Dubrovnik, Pearl Of The Adriatic

Dubrovnik sits majestically on one of the most beautiful harbors of the Adriatic Sea. Elegant buildings of pale stone, neat red roofs, and baroque spires peer above the iconic walls, which have protected the city for more than 400 years. Proud, independent, and wealthy for much of its 1,300-year history, this jewel of a city has suffered invasions and sieges, and was virtually razed during a massive earthquake in 1667.
Most recently, heavy bombardment during the Yugoslav conflict left two thirds of the city in ruins when war ended in 1992. Shell holes still scar its churches and the new red tiles that cap the rooftops have yet to weather, but, thanks to the hard work of its citizens, Dubrovnik has once more earned Byron’s famous epithet-“the pearl of the Adriatic.”
St. Blaise, the city’s patron, guards the Pile Gate, the main entrance to the historic kernel of the Old City (Stari Grad). From here, the showcase Avenue Placa (also called Stradun) begins its grand sweep, flanked on one side by Onofrio’s Fountain, and on the other by the semi-ruined Franciscan Monastery. Both were virtually destroyed in the 1667 earthquake, but the monastery’s enchanting late-Romanesque cloister survived. Nearby, Europe’s oldest apothecary, founded in 1317, continues to administer remedies.
Placa’s polished cobbles lead inexorably to the heart of the city, the lovely Luza Square, where cafes cluster under canopies. It is also known as St. Blaise’s Square, after the frothy baroque church dedicated to the city’s patron saint. At Orlando’s Column, in the center, new laws were declared and wrongdoers punished during the Ragusan Republic, which lasted from the 14th century until Napoleon’s arrival in 1808. The nominal head of this republic, elected monthly and virtually imprisoned for the duration of his tenure, lived in the Rector’s Palace, a grandiose hodgepodge of architectural styles that is now a museum. The jewel of the square is the splendid Sponza Palace, topped by a bell tower, its glorious swirls and colonnades among the only reminders of Dubrovnik’s Renaissance beauty before the calamitous earthquake.
The streets north of Placa are steep, stepped, and full of flowers. Zudioska, or Jew’s Street, is home to one of Europe’s oldest synagogues, founded by a Jewish community expelled from Spain in 1492.
The city walls, punctuated by massive towers and fortresses, offer breathtaking views over the old city. Perhaps the best are from the Minceta Tower, a crenellated giant on the northern flank. By the colorful old port, with its fishing boats and pleasure cruisers, the Dominican Monastery did double duty as fortress and place of prayer, and it contains another delightful cloister set around a garden of palms and orange trees.
Dubrovnik’s charms are not only architectural. It’s always worth rummaging around the morning market on Gunduliceva Poljana, where you will find pungent cheeses and the local firewater, rakija, or stroll down Od Puca to explore the interesting array of galleries and craft shops.