Scotland, Europe, the world

Fortified walls encircle the town

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Dinne in Dubrovnik


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Exploring the history and cuisine of Southern Croatia. Words: Susan Nickalls

ccording to George Bernard Shaw ‘those

who seek paradise on Earth should come

to Dubrovnik'. And over the years people have taken his advice and flocked to Croatia's most southerly town to soak up the sun and explore the rich history and culture. But despite becoming a tourist Mecca. Dubrovnik remains unspoilt. Even the brief bombardment at the beginning of the Bosnian war in the l990s failed to cause any lasting damage. Dubrovnik is like a miniature Venice: the Sponza Palace is not unlike the Dodge's Palace and the tantalising narrow

The Excelsior was a magnet for writers, politicians and movie stars including Orson Welles who famously left without paying his bill.

alleyways that branch off the main street are similar to those in Venice and in Split. There's even an equivalent to Rome's Spanish Steps tucked away in a comer of the town.

Although there are no canals in Dubrovnik. water has played an important part in the town's history. Walking down the main street. the Stradun or Placa. at dusk the white marble shimmers like a pool of ice. This is uncanny given that this was indeed a narrow channel of water separating a Latin population on an islet from the Croats on the mainland until the llth century. When it became silted up it was

120 THE LIST 1&2; May 2001

eventually filled in and the two communities were quickly assimilated. Now the wide thoroughfare is lined with shops and cafes and is the place to see and be seen. Most of the night clubs and restaurants. however. are to be found in the alleyways and secondary streets.

When it comes to food. the quality is first rate throughout all of Croatia where the words “GM- free‘ and ‘organic‘ are unheard of because everything. even the drinking water. is of the finest quality. As one would expect from a seafaring town. the main speciality in Dubrovnik is the seafood. Tuck into freshly caught fish such as red snapper. grouper or

mussels. If you're eating the latter. it‘s customary for the waiter to tie a large bib around your neck to protect your clothes. There‘s plenty of restaurants to chose from in the old town the family-run Ragusa is one of the best but it‘s also worth venturing a bit further afield. Just outside the Pile Gate is the Atlas Club Nautika which looks out onto a picturesque cove and the impressive Fortress Lovrijenac perched upon a sheer cliff. On the other side of Dubrovnik is the Tavema Rustica which is part of the Excelsior Hotel. lt‘s expensive but worth it not just for the exquisitely prepared food but for the live music and friendly atmosphere. The restaurant is the former villa of

tuna or a bowl of

archaeologist Arthur Evans who lived there until he was suspected of being a British spy and subsequently expelled. Evans was so inspired by his visit to Dubrovnik he went on to excavate Knossos on Crete and Troy. Many of his possessions from the villa are now in the Ashmolean Museum. The Excelsior was also something of a magnet for writers. politicians and movie stars including Jean Paul Sartre. Margaret Thatcher and Orson Welles who famously left without paying his bill. At the airport 1 e asked the hotel manager what would happen to someone who didn't pay the bill. The manager pointed to two policemen and with a smile Welles promptly paid up.

Eating and drinking is an activity in itself in Dubrovnik but there's no better way to work off the effects of a meal than to take a stroll around the fortified walls that encircle the town. Make sure you set offearly as the gates shut at 3pm.

Like Venice. Dubrovnik is a pedestrian paradise as no cars are allowed across the drawbridges. making sight-seeing a lot more pleasurable. No matter how short your stay. a trip to the island of Lokrum is a must. Apart from the former monastery. now a restaurant. there are few buildings to interrupt the lush vegetation which includes the unusual sight of cacti growing alongside Cyprus trees. The botanical gardens which the monks established is also a surprise. boasting 60 different varieties of Eucalyptus trees. Lokrum really is a little comer of paradise on earth.