Over 1,100 miles of coastline, in excess of 1,200 islands lapped by the calm blue waters of the Adriatic Sea, Croatia, a country that boasts a history and culture that is second to none.
Dubrovnik, a walled city dating back to the 7th century which through the course of time has come under the domain of several empires and rulers, the last being Yugoslavia until the breakup in 1991 creating the Republic of Croatia.
Dubrovnik’s walled city became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979 enjoying many thousands of visitors each day as they arrive by road, air and sea. Cruise ships on a daily basis disembark thousands of passengers’ eager to visit a city they have read so much of, and they will not be disappointed. Enter through one of the city gates and wonder at a world going back over centuries where Saint Blasius has been the Patron Saint since 971. The original church bearing the same name, badly damaged by the earthquake of 1667 and finally destroyed by fire in 1706 was rebuilt in Baroque style with the main alter adorned by a gothic statue of St. Blasius in silver that is gold plated. Climb the steps and walk the 1,940 metres of walls from where the views are spectacular. Meander the old cobbled streets, immerse yourself in the culture of this ancient city, peruse shops selling handmade dolls, jewellery, items of local glass and pottery, small restaurants and wine bars that are all part of the history.
Time for lunch and time to leave the tourist trail behind, escape by cable car to the Imperial Fort built by Napoleon in 1812, 405 metres above the city. The modern cable car completes the journey in less than 4 minutes during which time just relax and take in the views that get better and better as you soar higher and higher. At the summit step out into a welcomed cooling breeze, enjoy a lunch at the Panorama Restaurant and take in the spectacular views not just of the old walled city but far beyond in a vista stretching 180 degrees.
Returning to the town suitably refreshed check out the old monastery, town hall and on
the hour, hear the peel of bells as they ring out from towers of the many churches and public buildings. As the sun begins to set, shadows grow longer and night descends on the old city, the tourists leave and what’s left is the walled city wearing a new suit of clothes. Buildings are bathed in soft illumination from hidden lamps, the beautiful stone work standing out against the night sky, streets lit by old lamps that have been converted to electricity making the cobbles and flag stones shine where they have endured the footfalls of thousands over the centuries. Visit the Wine Bar Dingac Skaramuca for a wine tasting, sip a selection of Red, White and Rose wines produced by this family business from their vineyards on the Peljesac Peninsular. Sit outside, relax in the cool evening air, soak up the atmosphere whilst sampling some of Croatia’s finest wines.
Time to return to the hotel, the Valamar Dubrovnik President, one of Dubrovnik’s luxury hotels situated on the Babin Kuk Peninsula affording spectacular views across the Adriatic Sea and Elaphiti Islands. The rooms leave nothing for the asking. Bathrooms with large shower cubicle, separate bath with shower, twin hand basins, a range of quality toiletries, magnified shaving mirror, hair dryer and large white soft towels. Queen size bed, large soft pillows, bath robes and slippers plus hanging and drawer space to accommodate a full wardrobe of clothes, flat screen TV, dressing table, mini bar and much more. A lounge area with comfy settee, arm chair and table leading to the spacious balcony furnished with sun loungers, table and chairs, from here gaze upon those spectacular views across the sea to the islands beyond. Relax with a glass of chilled local Rose wine, watch the small yachts and luxury cabin cruisers as the ply their way through the calm blue sea or in the late afternoon watch the cruise liners leaving port for the open sea, the decks thronged with passengers saying farewell to Dubrovnik.
Morning brings a blue sky, sunshine and a view that will always remain in the memory. Breakfast on the terrace bathed in early morning sunshine is a must. Sipping a glass of the freshest Orange Juice you have ever sampled whilst looking out on the blue Adriatic, there is no better way to start the day. The buffet, offering a varied selection of fruit, meats, eggs and wonderfully light fluffy omelettes from the cooking station washed down by several choices of coffee all personally served. The hotels features are endless, indoor and outdoor pools adorned with sun loungers topped by thick mattresses, private beach, Piano Bar, Beach Bar, Wellness Bar, speciality restaurants with food that not only has the taste buds tingling but presented almost as an art formation. The private Wellness Spa offers the very best in body and facial treatments, where massage is expertly carried out with tired limbs and muscles rejuvenated, in quiet relaxing surroundings.
A few minutes’ walk away and back from the beach is the Valamar Lacroma Dubrovnik Hotel sharing the same mesmerising views across the Adriatic and Elaphiti Islands. Boasting a luxurious spa, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, rooms capturing breath taking views from their large balconies, mouth watering dishes from the buffet and for that special occasion the opportunity to sample gourmet dining in the Langusto Restaurant. This hotel features the largest conference hall in Dubrovnik with facilities to match and it is open all year round.
34 miles north of Dubrovnik sits the small town of Ston a one time fort surrounded by high inner walls 890 metres long but with outer walls stretching a breath taking 5 kms, the second longest in the world after The Great Wall of China. This town is home to salt production dating back to the 13th century. Opening the sea canal floods 58 pools sub divided into 5 groups where the water journeys through 5 stages. The 9 pools dealing with the final crystallisation are all named after saints and produce up to 500 tons of salt a year. In 1996 an earthquake destroyed or badly damaged 90% of the houses and buildings but in the last 20 years these buildings have been rebuilt with local stone giving a mix of old and new blending so well together. The small town features some wonderful restaurants and cafes to relax in before proceeding to Mali Ston, home of what is said to be the world’s best oyster. Arriving at the water front wander the quayside, take a trip on one of the oyster boats moored by the ‘Old Tower’, cruise the Bay of Mali Ston passing Oyster beds in various stages of growth, stop at the small palm covered pontoon and sample Oysters freshly taken from the bay washed down with what else other than chilled sparkling white wine. Return to the small jetty only yards from the Bota Sare Restaurant renowned in the area for its seafood cuisine. Lunch is a mouth watering array of Mussels, Squid, Tuna, White Fish washed down with a delightful chilled Rose wine. Lunch finished we drive back along the coast with its spectacular views of the islands bathing in the late afternoon sunshine bringing the trip to a close.
Croatia without doubt is a country that has much to offer. History, friendly people, wonderful food, class leading wines, hotels to satisfy the most discerning traveller, a climate that cannot fail to please and last but not least, that wonderful blue Adriatic Sea. Goodbye Croatia and thank you.
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