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Dubrovnik (Croatia)

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      11.09.2012 15:26
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      A top toddler destination. Especially as they fly for free under 2.

      We arrived at the airport in an intense electrical storm, descending in a wobbly and turbulent Easyjet, through black cloud and flashing lightning. As the cabin collectively breathed a sigh of relief and began to unclench from the armrests, the doors to the plane opened, letting in a fug of warm air. The smartly dressed ground staff were on hand in a light smatter of rain and we disembarked quickly, to a cool clean interior and an efficient luggage carousel.

      If you stand outside the airport, a bus for the equivalent of 5 euros each can take you into Dubrovnik and from there you can catch another bus to your accommodation. With a car seat, pushchair and monster suitcase in tow, it seemed both inconvenient and uneconomic to travel this way and Dad, Little Brother, M&M and I piled into a taxi. We'd left Gatwick on the 06.55 as the sun rose and we were all a little sleepy and disorientated. M&M babbled away to the driver, who asked if she was speaking Russian. We were headed along a beautiful winding cliff road to Babin Kuk, the wooded hilltop where our hotel complex was.

      I'd booked the trip online the previous week, fishing around in the reviews to glean some expectations and borrowing Best Friend's guidebook. Our hotel was the Valamar President, on the edge of the complex and pulling up outside, the smooth marble façade gave it a look of luxury. M&M was anxious to get out and stretch her legs. She toddled around enthusiastically, bouncing a ball given to her by our friendly driver. Of all of us, she was the one who should have most needed sleep, but she seemed the least tired.

      Our welcome at reception was warm and friendly and contained the information we were all most interested in - the wifi password - as well as the times of breakfast and our room numbers. The lift was a cable car down the slope of the building and when we arrived in our huge adjoining rooms, we were greeted by a beautiful, shining view of the sea from the sunny expanse of balcony. M&M announced it to be 'amazing' and we stood in the warmth of the morning, enjoying the heat and the start of our break.

      We lazed about in the rooms for a while, M&M napping in the crisp white sheets and a gentle breeze blowing through the patio doors. We explored the hotel, the spa on the 5th floor, the man made beaches, the restaurant and went for a walk around the wooded gardens of the complex, where mini golf, table tennis and little shops selling knick-knacks and flip flops were de rigueur. Dubrovnik has plenty of high end hotels, competing at reasonable prices with entertainment, Jacuzzi and a buffet breakfast. It's possible to stay in the Hilton or the Excelsior, right next to the old, walled part of the city, but for bigger swimming pools and a calm centre for your holiday, the bus ride out to the peninsula or the short boat journey to the islands seem worthwhile.

      On that first afternoon, we took the bus from the stop outside our hotel, along the winding road into the town, disembarking where the walls drop down the rocky coast to the sea. Dubrovnik's walls are breathtaking, complete and glorious, surrounding the old part of the town and letting you enter through an archway and drawbridge at the Pile Gate to smooth marble streets and swirling steps. Leafy fountains and shaded corners, pavement cafés and small ice cream shops line the main street, Stradum, which literally shines in the sunshine. There are beautiful churches and overgrown balconies and best of all, plenty of tourist information and public toilets.

      We wandered around, getting our bearings and eventually eating dinner on the corner of the Fruit and Veg market square, by the flight of steep stone steps up to the Jesuit Church, in a restaurant called Arka. This boasted a 'Vitamin Bar', though we were too interested in real food to find out what that involved.

      They had plenty of average tasting veggie options for me and I picked a cheesy Moussaka with chunks of aubergine and courgette. Little Brother chose chicken and fried potatoes, while Dad had fish and M&M ploughed her way through a monstrous plate of chips supplemented with white bread - exactly the kind of food she would never be allowed at home. We finished up with an ice cream in the harbour and an early night which fitted well with the relaxed and sleepy pace of Dubrovnik in September.

      That night, a storm hit; the windows of our rooms shaking with the thunder and the flashes of lightning over the sea illuminating the bay. Somehow Dad and Little Brother slept through this, while M&M and I watched it with amazement. The following morning, the torrential rain drove everyone indoors for breakfast, with seals approaching the beach and fish jumping in and out of the sea. We ate our fill of fried eggs, fruit and pastries and settled in the room for a morning of cartoons and the Russian shopping channel. The staff seemed as surprised by the storms as we were and water came through into the long corridors of our hotel, though not the rooms.

      We swam in the unheated indoor pool, but with M&M and I finding it a little on the cold side, we'd removed to the Jacuzzi in the courtyard when the sun came out for the afternoon. With a good coating of suncream and trainers instead of flip-flops, we caught the bus in again and spent a relaxed afternoon walking the walls (see separate review) and dinner at Mea Culpa (another separate review).

      The last full day in Dubrovnik dawned bright and seasonably sunny. By now, everyone was relaxed and fully in holiday mood. At 29 degrees, the weather beckoned us first down to the pebbly little cove by our hotel for a paddle in the clear water and then to the big outdoor pools on our complex. After a lazy morning, we made a late trip to town to go up and down the mountain in the cable car. There wasn't a great deal to do on top of the mountain, just more unbelievable aerial views and a chance for M&M to destroy the gift shop. But as usual, everything was clean and shiny, there were plentiful public toilets and polite and helpful staff. Normally Little Brother or I would have insisted that we charged round town n a final rush of sightseeing, but with a toddler in tow and a general air of calm that permeated every street, we wandered along the lamp lit terraces with M&M on Dad's shoulders.

      We enjoyed a delicious dinner at Ragusa 2, with silver service, complimentary Croatian dessert wine and fantastic food coming in at under £50 for all of us, even when M&M polished off a huge helping of Spaghetti Bolognese and Little Brother and I found room for monstrous slabs of chocolate cake. The staff spoilt M&M, fussing over her and letting her peer into the 'scary' lobster tank. Then a final warm stroll around town with ice cream, a little bop to Agadoo and Kylie for M&M at the toddler friendly disco and we even squeezed in a moonlit trip to the beach before bed.

      The next morning, as we sat out on the patio, enjoying breakfast in the sunshine, we were agreed that Dubrovnik had a lot to offer. It's sweet and compact enough to be easily navigable and if you're so minded, you could cover most of it within a few days. If I went back I would see a few more churches, the monastery and the Sponza Palace. I'd take a boat trip to the islands or Montenegro and a Jetski round the peninsula. Our lazy three days only scratched the surface, but we had all needed a relaxing holiday and we were looking for a beach / pool / family friendly break as well as history and culture. I loved this undemanding holiday; I would unhesitatingly recommend it as having something for everyone.

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      • More +
        12.07.2012 16:49

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        Not to be missed!

        I have just returned from two nights in Dubrovnik following a few nights further down the coast - a little place called Mlini which is simply a nice relaxing pretty resort. I'm so glad that we decided to end our holiday with a couple of nights in Dubrovnik itself.

        We stayed at Peric rooms and apartments which I would highly recommend for the wonderful view, cleanliness and helpful staff. The only downside being that you earn the view by having to climb a lot of steps up from the old town.

        I would recommend getting a 'Dubrovnik Card' before you go. A one day card costs 130kn and to walk the city walls alone costs 70kn- the card allows access to 7 other attractions plus discounts at restaurants and other services. We only got a one day card but they also do a three and seven day version.
        Dubrovnik is stunning. It's great that inside the old city walls is traffic free. We visited in July and it is a busy place - lots of cruise ships visiting and it was also extremely hot! It is a touristy place but this is understandable because it is such a beautiful place.

        The views from the city walls are amazing and it is worth the approximately £8 it costs to walk on them. The city has some fabulous churches to visit and plenty of museums - some better than others. The virtual Dubrovnik museum was a bit poor and the maritime museum wasn't my cup of tea (but included in the Dubrovnik card and that's why we went). The art gallery changes it's exhibition regularly - when we were there it was a display of Steve McCurry's photos which was interesting. I also found the history museum interesting, in particular the photos of the siege in 1991.

        It wasn't as cheap as I thought it would be before I went, it's possibly just a little cheaper than travelling to the Mediterranean.

        Dubrovnik does have a wide range of international cuisine available. The local Croatian food we felt wasn't anything exceptional but wasn't poor either.

        We had a day trip across to Lokrum island which is just a ten minute trip from the old port. Lokrum is great on a hot day as it is a lovely shaded island but also has beaches and a couple of sites to see. The beaches in the Dubrovnik area are predominantly stony. People also enter the sea just from the rocks. Whilst the beaches aren't long sandy picture postcard beaches, the sea is beautifully clear and warm.

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        06.07.2012 07:21
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        Famous picturesque Croatian coastal city

        It was a whirlwind of an Easter break for my wife and me. It started with 4 days in Krakow, Poland, followed by 4 days at home, and then a week in Dubrovnik, Croatia. In fact, thanks to the need for connecting flights on the Krakow visit, by the time I was waiting for my flight to Dubrovnik, it was to be my fifth flight in seven days.

        Since we were flying to The Dalmatian Coast, was there someone at Gatwick with a Disney-esque sense of humour who had decided that our flight was departing from Gate 101?

        Anyway, it takes a shade over two hours to fly from southern England to Dubrovnik, the airport being situated about 30 minutes drive to the south of the city, and conveniently placed for our next holiday (what, so soon?) to Montenegro in the summer, the border of which is a similar distance to the south.

        THE OLD CITY

        This amazing old walled city (stari grad) is the first image that people conjure up when you mention the place. Sadly, the "Homeland War" as Croatians are wont to call it, from 1991 onwards did the place no favours, it having come under shell fire firstly from the Yugoslav army, followed by the Serbs - at least I think that's right. I'm not sure there's anyone who can fully understand what happened during the break-up of the old Yugoslavia without sounding partisan in one direction or another. As a result, many of the pan-tiled roofs we see today are pretty new, which explains the vivid terracotta colour we look down upon from the walls. A walk around the walls is a must. However, one significant 'must-not' is to do this during the hours that cruise ship passengers are also 'doing the walls'. Being built into a hill side means that the walls are very steeply-inclined in places with a lot of steps, which for a vari-focal wearer like me means that I miss a lot of the scenery whilst looking sharply down to see where I'm putting 'me plates o' meat'. The cruise ship people are usually being beckoned back to their tenders or tour coaches around 3 pm, so that's worth bearing in mind. There was one minor cruise ship actually moored just outside the harbour when we were there, but we did feel a little like we were swimming upstream against a tide of Japanese tourists, all stopping about every 5 seconds to have their pictures taken with some new view in the background*.

        (*Someone once told me that the Japanese don't tend to send postcards home, so a picture of yourself half blocking out the attraction in question is de rigueur).

        Despite seeming to close in around the old city port (stara gradska luka), like a crab claw, you can in fact walk all the way around the walls, as they skirt across the waterfront, when to look at initially you'd assume that the inner harbour forces the walls in a 'C' shape with a gap where the water is!

        Looking out from the battlements, you get some splendid views out to sea, and of nearby islands. If I recall correctly, the entire walk, for which you need to budget an hour even if in a hurry, has only one café stop. Your tickets are checked as you pass various access points, and you can enter the Maritime Museum from up there too.

        Down below, there's a wealth of other attractions and antiquities to see. The Rectory Museum for example, which gives an insight into how the old city state of Dubrovnik was run, with a Rector being elected very frequently to this short-term post and with exhibits ranging from dungeons to sedan chairs and an amazing collection of strong-boxes, all with their intricate locking mechanisms on show.

        One of the basic pleasures of the old city is be able to walk where you like unbothered by motor traffic, in a rather Venetian kind of way. The main street (Stradun) is paved in shiny limestone sets, as are the many side streets.

        Be warned, side streets to the left of Stradun, assuming you came in via Pile Gate are heavily sloped upwards, some just staircases, whereas to the right, they're on the flat.


        WHAT ELSE TO SEE

        The Elafiti Islands - The Dalmatian cost has literally hundreds of islands ,and boat trips to a selection of them are easily booked from several offices scattered around the Dubrovnik/Lapad area. We opted for a trip to three of the Elafiti Islands, the nearest only be a handful of miles outside of the port. 'Elafiti' gets its name from elaphi, the Greek for 'deer'.

        The Cable Car - This runs from the rear of the old walled city right to the top of a cliff that dominates Dubrovnik. Originally built around 1967, shelled to b*****y during the homeland war and only in very recent years put back together, it's nice to see one of these in gratifyingly new condition. I once travelled on what was called the longest and oldest cable span in Switzerland. It wasn't the 'longest' bit that worried me, it was the 'oldest'. The view of the old town from the top is stunning, and there is a bright, but rather breezy open-air café-bar to sit in and relax whilst looking at the view through the glazed parapets. Set to run every half hour until dark, the cable car seems to run every time the turnstiles signal that 25 people are waiting, with the 30-minute schedule only as a bare minimum back-up. There are kiosks on the way to the bottom terminal, so by the time you get to the ticket-office, you'll most likely have a ticket already!

        EATING OUT

        Ah yes, if the truth be known, this is 50% of what we came for! Predictably, the food in The Old City, which can become a money-pit to hook cruise liner passengers, has to be viewed with a certain degree of scepticism. Stradun is an obvious place not to eat, if the numbers of restaurants actively touting for your business, or colour photos of food, are anything to go by. Just like any other tourist destination, the pleasure comes from taking up personal recommendations (the advantage of renting a flat from a local) or just getting off the 'main drag' and seeing what's to be had in the side streets.

        We only ate twice within the city walls, once at Rozario and once at Dalmatino. Both were excellent, and neither were anywhere in sight from Stradun! It was at these that I developed my taste for cuttlefish risotto, which whilst almost black to look at, like a dollop of molten liquorice is very tasty. Presumably, I've also made a couple of budgies very happy somewhere in the world.

        Helpfully, side streets carry a banner where they meet Stradun with a list of what's to be found down them.

        Back at base, the pickings were similar. Avoiding restaurants that invite you to look at their fading colour photos of food seems to be the rule. We ate twice at both of 'Otto' and 'Komin', the former being an excellent and sophisticated restaurant by the commercial port and near the Lapad Hotel and the latter being somewhat more raucous, out on the peninsula at the end of the seemingly ubiquitous No. 6 bus route. Prices seemed to be around 75% what we'd pay here, and for excellent food and service. Local wines are good and we became quite fond of Plavac Mali (pronounced 'plavvats mahlee'), which is made from a grape which is a varietal hybrid being half 'local' and half Zinfandel. It's both fruity and mature red, and can be bought in supermarkets for a paltry sum, although, as with the UK, the restaurant mark-up is considerable..

        WHERE WE STAYED

        We rented an apartment in Lapad, a suburb of Dubrovnik, and a short 'number 6' bus ride from the famous Pile Gate of the old city (stari grad). Lapad lies on a peninsula to the north of the town, looking, on the map like a 'mini-Gower' as our Welsh travelling companion remarked. The outward appearance of the apartment block was a little off-putting since it clearly dated from the 'Tito era' but internally it had been refurbished to a high standard, including free use of a PC with broadband. Curiously, someone had thought that laying parquet floor directly to concrete was a good idea, but the overall effect was a little like walking over a broken xylophone, or at least that's how it must have sounded from downstairs as we 'plinky-plonkied' our way across the lounge!

        WELCOME TO REPUBLIKA HRVATSKA - Some Notes

        Yes, folks, the Croatian name for their own country bears little resemblance to our version. As far as I could make out, HRVATSKA is pronounced something like 'cravatska'. It is in fact where the French word 'cravate' comes from, this being the name given by French sailors to the special neck-tie worn by Croatians.

        Incidentally, Croatian cars carry HR international registrations and local web-sites use the 'dot hr' suffix.

        The dialling prefix for Croatia is +385 or 00385, which is useful to know if you have to ring someone as soon as you get there!

        The local currency is the Kuna, and at time of writing there were about 11 to the £. Croatia has applied for full EU membership, but as yet, can still be regarded as 'duty free' when it comes to airport purchases. Also, some of the prestigious shops in the old city offer tax rebates, with, no doubt lots of nice forms to fill in!

        Electricity is the usual 220v as for the rest of Europe, using the same circular sockets that you'll find in France and Germany.

        From what I observed of driving standards, there's nothing unduly untoward to report. Yes, they stop at pedestrian crossings, but yes, the driver behind will 'beep' you if you seem to be 'too considerate'. Once you've handled the M25 or driving in Turkey, this'll be a walk in the park for you.

        Buses in the Dubrovnik area work on a flat fare scheme, giving you up to one hour's bus usage from first use - you have them franked by an automat as you enter the bus from the front. Tickets are cheaper if bought from a nearby kiosk; many bus stops have them built-in. 10 Kuna if bought before boarding and 12 Kuna if bought from the driver, although you must have the correct change. Like most other places, the concept of queuing seems to have died out! Those with the biggest elbows get to ride first, although the giving up of seats to those 'less able to stand', aka little old ladies, was prevalent.

        I got better roaming reception on my mobile than I do when at home, but then, I'm with '3'!

        GOING BACK?

        Yes, and hopefully a bit later in the season to secure some better weather. Having said that, I'm not sure whether Dubrovnik itself offers the holiday-maker enough to do beyond one week, especially if you don't like lolling around in the sun on your hotel balcony. Maybe it would be prudent to combine this with a week, say, on the island of Korčula

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        • More +
          30.09.2011 20:32
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          A fantastic place to visit!

          Dubrovnik - the maritime republic

          This August we went on our third Royal Caribbean cruise and one of the stops that we went to was: Dubrovnik, croatia! The cruise was called '7 Night Adriatic Sea Coastal Cruise' which was on the Voyager of the seas. We only had one day in Dubrovnik but we did see quite a lot of the Old Town and we saw a bit of the coast from the pirate ship...

          - A very brief history of Dubrovnik

          Ragusa, the original name for Dubrovnik, was founded in the 7th century. To prevent barbarian invasions the residents of the city began to build protective walls (land and sea walls) and the city is thought to have been well fortified by the 9th century. Ragusa expanded over the next four centuries and became wealthy due to the trade of goods such as oil, fish, fabric (cloth) and wine. Ragusa maintained its independence throughout the centuries although between 1205 to 1358 Ragusa was under the control of Venice. Moving forward in time to the Croatian war of independence (1991 to 1995) in which the croatian government declared independence from Yugoslavia. The city was bombarded with shells from the Yugoslav army, navy and airforce and one of the most effected areas was the Old Town.

          - About Dubrovnik

          Dubrovnik is located on the Dalmatian coast (the Eastern Adriatic coast) and it is neighbored by Bosnia & Herzegovina and Montenegro. The main feature of Dubrovnik is the vast stone walls that surround the city. The walls are nearly 2km in length and they were constructed to protect the city from invasion. Dubrovnik is a very tectonically active area, it is situated in Croatia's most dangerous earthquake zone. Dubrovnik can experience strong earthquakes - the most significant earthquake occurred in 1667 which destroyed a large area of the city, killed approximately 5,000 people and caused a financial crisis which took Dubrovnik more than 50 years to recover from. On a happier note, in 1979 the city of Dubrovnik joined the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) list of World Heritage Sites and Dubrovnik is the only eastern Adriatic city-state to rival Venice. The currency in Croatia is the Kuna which has been the currency of Croatia since 1994. The Kuna is of modest value as one kuna is about 12p!

          - Arriving in Dubrovnik and the pirate ship...

          We arrived at the Gruz cruise port, which is not near the centre of Dubrovnik, so we had booked a excursion (land/sea excursions with Royal Caribbean are just tours, for example, guided walking tours). We booked this tour and it involved a short walking tour of Dubrovnik's Old Town and also a cruise on a boat along the coast of Dubrovnik up to Dubrovnik's old harbor.

          So we departed the Royal Caribbean ship, got on a coach for literally a three minute drive to the site were this ship was...and it was a pirate ship! We had seen a picture of this ship while looking through the excursions before the cruise but we didn't actually think we would be getting on what looked like a pirate ship! The pirate ship did look amazing and it had the sails and everything - the only thing that was missing was blackbeard! We then boarded the pirate ship along with quite a lot of other people so it was a little bit crowded but we had a good seat to view the coast/sea either side of the ship. The journey to Dubrovnik's old harbor took approximately an hour and the sights along the coast and the view of the sea on the way was just gorgeous. The coast is beautiful with many beaches and you can see the city walls from the coast as well. We passed quite a few large groups of tourists we were on the coastal walls and everyone on the ship was waving to them and they were doing the same which was quite nice. It was a hot day when we went (on the 5th of August I think it was) the UV index was 5, which is very high and the majority of the pirate ship was in full sun so it was a hot journey but it did help my minimal tan! We then arrived at Dubrovnik's old harbor which looks amazing and we met our guide and walked into Dubrovnik's old town.

          - Walking tour and sights

          We walked through one of the small gates at the old harbor side of the city to Dubrovnik's old town. The fairly small passageway we just came through from the harbor now opened up so that we were standing next to the huge clocktower which marks one end of the Stradun (or 'Placa' as it is also called). The Stradun is the main street in Dubrovnik and it is 300m in length. It is an amazing sight and I did not expect to be greeted with this fantastic view after just walking for a minute or so from the harbor. The clocktower marking one end of the Stradun was built in the 15th century, then re-built in 1929 and the tower is approximately 30 meters in height - so it is fairly noticeable and the tour guide (who was from Dubrovnik) said that as the streets in the old town do not have names, people just say for example 'I will meet you next to the clocktower'. The Rector's palace is to the right of the clocktower and it to looks amazing, it has been rebuilt many times due to damage from fire, explosions, and earthquakes. Due to the re-building the different styles of the period and the architects vision can be seen throughout the palace from gothic, renaissance and baroque styles. We did not go inside the palace, which is now the site of the history department of the museum of Dubrovnik, as we did not think we could go inside and the tour guide did not really mention the building.

          The Stradun, the main street, is the shortest distance between the pile gate (the gate at which we exited the city) and the old port/harbor (the gate at which we entered the city). The Stradun was constructed in the 12th century and the only major changes to the Stradun includes the repair due to the earthquake in 1667 and the repairs after the shelling during the Croatian war of independence. The Stradun is paved with limestone which over the years has been 'polished' due to millions of people walking along the street - the Stradun has the nickname of the street of mirrors according to our tour guide due to the highly reflective/polished nature of the old limestone. The limestone to me looked like marble as it was very polished and while walking along the Stradun I did find that it was a bit slippery as my sandals did slide about a bit - not a lot though and on the many back streets we walked down this was not a problem at all. Other sites in the old town includes: the city walls which are a breathtaking site on their own (as are the amazing views of the adriatic that accompany them), the Church of St Blaise (St Blaise is the patron saint of Dubrovnik) which was built in the 1700's, Great Onofrio well/fountain and the pile gate.

          The last historical place we visited was the Franciscan Monastery which houses the third oldest pharmacy/apothecary in the world and is the only pharmacy of the three that is still in use. The building of the monastery began in 1337 but it has to be completely rebuilt after the earthquake in 1667. Myself and my dad went into the first part of the monastery as this is where the pharmacy is - I wanted to go in as I though it would be made to look like it would have been in the 17th/18th century but it just looked like a normal modern pharmacy. The only items in the pharmacy that looked 'old' was the display medicine jars at shelves behind the counter but everything else was modern looking which was quite disappointing. In the pharmacy you could buy high quality skin care brands such as Vichy and Avene, which were probably cheaper to buy there than they would be if you bought them in England. We did not go into the main part of the monastery as there was a fee, which was not a lot, but by this time we had been walking around Dubrovnik's old town for about four/five hours.

          Just outside the monastery there is the Great Onofrio well/fountain, we did not know what this was at the time really as it is not signposted (that I could see) and there were just local people selling items on the steps of the well. Also around this area there are little stalls in which more souvenirs are sold - we bought a small glass vase as we wanted to use up all of the Kuna we brought as there is no point in exchanging it back to British pounds. We then exited the old town through the Pile gate (at the west and it is located at the opposite end of the Stradun to the clocktower).

          - Getting around (walking), shopping/market and prices

          After the walking tour had ended we had about four/five hours before we had to be back on the ship, so we walked down the Stradun and around the maze of backstreets shops. The Stradun is lined with shops as are the backstreets - there are also a lot of cafes and restaurants. We walked down the back streets first, all of which branch off the Stradun and we came across a open air market. The market was not signposted although there are some signs of the corners of streets they were not very useful in my opinion. The market consisted of stalls selling fresh food, spices, bags of lavender/sunflowers and little souvenirs. We bought some spices from the market and they were really inexpensive especially when you consider the Croatian Kuna/British Pound exchange rate.

          Along the sides of the market were cafes and we stopped at one cafe as it was a bit hot (especially for my sister who does not cope with the heat very well) and we bought some drinks, which again were inexpensive. The cafe we stopped at was nice but it was really crowded with tourists and locals and you could buy drinks, snacks and large plates of seafood there.

          We then walked down the many backstreets which are lined with tourist shops selling t-shirts, food/drink (I think there was a wine bar too) and small souvenirs. The majority, if not all, of the shops were tourist shops - with the exception of a few that we saw. The tourist shops are well stocked with so many souvenirs, especially t-shirts. We ended up buying a few t-shirts, some lavender (as you do), some spices from the market and some food from what looked like a Croatian version of MacDonalds...I found the prices of food/drink and souvenirs to be fantastic, the prices were a lot cheaper than I thought they would be. Also just before the pile gate (the gate at which we exited the old town) we bought a small glass vase which is decorated with swirls and various colours and it was only 75 Kuna - which is about £9!

          Overall, in terms of shopping and prices, Dubrovnik is amazing! There are so many shops to chose from, you are definitely going to find something you want and the prices are so amazing - especially when you consider the equivalent price in British pounds.

          - Overall positives

          In my opinion the positive points are as follows: the buildings, the adriatic sea and the part of the croatian coast that we saw from the pirate ship was just amazing. The weather was gorgeous when we went (about a month and a half ago now). There are lots of shops, mostly tourist shops as tourism is a major source of income and there are a lot of souvenirs to chose from. The prices are also fantastic due to the exchange rate. Quite a lot of historical sites to look at and there are also nice beaches around dubrovnik. There are also quite a few festivals in Dubrovnik, which were well advertised when we went.

          - Overall negatives

          There were a lot of tourists when we went which made the fairly narrow streets quite crowded - for this reason I would say that it is not a great place for young children and I don't remember seeing any children at all when we went. Also some of the sights such as the Great Onofrio well were not signposted, so you could easily walk past them.

          Conclusions

          Positives

          *Weather, sights and the pirate ship!
          *The Stradun - although it is a little bit slippery to walk on
          *Prices are fantastic - for drinks and clothing/souvenirs
          *People/shop owners/staff were nice and friendly
          *Beautiful views of the adriatic sea
          *Hundreds of shops with great clothing items and souvenirs
          *Easy to walk around - no inclines, not a lot of steps

          Negatives

          *'Sights' are not signposted well and some the streets are signposted but they do not really take you where you wanted to go - in our case anyway
          *Can be quite busy and crowded due to the fairly narrow streets and the large number of tourists

          - Would I return to Dubrovnik and would I recommend Dubrovnik as a good place to visit?

          Yes, I would definitely return to Dubrovnik to see the sights that we did not have time to see and also for more shopping! The weather was fantastic when we went, the pirate ship was fantastic, as were the shops. The prices are great, especially when you consider the exchange rate, as one Croatian Kuna is about 12p! I would recommend Dubrovnik but I don't think it would be a great place to take young children due to the crowds and there is not really anything there for young children.

          Thank you for reading my review - this review is also posted on ciao under my username labellavita1992

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            29.03.2010 21:25
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            The Pearl of the Adriatic

            Dubrovnik must surely be one of the most beautiful cities in Europe - and it is not just me saying that - the city is often described as the Pearl of the Adriatic and was given official recognition in 1979 when it received UNSECO World Heritage status. The bustling old town, with its beautiful buildings & narrow streets is a joy to walk round with a multitude of bars, cafes & shops to explore. For an even better view of the old town, the walk along the city walls is a must. From here you look out over the multitude of red rooved buildings and down onto the narrow streets. If you want an even more birds eye view of the city head for summit of Srd - the hill that looms over the old town. A zig-zig path winds its way up from the main road and is a bit of a slog but the views are excellent. It is hard to believe that tanks once lined this hilltop taking aim at the city below. There used to be cable car to the top, but this was destroyed in the war - the damaged remains were still visible at the top, along with a bullet hole ridden fort when we were there a few years ago... however it now looks like it is due to re-open this year. A city with so much history, both ancient and frighteningly recent, and looks to die for. If you come to Croatia, you must visit Dubrovnik.

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              02.11.2009 23:02
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              Delightful place to visit.

              Dubrovnik, in Croatia, is sometimes referred to as the Pearl of the Adriatic. The most delightful way so come across this medieval city is by cruise ship across the Adriatic. An early morning vista of white walls and terracotta roofs in the morning sun is a sight that will not be forgotten by any lucky enough to witness it. This was the way I first encountered Dubrovnik and I felt very excited about the prospect of seeing this old town.

              This peaceful looking gem suffered terribly in the 1990s when an attack by the Yugoslav army laid siege to the city for over 6 months. The occupants were trapped within the medieval walls and bombarded by shelling from the hills overlooking the city. There was no electricity of communication in the city itself. It is difficult to imagine the extent of the damage that was done as there has been a great deal of repair work carried out on the 500 or so buildings that were damaged. 43 residents also lost their lives.

              The city is a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its historical and architectural significance. This has led to an increase in tourism which can cause the area to become very crowded during the height of the summer months. WE visited in the height of the season and there were certainly a lot of people about. There is limited accommodation within the city walls and not a great deal in the immediate area so it is wise to pre-book if planning a visit during July or August. This is when the weather is at its hottest and also when the city is playing host to its festival of art and theatre.

              The city is approached over a bridge and the enormity of the walls becomes apparent. The citizens of Dubrovnik are exceedingly proud of this defensive structure and it has never been breached Visitors enter through Pile gate and it is a good idea to start the tour of the walls from this point. There is an admission fee paid at the kiosk and then visitors have free access to the walls. The suggested route is one-way to stop people having to pass each other. The steps up to the top of the wall are very steep and quite worn so would not be recommended to anyone who may be a little unstable on their feet. Some parts are also very narrow so extreme caution should be observed and a tight hold kept on younger visitors. Although the wall-walk may be tiring in the heat of midsummer the views are absolutely stunning and should not be missed. The shining streets in the centre of the town can be seen thronging with people. Gaze in the opposite direction and there is a gorgeous view of the blue sea surrounded by green mountains with the shiny white walls of the town in the foreground. There is an area about half-way round where visitors may descend back into the town of may stay and take refreshments whilst admiring the birds-eye view. We stopped here for an ice-cream and to use the toilets. The queue for the toilets was long as the very proud attendent liked to clean it between each visitor! After completing a circuit of the walls and admiring the church towers and domes it is time to descend back down near the main gate.

              The Big Fountain of Onofrio is just to the right of the gate and was part of the system for getting freshwater to the city since 1444. It is said to be lucky to drink from one of the spouts but this domed structure can be crowded. Immediately ahead of the visitor is the main street called the Stradum. The polished floor glints invitingly in the sunlight with colourful shops and street cafes lining the route. Glances to the left and right reveal hidden steps leading to residences and further streets. With careful observation it is possible to see where buildings have been repaired since the siege but the work has been lovingly done and very in-keeping with the structures.

              The far end of the Stradum leads to Luza Square which is surrounded by historic buildings. There is also a smaller fountain called the Small Fountain of Onofrio which is situated by the church of St Blaise. It is possible to visit the church and the nearby Sponza Palace which is the home of the state archives. In this square is also situated Orlandos Column which is in memory of a mysterious figure who helped the people of Dubrovnik defeat their enemies in the 8th Century.

              The city of Dubrovnik is incredibly compact and very easy to negotiate on foot. There is a lot to see in a very small area but it is also a place that entices the visitor to sit and soak up the medieval atmosphere and the baroque design that has produced such a unique example of a European city.

              If you are visiting by cruise ship can I suggest you take a taxi to the town. We thought the walk would be fine but actually it is quite hilly and a lot further than it looks. The walk around the city is tiring in the midsummer heat so you don't want to be weray before you even arrive!

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                21.04.2009 17:48
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                Nice for a one off visit

                Until recent years Dubrovnik had lived a fairly happy life, initially living under the protection of the Byzantine Empire until it was a sovereign state under the rule of Venice and later Hungary, Dubrovnik and its surroundings then known as the Republic of Ragusa was completely independent for 4 centuries, it was a wealthy state and abolished slavery as early as the 15th century and accepted many Jewish refugees from the Iberian countries, the Republic had good diplomatic relations with pretty much everyone and did well as a sea-faring nation and even set up settlements as far away as India and the USA with their merchant navy, bringing back their findings. It suffered an earthquake badly in the 16th century which has destroyed the majority of the renaissance buildings. Napoleon attacked the Republic at the turn of the 19th century and Ragusa eventually succumbed to the French Illyrian Provinces which were eventually handed over to the Austrians. After the war, it became Yugoslavia and Dubrovnik took much of the brutal bombing from neighbouring Serbs, just about everyone there has lost a relative of some sort.

                Dubrovnik is a fine looking city, whilst the outskirts consists mainly of shoddily new built housing, it's unllikely you'll be spending much time there other than if you are staying there. The city is relatively small and it's possible to walk everywhere, including to the hill behind the city from where you get a magnificent view over the city and the bay. The old town is done to perfection, every building inside the wall is in tip top condition and has a typical ancient Mediterranean feel with cobbled streets, an impressive fountain and narrow side streets which almost always lead you to the fortress wall eventually. Views from the fortress windows (not sure if that's what they are really called) leading on to the rocks or the sea are great fun to peer through and the city is exceptionally clean. Where Dubrovnik wins marks is that it manages to combine the magnificence of an Italian or Greek styled town with cheaper prices.

                Croatian food is usually of a pretty good standard but the prices have creeped up over the years and it's no longer a case of not being able to spend your money for the grub.

                Accomodation is likely to come to you with people actively looking for people to rent rooms at the bus station and ferry terminal in particular. Prices are relatively dear now but should never be more than 30 euros for 2 people and can still be had for 10 euros per person. The days of picking up a room for 5 euros per person are long gone though. The HI hostel is crap because they have a curfew and it's always fully booked during the summer months anyway!

                The downside of the city for me is that the prices are high by regional standards and the city over the least 8 years has gone from people thinking that they are still at war to droves of tourists on the street, in particular Italians, Irish, British and Germans. The former are irritants in the clubs and the latter 3 tend to block up the roads by walking like sloths (never quite understood that phenomenon - everyone seems to be able to walk perfectly well at home.) It's really a bit too much for me when teh streets are so packed and if you feel the same - then it's worth heading here out of season and hoping for a bit of nice weather! As far as an attractive old town goes, Dubrovnik definitely tops the list in Croatia but I personally prefer Split and Zagreb.

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                  04.01.2009 15:28
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                  Incredibly beautiful and fascinating city

                  Having visited most of the major cities of Europe (Rome, Barca etc) over the last decade- I was sceptical about what Dubrovnik could offer me. Within a couple of hours of walking around the old town however- I had come to the conclusion that this is the most beautiful and engaging city in Europe.

                  The historic walled centre is truly breathtaking. You genuinely get the sense of stepping back in time into a medieval maritime city. Although there has clearly been a huge renovation and standards are kept very high- you do feel the history in the walls and buildings and you can imagine this is how it would have looked 400 years ago. All the buildings on the main thoroughfare are maintanined to the same specifications and must be kept in the same colours. Potentially, this could give the centre a a homegenous appearance but in fact it just adds to the splendour and visual treat that is the centre of Dubrovnik.

                  The najor downside is that it can get very crowded, especially when the cruise ships arrive. But at certain times of day, the crowds disperse and you are left to wander around aimlesly, even in hugh season. Even when busy, stroll around the far walls and you will have it to yourself with magnificent views of the city behind you and glorious sea views ahead.

                  Numerous cafes and restaurants line the main street, most of which are expensive. But look around the maze of side streets and you will find great value Italian, Croatian and Bosnian food.

                  There is plenty of other stuff to do besides wandering around the glorious city itself- there are day trips available and car hire is prevalent (we drove to Mostar bridge in Bosnia in a couple of hours).

                  Take a boat out to the offshore islet of Lokrum where you can wander round the beautiful shaded pine woods and find yourself a rocky outcrop to soak up the beautiful Croatian summer sun.

                  I cannot speak much for the hotels and I believe the central ones are extremely expensive. I stayed in the Bokun Guesthouse which is a 15 minute walk from the centre, close to the bus station and new harbour. This is a superb budget accomodation option with one of the warmest welcomes I have ever encountered at a guesthouse.

                  I cannot recommend Dubrovnik highly enough, it blew me away and I rate it way ahead of the Italian cities- it is much cleaner, cheaper and more beautiful (Id even rate it above Venice).

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                  16.11.2008 17:28
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                  Fascinating city with lots to see from Medieval to modern, beaches, great bars, good nightlife

                  Dubrovnik's location and picturesque harbour setting have made it a valuable acquisition for many different European powers over the centuries. It sits on a group of 118 islands which, historically, provided cover for a number of activities. Byzantines, Venetians, Austrians, Italians, French and even Germans have laid claim to the port and the architecture and design of the city shows this.


                  ***Where Is Dubrovnik?***

                  Dubrovnik is a city on the edge of the Adriatic Sea at the southern most point of Croatia. It is perched on the end of the Isthmus of Dubrovnik and has become one of the most popular tourist destinations on the Adriatic. Across from the city are the islands of Mijet and Lastova.

                  Locally, the city is called 'Skladna' which is Croatian for 'harmony'. This reflects the feeling of city which is in harmony with the sea and the surrounding landscape. The aerial view that you get when you come in to land at Dubrovnik Airport is a wonderful illustration of this.

                  It is also known as the 'Pearl of the Adriatic' which is a reference to its beautiful coastal location and the way it looks so compact perched on the end of the isthmus.


                  ***History***

                  The walls of the city were built in Medieval times and have never been breached by an attacking army, although there have been many attempts.

                  In between 1526 and 1806 Dubrovnik was actually an independent republic but then it came under the rule of the Byzantines and the invaders that followed. The prize here was the sheltered, secure port.

                  Much of the Old Town which surrounds the harbour was rebuilt in the seventeenth century.

                  After Croatia's declaration of independence in 1991, it was besieged and shelled by Montenegrin and Serbian troops but since 2005 most of the damage has been repaired.


                  ***Transport***


                  Dubrovnik has its own airport with a regular bus service to the bus station in the city centre. There are plenty of cheap local buses that link different parts of the city and run frequently between dawn and midnight. These are easy to use once you get the hang of them. We asked at a local café when we stopped for coffee and ended up with a list of places to visit, complete with bus times. You can also get this information at the bus station if you can find someone who speaks more than a few words of English.

                  ***Dubrovnik Summer Festival***


                  The main reason we chose this time of year to travel was because we wanted to enjoy the famous Summer Festival which is held in July and August. We arrived on 9th July in time for the opening ceremony the next day.

                  The ceremony was amazing and we were treated to a fabulously executed firework display with accompanying music.

                  There were music, dance and art exhibitions every evening for a month but, unfortunately we only had 14 days to enjoy it. The Dubrovnik Orchestra seemed to be a favourite and provided lots of free, non ticket shows but it wasn't easy to get tickets for some of the soloists, folk music groups and book presentations. We did manage to go to several art exhibitions which are right up my street but didn't suit my partner, who (I quote) 'Couldn't see the point in most of it.'

                  I did manage to get tickets for A Midsummer Night's Dream which was amazing in Croatian. I knew the story and some of the lines so I just enjoyed the atmosphere and the scenery changes. As for my other half...well, I won't go there but it suffices to say that the 'wasn't his cup of tea either'. (Some people are such philistines.) Anyway, I enjoyed it, so that's the most important thing.

                  I really wished that we had been able to stay for the whole month and see John Williams and the Cuban Orchestra 'Ars Havana.' We missed the cinema and comedy too.


                  ***Things To See***


                  If you enjoy looking at architecture you can find a wide range of styles here. It ranges from the 12th Century city walls through to the Renaissance style Pile Gate with its drawbridge and Gothic interior door which has a statue of St. Blaise, patron saint of Dubrovnik perched on the top.

                  The Onoforio Fountains (big and small) were designed and built by the Italian architect of the same name in 1438. This fountain doesn't rely on rainwater it is fed by spring water which travels 12 kilometres via an aquaduct. There are 16 intricately carved masks around the circular structure.

                  Just opposite this is the Franciscan Monastery which houses a 14th century pharmacy and an original, beautiful decorated cloister from the same period. Close by is Sponza Place where you will the baroque Church of Saint Blaise.

                  Nearby is the Rector's Palace city museum and Gundulic Square which is the centre of the old town.

                  These are just a few hi-lights. You will find a host of other buildings and statues to see with the same two kilometre area. Everything is quite close together.

                  ***Other Things To Do***

                  If you prefer beaches, Dubrovnik caters for you too. The most popular is Banje Beach, or Porporela which is off the pier in the old time. The water is clean and warm (according to the time of year) and has that gorgeous blue and mauve glisten that we associated with warm, clean Mediterranean waters.

                  There are facilities for Jet Ski, speed boating, sailing and other watersports if you are that way inclined. Personally, this is of no interest to me buy my other half enjoyed the jet skiing. I have no idea how much it cost but he did say that it wasn't expensive.

                  Alternatively, you can take the number 5 bus to Sveti Jacov beach and enjoy the café bar or the watersports there.

                  There are plenty of beaches so you can quite easily find somewhere peaceful if that's what you want.

                  Other things to do include excursions to the islands. We went to Mijet Island to the National park and back via Mostar and Elafiti. The beaches and fruit orchards were fabulous.

                  Hillwalking, hiking and climbing is also available here. You can either do this by yourself, or join an organised group with a guide.

                  Evening entertainment includes lots of reasonably priced restaurants and bars. You can eat dinner for the equivalent of about £11. We found an Irish Bar called the Gaffe Pub and the Mirage Caffe-Bar were our favourite haunts in the evening.

                  There are clubs and Music Bars here too, if that's what you enjoy. The friends that we stayed with told us that they often went to Lazareti, just outside the east walls and literally drank and danced until they dropped onto the Copacabana Beach. Not our style, but they said there were lots of people, locals and visitors, doing the same thing.



                  ***To Sum Up***


                  This is a fabulous, bouncing city with something for everyone. You can wander about and see the sights, lay on the beach, or simply party your holiday away. There is lots of choice when it comes to accommodation too and you can choose between one star, right through to five star luxury, or cheap private accommodation. Rooms are plentiful and easily found, so if you are travelling around Europe, you should have no difficulty finding somewhere to stay in Dubrovnik.

                  There is a lot to see and do here but I wouldn't recommend it for young families unless you stay in a hotel with facilities for children. It is more of an adult destination depending of course on where you stay.

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                    30.10.2008 14:30
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                    A Perfect Medieval Thoroughfare

                    Dubrovnik, a Unesco World Heritage Site, has now fully recovered from the bitter Serbian and Montenegrin siege of 1991-92 and has been restored to its former splendour. This remarkable former city-state has in its historic centre perhaps the most attractive and well preserved Baroque core of any European city, its swathe of churches, palaces and old stone houses neatly contained within the stone walls that have protected it for centuries. The city is sandwiched between a sweep of limestone mountains to the north and the azure waters of the Adriatic to the south. Lord Byron named it ' the pearl in the Adriatic,' and Bernard Shaw said, " Those that seek paradise on earth should seek it in Dubrovnik." Praskipark on numerous occasions has named this city as,' the jewel in Croatia's crown.' All great cities are described using cliches but the words used, corny as they may be, certainly do describe this particular city.

                    I have been visiting Dubrovnik and Croatia on and off for the last five years and I really love the whole country. I can't wait to get off the plane as soon as it hits the tarmac at Dubrovnik. The smell of eucalyptus and the warm breeze blowing in your face as you step of the plane is breathtaking and every time I return I am just as excited as the first time I visited. I am like a child, full of excitement, can't wait to go out and play. I don't know why I love the city so much because it is overwhelming in summer with the number of visitors and sometimes can be extremely hot. I think because it always looks so perfect - it has looked the same since I was a child when I always had my head in a geography book looking at the brash, colourful pictures of cities and dreamt of all the places I would visit when I was grown up. Dubrovnik was always my favourite city and still is to this day.

                    For most visitors coming to Dubrovnik, the Old Town and the Stradun, the main thoroughfare, will be the first destination on their hit list. I am going to split my review of the city into two parts because the review would be too long otherwise. In Part 1 I wll review The Stradun and then later this week I will review The Old City Walls.

                    If travelling by bus, the walk form the bus station takes around 30 minutes to the walls of the Old Town and the Stradun. It is a steep hike and can be quite tiring in the July heat but the walk is pleasant enough with views of the ocean on the right as you approach the Old Town.

                    The sweeping Stradun, also known as Placa, is Dubrovnik's main thoroughfare, cutting a pedestrian walkway straight through the Old City. Formed when the narrow channel that seperated the Slavic settlement of Dubrovnik on the mainland from the Roman settlement on the island of Raus was filled in during the 12th century, it has survived the disastrous earhquake of 1667 and Serb shelling during the siege of Dubrovnik from 1991 to 1992. Today this smooth limestone walkway, with its melee of attractive shops, cafes, bars and restaurants, buzzes with life throughout the year.

                    Cafes
                    -------

                    There is definitely a cafe culture on the Stradun. As soon as the sun rises many cafe owners can be seen flinging tables and chairs out for the day. You have to be early and quick to find a seat and if you want to spend time watching the world go by then I suggest you stay put because it is definitely first come first served. Usually I am exhausted when I visit the Stradun because I have been travelling from another country or caught a very early morning flight so my first stop is always The Irish Pub. No, not to have a drink but just to sit on the benches outside. The guys who own this pub are very friendly and I have on several occasions nipped round the corner to the best sandwich shop in the world to buy a sandwich, take it back to the pub and just sit outside having my breakfast. Sometimes I buy a Guinness or two but if you just wanted to sit and eat your own food they are fine with this. Inside the Irish Pub is a busy bar which has live football and a lengthy happy hour (from 5pm to 8pm). English is spoken, of course, and it is situated at the corner of the second turning on the right of the Stradun.

                    If you want to be in with the in crowd and like to pose then go to the Cafe Festival. This busy cafe is housed in one of the Stradun's graceful stone houses and is the place to be seen. During the Dubrovnik Festival, you will have to be quick to snare one of the coveted outside tables.

                    The Sandwich Shop with No Name
                    -------------------------------------------

                    The sandwich shop I have just referred to is a very small shop nestled away in one of the medieval streets. For the life of me I can't remember the name of the shop but if you manage to find it once you will never forget it the next time. It is amazing! I have never seen so many ingredients - various Croatian hams, cheeses, salads, sausages, bacon, sauces, pickles - the list is endless. You can mix as many different flavours as you like and the ingredients are served inside home-made Croatian flat bread which is like a mini flying saucer. It's like eating somehing Wilma would feed Fred. The bread roll is about 5 times the size of an English one (perhaps a slight exaggeration there). Anyway, the rolls are fantastic. If you carry on from the Irish Pub and then take the second street on your left and the first on the right - the shop should be there.

                    Water Stops
                    ------------------

                    Itis a good idea to carry with you a bottle of water as it is very hot inside these walls. There are a couple of fountains on the Stradun where you can take a drink of water. Onofrio's Large Fountain was damaged in the siege which now has been restored. It was built in the 15th century and was always a place for traveller's to stop and quench their thirst. Also, tucked inside a building by the Rector's Palace there is a smaller fountain, also dating back from the 15th century which often goes unnoticed.

                    Church of St. Blaise
                    --------------------------

                    Dubrovnik's highly revered patron saint, St. Blaise is said to have saved the city from sacking at the hands of the Venetians. He can be seen all over the city but nowhere is he better represented than in this 18th century church dedicated to him. The original 14th century church survived the earthquake largely intact, only to burn down in a fire in 1706. Work started on the present incarnation later the same year. The design was based on plans by an Italian architect, Marino Grapelli, who based the design of the interior on that of a Baroque church in his home town. The stained glass windows are astounding and very unusual as they are not like other windows in churches in these parts. Possibly because they were a 20th century addition. The facade of the church is very ornate consisting of four pillars that are watched over by an array of saints. Allso inside the church is a model of the city showing you how it looked before the earthquake. To be honest, I couldn't really see any difference. This church is situated at the top of the Stradun.

                    Sponza Palace
                    ------------------

                    This masterpece of a building was one to survive the earthquake. If you are a fan of Gothic architecture you will find the exterior quite striking as it is a combination of Gothic and Renaissance architecture. Check out the Gothic windows on the first floor which are flambouyant in the extreme and don't miss the Cloisters. On the second floor you will see a somewhat tubby carving of St. Blaise as he looks down on the Stradun. This 16th century building was once home to the city's Custom House and Mint but now houses the State Archives and a Museum to the Dubrovnik Defenders. Definitely worth a visit if only to walk through the cloisters.

                    Fransiscan Monastery
                    ----------------------------

                    This without any doubt has to be the highlight of any visit to the Stradun. I am only going to briefly mention parts of the monastery that I found interesting. I can't review each attraction in detail as the review would be too long. This is just a glimpse of what you can expect.

                    The dark cloisters and lush vegetation of this 14th century monastery conjure up echoes of the Dubrovnik of old. When walking through the cloisters you really do feel like you have either stepped back into medieval times or you are a thesbian acting out your Shakesperian role.

                    Whilst you are in the cloisters check out the frescoes of St. Francis which line the cloisters. They depict the life of this famous saint and all the animals he loved and saved.


                    The inner courtyard is the perfect place to view the Romanesque, 14th century cloisters (mentioned above) and they are worth scrutinising as the double - pillared columns are very graceful. The best time to view is early morning or late afternoon to avoid the crowds.

                    Belltower
                    -------------

                    The dome-topped belltower dominates the western end of the Stradun and you can't miss it. It dates back from the 14th century and features again Gothic and Romanesque elements. It's presence is magical and majestic and towers over the monastery courtyard.

                    Chuch of St. Francis
                    --------------------------

                    Most of the original 14th century church was destroyed in the Great Earthquake but the 18th century reconstruction of the lavish marble altars are worth a peep and the ornate organ framed by cherubs is ostentatious but worth a look..

                    Pharmacy
                    --------------

                    Inside the monastery is one of the oldest pharmacies and the dispensary is still operational. I found this quite interesting as I like to know about potions and this wasthe original home to a collection of treatments dating from the 15th century.

                    Before leaving the Monastery take time to visit the Museum as there are a few displays worth looking at.

                    Monastery Museum
                    --------------------------

                    On one of the walls is a famous painting of Dubrovnik which reveals how the city looked in Medieval times before the earhquake destroyed most of the city in 1667. Located below the painting is a book which has catalogued the devastation caused by 54 shell hits upon the monastery during the siege.

                    Nestled in a corner, by a bench near the entrance to the museum, lie the casings of some of the missiles that wrought havoc on this tranquil scene.

                    In the museum walls two shell holes have been left to serve as reminders of the damage sustained by the monastery. 'Black Tuesday' was the day (6 December, 1991) when Serbian missiles reigned down on Dubrovnik.

                    As I mentioned earlier about the pharmacy being worth a visit, here in the Museum is a creation of the original pharmacy and you can view row upon row of measuring instruments and traditional remedies, some lethal poisons.

                    Finally, I better not leave the foot of St. Blaise out. This is the most prized possession in the collection. It is preserved in a boot like gold and silver case. Weird but worth a peek!

                    Back to the Stradun
                    -----------------------------

                    As I have mentioned this is the main thoroughfare and as you can imagine there are scores of shops, cafes etc. I don't usually spend a lot of time in the cafes and restaurants as you really do pay over the top and some are pretentious. Apart from Festival Cafe and the Irish Pub, the Gaffe Bar is reasonable. It is a little more refined than the Irish Pub but serves a good pint of Coatian ale.

                    If you like pizzas than I suggest a visit to Mea Culpa. Here you can savour the most enormous Italian style pizzas I have ever tasted. I mention Italian - style because here they really do taste like a Sicilian Mama would have made them. Not all Croatian pizzas are tasty. This is a favourite with the locals so you can't go wrong. Prices are reasonable and you can either sit inside or outside.

                    I have just remembered the name of the sandwich shop I mentioned earlier. It is called Skola!

                    Regarding shopping - if you are into shopping then you can shop until you drop here. Silver jewellery is very popular, silk ties, Croatian wines and spirits, truffles, leather bags, designer clothes. Lots of book shops hidden away in the old streets - some selling antiquated books as well as religious books. There is some tat but a lot of the shops sell high quality goods but shop around and make sure you get a good price.

                    Just remembered - around the corner from Skola is a good barber shop. My husband always has to have a hair cut in most cities we visit. Don't ask me why - he just does! He was very impressed with this barber - he was a perfectionist according to my husband. He cut his hair with the skill of a surgeon.

                    Festivals
                    ------------

                    Two festivals of interest are the Dubrovnik International Film Festival which is usually spread over 5 days in May and shows screenings of Croatian and International films.

                    Also

                    Dubrovnik Festival takes place mid July until late August. For over 50 years, stages in historic venues, churches and the open air have filled the old city with theatre, dance and music from around the globe. performances of Shakespeare sell out almost immediately. here is a link if you wish to book tickets -
                    www. dubrovnik-festival.hr

                    Well I think that's all I can tell you about the Stradun. There is so much to write about Dubrovnik. It is an enchanting city full of life -and character. If you ever visit Croatia add this city to your 'must see' list.

                    I will have to fill you in about the Old Town and its voluminous walls in Part 2 which will be posted shortly - so don't forget to look out for it.

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                      29.09.2008 14:00
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                      One to go out of high season

                      I have recently come home from travelling, and Dubrovnik on the southern tip of Croatia was last on the list of places to go after an extensive 4 month trip around Europe. I'd obviously heard a lot about the place and after a month in former Yugoslavia, it seemed a fitting place to end our trip, after the bombing of the place in the early 1990s. And I must say, it was a bit of a mixed bag.

                      Best approach this systematically - first, the pros:

                      It's pretty. As in extremely. You would never tell that it was a huge wreck just 15 years ago - the repair job has been done very well! Dubrovnik as a place actually sprawls for miles around - thousands of houses and residential streets and resorts close to the sea, as well as the huge port with it's busy comings and goings. However, it's the old town that holds the real attraction. It's a warren of ancient streets, hundreds of steps going up the hill that the town is cut into. There is also the famous bridges and the iconic picture of the old harbour that can only be seen from walking a good 15 minutes out of the city centre. The old harbour is full of rusting fishing boats and bottom glassed cruisers along with some excellent seafood restaurants.

                      All of this is lovely, and gives one much entertainment for half a day. However, Dubrovnik is full of oddities and eccentricities, if you venture further than the main tourist drag. Namely, the bars Buza I and Buza II. Both are beyond the city walls on the side that faces the sea, cut into the rock. Buza I is far more relaxed, and tables sit at different heights according to the rock formations. The best part however, is the rock that has been cut in order that people can sunbathe and jump into the10 metre deep sea below. It's tourist to local ratio is very small - this is not something that is generally mentioned in guide books. It was, in my opinion, the best part of Dubrovnik as it gave a different dimension to the place. Not just a tourist trap, but an interesting, very Baltic-esque place. Buza II is far more sophisticated, but no less interesting. Again, it's cut into the rock of Dubrovnik old town and you have to follow the signs around town that say 'Cold Drinks with the most beautiful view.' It draws an older crowd, and is too high up for diving into the sea, but it holds a charm of it's own, with amazing views across to the island of Lokrum. A real place to chill out.

                      Despite these little finds, Dubrovnik does have a huge downside, and that's the huge tourist influx into the place. Prices are much higher than in the rest of Croatia and quality of houses and hostels is generally lower. It also means that the streets are filled with Germans, Brits and all other manner of nationalities, almost always standing in the way and looking slightly gormless. You get the odd Brit shouting in English at a bemused Croat who can't understand him. Its an unfortunate side effect of the absolute prettiness of the place - it does have a touch of the Costa to it. Tourist shops and restaurants spill out onto the perfectly preserved ancient streets, filled with overpriced souvenirs and poor quality food.

                      All in all, Dubrovnik is a place of outstanding beauty with some excellent little quirks if you are interested in finding them. However, be aware that it's expensive and very touristy - my advice would always be to go out of high season. It's a place every European should visit - the effects of the war of the early 1990s are very visible and I think, for this reason, more than any other, Dubrovnik should always be one of the top places on everyone's travel list.

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                        16.10.2004 14:46
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                        • "not easy to get to"

                        Our arrival in Dubrovnik after a 24 hour long ferry trip was not the best introduction to the town. Cobbled streets, sunburned shoulders and heavy luggage don't mix well. Luckily though, the Croatians we came across while searching for our accommodation were welcoming and helpful.

                        I must have heard the phrase "enjoy your stay in Dubrovnik" a hundred times in our short stay. Unsurprising considering that tourism is now the city's foremost form of income. Following the break up of Yugoslavia and the Balkan conflict, people have been flooding back into Dubrovnik to appreciate all it has to offer.

                        Before the war, Croatia was a popular holiday resort, famed for its beautiful coastline and cheap prices. George Bernard Shaw, Prince Charles, and Margaret Thatcher have all holidayed there (but don't let that put you off!)

                        I stayed there for 4 days with my sister, en route to Bosnia. We took a long route to get there: we flew from Stansted to Trieste in Italy on a cheap flight. We then took a bus to Rijeka in Croatia, where we caught a ferry which took us down the coast all the way to Dubrovnik. If you have the time, are short on money, and want to enjoy the beautiful views the ferry offers you, I would recommend travelling the same way. The flight to Italy was around £25, the bus was around £5 and the ferry was £20 for deck space only. Otherwise, it is possible to fly direct to Dubrovnik airport but it's not cheap.

                        It is recommended that you book accommodation in advance in the summer months. My sister and I booked through www.hostels.com and were allocated a private self catering apartment, for £50 each for 3 nights. If you don't book anywhere, ladies at the ferry port hold up cards saying "soba", offering to rent out rooms. This is quite normal and accepted in Croatia. Large, luxurious hotels are all over the mountainside. There is one youth hostel in the old town, which can be booked through hostels.com

                        Most private apartments will be outside of Old Town, a 15 or 20 minute walk away. You can stay inside the city walls of Old Town, but it will be more expensive.

                        In the summer months, temperatures are around 35 degrees every day, and the streets of Old Town are packed with tourists, mostly Italian, other European, and American.

                        The official language is of course Croatian, but nearly all people will speak at least a basic level of English. Street signs can be a little difficult to decipher. It can be a little annoying leaning a few words of Croatian, and asking a lady "Gdje je WC molim?" (where is the toilet please?"), only for her to reply in perfect English. Oh well, at least I tried not to be the typical English person abroad.

                        I saw no evidence that the lager lout crew have touched down on Dubrovnik soil as of yet. Most visitors are families or young budget travellers.

                        Currency is the Croatian Kuna, which works out as approximately 10=£1. Some places let you use Euros but they don't give you a very good rate. Prices are reasonable but expensive for Eastern Europe.

                        In self catering apartments, you can buy food in any of the supermarkets. Restaurants and cafes are all over the town, with fish a speciality. Pasta and Salads are also popular. A meal will cost around £4-8. Water fountains are everywhere, and were very gratefully recieved by the two faint English girls!

                        --Old Town--

                        The high walls and narrow streets of the old town create welcome shade from the burning heat. The old town is a perfectly preserved city from the 1600's. Buildings are white, with lovely tiled rooves in shades of orange.

                        Entrance to the outer city walls costs 30 Kuna (£3) and is well worth it. Walking the entire circumference can take several hours taking in all the steep steps and perfect postcard photo opportunities. The views of clear blue sea, boats, people diving into the water off rocks, and greenery covered islands, are amazing. Many destinations fail to live up to the travel guide promises, but Dubrovnik does not disappoint.

                        You can see some evidence of the Serb bombings of 1991 in crumbled buildings, but thankfully the attacks did not cause any major damage to the beautiful town.

                        Dubrovnik is known as an artists city, and everywhere you go, you will see small galleries, and artists selling their work from stalls. I saw some lovely paintings which were fairly cheap.

                        Every August, the Dubrovnik festival takes place, which offers music and theatre perfomances every day across the town. Check at a tourist office for more details.

                        You will see many kittens roaming around in the old town, some of whom look quite thin and sick. If you feel sorry for them, there is an old woman who feeds them. She accepts donations towards their food, and she lives just behind the small harbour.

                        There are many things to see in Old Town- beautiful churches, monastries, small shops and market stalls selling lace, clothing, crafts and jewellery. You will also see that people are very glamourous, even on a boiling day, the women will be wearing full make up, tight jeans and have their hair styled.

                        Something I found amusing, and may be of interest to British people who are used to dowdy middle aged women working as lollipop ladies: Lollipop Ladies in Dubrovnik are beautiful young women dressed in hotpants! This may be a good enough reason on its own for some people to pay a visit. I certainly felt that Durbrovnik is a town for the beautiful people and felt a little out of place with my unglamourous sunburn!

                        There are several beaches in Dubrovnik, however they are not sandy. You will see people sunbathing on anything possible, even the smallest piece of rock jutting out into the sea.

                        If you go to the harbour, there are several stalls selling tickets for various excursions by boat. You can take a night ride around the city walls, go on a glass bottomed boat, or go on the great trip me and my sister went on.

                        We paid 220 Kuna each (£22) for a whole day trip by pirate ship. It left in the morning to visit 3 islands and included a cooked lunch. Unfortunately the sea was very rough that day, and the swaying made me feel a bit ill, but the lovely lunch of fish, salad and bread perked me up a bit. In the morning we paid two short visits to small islands, and spent several hours in the afternoon on the island of Lopud. We trekked for what seemed like miles to discover the sacred "sandy beach" (sandy beaches are something of a rarity there). Swimming in the sea was a delight, so clean and refreshingly salty.

                        By the end of our stay in Dubrovnik, I was happy to be escaping to Bosnia for some fresh air, but I would recommend the town as a place of beauty and history.

                        The sea there really is as blue as on the promotional websites. Its beauty is breathtaking, and you feel as though you are walking through history. Despite the large numbers of tourists, it's ot difficult to find a pocket of peace, a quiet empty lane in the maze of Old Town. One can only hope that the renewed surge of tourism does not adversely affect the area.

                        Links:

                        Dubrovnik tourist board
                        http://web.tzdubrovnik.hr

                        Dubrovnik online
                        http://www.dubrovnik-online.com/english/english.php


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                          26.06.2002 23:24
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                          Have you dreamed of fantastic steak for £6 and beer for £1? Or is pizza for £3.50 more your thing? Either way, a holiday in Dubrovnik allows you to indulge in food and wine without spending much at all. In fact, we found it impossible to spend more than £20 on a three course meal for two, with wine. Just couldn't fit any more in! Apart from the food (which is mostly Italian style, with lots of seafood), what does Dubrovnik have to offer? Well, lets start with culture, architure and all those things you think you ought to do on holiday. Its got some of all of them. Dubrovnik is a walled town, rebuilt in the seventeenth century after an earthquake so it has a pleasing homogeneity among its buildings (unlike London!). Its very small and easy to walk around, though there are tons of steps which would make wheelchairs/ pushchairs a nightmare. There is a fair amount to see - monasteries, churches, a sinagogue, an aquarium, the town walls - but probably only enough for two or three days. So what else is there? Well, you can get a boat from the centre of Dubrovnik old town to an island in the bay. This is a gorgeous place, with a deserted monastery and lots of windy paths. It also has an enclosed dip, which has a pool of seawater that's really shallow and warm, and a little rocky beach. This has to be the best place for little kids EVER. They can't escape (the sides are steep), there's lots of shade, and the water is perfect for learning to swim. Another favourite spot was the nudist beach at the far end of the island. When I say 'beach', I mean 'rocks', as Croatia has very few sandy beaches. But nice warm rocks, with a ladder down to the sea, are actually better in some ways. No sand in your sandwiches! Croatia is quite big on nudist beaches, though as far as I could tell this one was filled with middle-aged Germans rather than Croatians. I think this is a fantastic idea (who actually w
                          ants to sit around wearing a soggy swimming costume?) but if you're someone who finds them embarrassing, they'd be easy to avoid. We stayed in Lapad (more detail in an op on the hotel, which I'm doing next) which is a suburb of Dubrovnik. In fact, we confused the issue by asking for tickets 'to Dubrovnik' on the bus - we were in Dubrovnik, just not the old bit. Lapad is a big, modern port surrounded by pleasant suburbs. But it also has a whole street full of restaurants (Pizza Scala is highly recommended - you can see the locals picking up their takeaway there) and its own beach. We spent a happy couple of days in Lapad, lying in the shade of the trees next to the beach and pottering to different cafes to sit on the swing seats, drink beer and watch the world go by. Public transport was easy to use, and cheap. You can buy bus tickets from hotel receptions, or kiosks (little white porta-cabin type things scattered everywhere) and the buses are regular and clean. The 15 minute ride from Lapad to Dubrovnik cost about 70p. Buying tickets (and food, and everything else) was made very easy because almost everyone spoke at least some English, and many people were fluent. We flew on Air Croatia, which was a bit more expensive that your normal package because it was a scheduled flight. However, the aircraft was recently revamped, the leg-room was generous and the food decent (though they couldn't provide a non-dairy meal, but nor can any airline). It certainly didn't feel like a low-budget outfit. Though business-class did consist of two rows of seats and a curtain, with a table fixed on the the middle seat! I would highly recommend Dubrovnik as a destination for someone wanting a beach holiday with a bit of culture/ sight-seeing nearby. The only disadvantage is that, after a week, we felt we had exhausted the possiblities locally, though there were a few boat trips etc that we could have tried.
                          The sea was beautifully clean and warm, though the beaches (at least around Dubrovnik) aren't the traditional sandy sort. I invested in sandals (blatant plug for footwear op!) so as to protect my toes against the stones on the beach and the sea urchins on the rocks, and they were really useful. There aren't many last-minute packages to Dubrovnik, unless you go through Captivating Croatia, which is Air Croatia's official partner, so I would recommend booking early. I wouldn't expect to get a particularly cheap deal (compared to Greek islands, for instance) but I felt that it was well worth the extra £150 or so, for the interesting history and lovely architecture.

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                            23.11.2000 02:24

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                            I went to Dubrovnik last year on a cruise and although we were only there for a day, I loved it! When I heard we were going to Croatia I thought that it would be all bombs and stuff but really it is toatlly the opposite! It is such a beautiful place. THe water is so clear and they except American dollars over there. The scenery is beautiful and I would love to go there again. Next time I might try flying to see what it is like. We only saw the coast but it really was very beautiful. Whatever you thought about this place will change as soon as you get there. It is a must!

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                          "Dubrovnik (in Italian Ragusa) is a historic city on the Adriatic Sea coast in the extreme south of Croatia. It is one of the most prominent tourist resorts, a seaport and the center of the Dubrovnik–Neretva county. The absolute majority of its citizens declared themselves as Croats with 88.39%. Dubrovnik is nicknamed "Pearl of the Adriatic"."