napolean’s armies before becoming subsidiaries of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Dubrovnik’s Grad is an open-air, museum-like setting — the same used to represent King’s Landing in the American fantasy-drama television series Game of Thrones.
It’s a lively stage showcasing its multi-cultural roots mixed with a contemporary lifestyle. Both gracefully old and youthfully cool, the Grad has a unique vibe you don’t feel anywhere else.
Every building and every monument has its special place among the locals, past and present, and, collectively, it’s all well preserved ever since the Grad became a UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 1979.
Dubrovnik’s main tourist draw is its massive, 2 km-long circular wall. Considered one of the most grandiose fortification monuments in all of Europe, the landmark encompasses the city in an irregularly shaped polygon.
The ramparts reach a height of 22m in some places, and are between 4 and 6m thick on the mainland side.
Wide enough for foot traffic, visitors of all shapes and sizes grab the railing, huff and puff up the steep, narrow stairs until they reach the undulating walkway, and are immediately rewarded for their effort with spectacular bird’s-eye views of the Old Town and that mesmerizing, turquoise-blue Adriatic Sea.
About 90-minutes from start to finish, whaddya say we make the climb up, remove the lens cap and circumnavigate this impressive piece of history?
It’s now nearing sunset as the Insight motor coach comes to a full stop in the Port of Gruž.
Like sailors from the old Republic of Dubrovnik, the “band of merry media” boards a private sightseeing boat for a scenic cruise around the harbor, the first of two “signature” moments planned for tonight as we bring to a close our week-long press junket along the Dalmatian Riviera.
With a camera in one hand and a wine glass in the other, I steady myself and begin shooting and sipping. Živjeli! (Cheers!)
Back on terra firma, we walk a few paces, cross the street and enter PORaT Bar & Grill, an upscale, waterfront restaurant where the intrepid “band of merry media” will break bread together one last time.
The mood’s upbeat, the Prosecco’s refreshing and the multi-course dinner’s delicious.
We open with an assortment of canapés, followed by a spicey calamari salad, then baked sea bream wrapped in banana leaves, and finish this scrumptious feast with an espresso and a sinful slice of chocolate délice in a caramel sauce.
Grab a knife, fork and wine glass and have a virtual taste and sip. I don’t mind.
Off the motor coach, we shuffle through the spacious lobby of the Palace Hotel and head straight to the bar for one final round and fond farewells. Hug-hug, kiss-kiss with the gals; man-hugs with the guys.
Finishing off the sweet Amaretto, I swirl the ice cubes in the glass, take a look around and smile. Yep, Mr. Shaw hit the nail on the head when he pronounced Dubrovnik “paradise on earth.”
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©The Palladian Traveler