Highlights of Old Dubrovnik

Highlights of Old Dubrovnik
One of the many architectural beauties in Dubrovnik.

Old Dubrovnik (or “Ragusa” as it was called in the Medieval ages) is a wonderful town for the history buff, who can wander for hours with a guidebook looking at buildings, and the amateur photographer, who can capture the details of atmosphere and architecture without regard for the madding crowds.

We arrive early to roam atop the fortification walls (admission $10/person), which only those in relatively good stair-climbing shape should attempt, sunscreen in hand. We make more than half the three-hour circuit on the wide and undulating brick path, enjoying views of aquamarine sea and cannon portals on the outside (Bokar Bastion and Lovrijenac Fortress shown below) and time-worn lanes on the inside. Then we climb down to have a cappuccino and toast, and read the Herald Tribune.

For lunch, we meet Vido B. and his wife. Vido is a former machinery engineer in long-distance shipping—once the major industry in these parts—and now a politician. He tells us a bit about the life, how it stopped being much fun because improvements in the speed of loading and offloading meant you wouldn’t be spending more than eight hours or so in any port, and the industrial ports were far from their cities. He drives us back across the Tudmana bridge and down to the bayside, to a small restaurant hidden below the road at water’s edge. We can see black sea urchins among the stones in the clear water from our table. Vido orders an excellent pošip—Krajancic’s “Intrada,” possibly the best pošip we’ve had—and eat very good quality marinated anchovies, fish carpaccio, pickled tiny shrimp… Then we have a risotto duo, one with shrimp and a rustic variation with squid ink, and move into the sunshine for a dessert of crepes with burnt-orange caramel.

Imposing fortifications of Dubrovnik.

Back at the hotel, we again take the bus to the old city and visit the excellent wine shop next to the Arsenal Taverna, which carries many hard-to-find Croatian wines, as well as jars of marvelous fig preserves with various flavorings such as orange and cocoa. Vido has recommended a restaurant for dinner, and after wandering the back streets for a while, seeing what we see, we settle ourselves on the lovely rooftop terrace of the seafood restaurant Proto. I order a glass of Grk, a white grape from Korcula which is medium full-bodied and floral, and we have a Greek salad that turns out to be excellent, along with a plate of assorted seafood: cured salmon, a carpaccio of a white-fleshed fish, and pickled shrimp. It occurs to us that any of the coastal white wines we have had—from malvasia in Istria south to even the workhorse marastina grape in the Pelješac—would pair brilliantly with this seafood. Then we share shrimp in a red sauce atop polenta, and a Dubrovnik-style panna cotta for dessert. This is probably the most expensive restaurant we’ve been to on this trip, but the service is excellent and the fish ultrafresh, and we linger, watching swallows swoop between the upper stories of houses. Early in the morning we leave for Zagreb.