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Getting Down in Dubrovnik

Thursday, 06 September 2001 12:00 AM

The jet-set Mecca of the Rat Pack and cocktail generations has re-emerged from the ashes of war to recapture its place as a chic seaside stopover.

As with the rest of Croatia and neighboring Slovenia, this bucolic outpost on the Adriatic captures the cutting-edge allure of East Bloc breakdown and the magical mélange of post-communist chic.

Dubrovnik has its own unique flavor. Here, Cold War kitsch is substituted by a savoir-faire sophistication of a bygone era.

The city is set amid the dramatic backdrop of ancient stone walls jutting out from the crystalline waters, whose colors range from the greenest turquoise to the deepest blue.

Croatia's idyllic beaches offer translucent crystal blue/green waters with perfect temperatures similar to the French Riviera. The rocky underwater reefs abound with sea life, making for perfect snorkeling and diving.

Dubrovnik beaches are characteristically rocky, but unlike other rocky shores, this one consists of huge slabs of smooth rock on which to dry off and sunbathe after diving into the refreshing sea.

Climb up and walk along the medieval city walls. Encircling Stari Grad (Old City) with a circumference of 2 km, and reaching 25 meters in height, they offer a magnificent view of the harbor and the Adriatic Sea and an interesting vantage point over the interior of this fascinating seaport.

As a free republic from 1272 to 1808, the people of Dubrovnik were among the first to abolish the slave trade (in 1416), and recognized the United States of America in 1783.

During the recent war that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia, much of the surrounding hillsides were controlled by the Serbs, who shelled this Dalmatian pearl in an effort to force the city into submission.

Today, the only traces of Serb destruction are the bright red rooftops that stand in stark contrast to the older brownish ones, which escaped the shelling relatively intact. The city's fountains are fed by an ancient underground aquifer, which helped save the populace during the Serb siege.

This city has retained much of its Old World grace intact, resisting both Serb onslaught and the tacky tourism in which other historic beach resorts often fall prey.

As the older generation sails into the sunset, a younger one now carries the torch, throwing huge raves amid the lavish ruins of the Hotel Belvedere, rendered to a charcoaled edifice by the Serb artillery in the not-so-distant past.

Amid this eerily dilapidated chic setting, are held the periodic Summer Vac open-air festival, offering the latest electronic grooves from cutting-edge European DJ's heralding from the Balkans to the U.K. and Germany. (Check out summervac.com for more information.)

Vital Info: Country Code: 385, City Code: 20

Exchange Rate: $1.00 USD = 8.46800 HRK (Croatia Kuna)

Transportation: Croatia Airlines services most major European cities to Zagreb, from which it is easy to catch a connecting flight to Dubrovnik airport.

Croatian National Tourist Board: 800-829-4416, or on the web at htz.hr . The Dubrovnik Tourist Board can be reached by phone on 385 20 26 303, or on the web at laus.hr/dubrovnik

Hotel Vila Dubrovnik, Vlaha Bukovca, 6. (tel: 42 29 33). Once the hangout for Communist Party elite and traveling diplomats, this hotel oozes with old school cool. Check out the private romantic rocky coves and beach below the hotel. Rates for a double room are $160 during the high season (summer).

Hotel Excelsior, Frana Supila, 12. (41 42 12/35 33 53 or on the web at hotel-excelsior.hr). Offers private bathing area, large sea view rooms, and fairly decent restaurant. Rates for a double room are $240 during the high season (summer).

Traditional Dubrovnik dishes are heavy on the seafood, but also include roasted meats, cheeses, and prsut (prosciutto). The prsut is legendary and should not be missed, as is the sheep's cheese.

The fresh seafood is prepared a variety of ways, fried and charcoal grilled are excellent. Try the fried sardines. The grilled fish is usually accompanied by an incredible garlic sauce.

Rozata is a favorite custard-like dessert.

The wines are superb and the beers are fairly decent too. Among the best wines are those from the Plavac grape. Dingac (a red wine) is superb. Ozujsko and Karlovacko beers are best. Aperitifs and after dinner-liqueurs abound. Travarica is a grape brandy with medieval herbs, a potent concoction that is nonetheless easy on the palate, with a smooth, spicy bouquet.

Loza is a local form of grappa that comes from the inland, it is usually consumed cold in the morning with figs. The ubiquitous Balkan Slivovic, is a plum brandy, and quite strong.

Nautika Restaurant, Brsalje, 3. (Tel: 44 25 26/44 25 73). Situated in a 19th Century building that used to house the Dubrovnik Nautical Academy, this elegant restaurants serves exquisite Dubrovnik dishes, with an emphasis on seafood, in a romantic seafront setting.

Konobe are rustic taverns serving traditional food in homey settings.

Antunini, Prijeko, 30. (Tel: 422 349). Serving home style local cuisine for over seventy years in a rustic setting with elegant touches like crystal chandeliers.

"Rozarij," Prijeko, 2. (Tel: 321 257). Traditional Dalmatian cuisine and regional wines in a quaint outdoor setting. Try the fried fish.

Buffets are nothing more than takeout sandwich stands serving the freshest prsut sandwiches wrapped in fresh baked breads are a good reliable staple any time of day.

Skola, Antuninska 1. Sandwiches are thin on the prsut, but serve thick slices of fluffy bread.

Delfin, Lucarice 2. Thicker slices of prsut wedged between thin crusty bread.

Caffé Libertina, Zlatarska 3

Talir, Cubranoviceva 7

Gradska Kavana (City Café). Dr. Ante Starcevica 7. Old world grandeur abounds in this century old café that remains remarkably unchanged since the 1950's.

Troubadour, Buniceva poljana 2. Indoor cozy pub with eclectic old school 19th century decor; outside patio on a corner cobbled square is where the real action is, offering the best live jazz in town. Sesame Dante Alighieria bb (412 910). Located just outside the walled city, this historic artist café (since 1880) offers evening live jazz.

Lazareti. (On the Harbor, just outside the walled city, at the south entrance) 18th century quarantine warehouse for sailors, it is now a club and artist gallery that is the hub for AWL (Art Workshop Lazareti), a local underground art, music and theatre collective, that promotes local and international art exhibitions, film festivals, DJ's and experimental electronica, art video and visual arts.

Otok, Pobijana 8. After-hours chill out lounge cum speakeasy/artist gallery for AWL (behind an unmarked door off a side alley), where underground artists and mainstream clubbers co-mingle.

"Old Hospital." Dr. Ante Starcevica 41. An abandoned hospital turned youth hostel and club where a younger crowd turns out to hear DJ's and live bands churning out hardcore beats.

Divinae Follie. Put Vatroslava Lisinskog, 56. (tel: 435 677). The largest club in Dubrovnik, located just 15 minutes driving distance from the walled city. In a chic outdoor setting the DJ booth is encircled by the dance floor, which is encircled by posh bars.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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The jet-set Mecca of the Rat Pack and cocktail generations has re-emerged from the ashes of war to recapture its place as a chic seaside stopover. As with the rest of Croatia and neighboring Slovenia, this bucolic outpost on the Adriatic captures the cutting-edge...
Thursday, 06 September 2001 12:00 AM
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