Destination Dalmatian Riviera:
Paradise on Earth
Story and photos by Tom Weber
"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.
Ah, it looks like a great start to my second
day of my very short stay in "paradise," and, sadly, the very
last day of this incredible 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.
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,
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 Napoleon's armies before becoming
subsidiaries of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Dubrovnik's Old Town 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.
Taking about 90 min. from start to finish,
care to make the climb up and circumnavigate this impressive piece of
history with me?
It's now nearing sunset as the Insight
motor coach comes to a full stop in the Port of Gru.
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. ivjeli!
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
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 off this scrumptious feast
with an espresso and a sinful slice of chocolate délice in a
Grab a knife, fork and glass for 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 a fond farewell. 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 right on the head when he pronounced Dubrovnik "paradise
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