Once upon a time there was a land called Yugoslavia. It was full of enchanted forests and beautiful scenery and was ruled by an enlightend despot named Joseph Broz Tito. It was nominally Communist, but they didn’t really care all that much about ideology, except, perhaps for keeping Tito in power for as long as he kept breathing. He kept the peace and the Soviets out, and sometime around 1950, his regime decided that tourism was something that should be encouraged for it’s own sake, and right there on the coast was a little walled town surrounded by beautiful hills and an azure sea. The place was Dubrovnick, and is as cute a resort town as you’ll find in these parts, and developed a reputation as the coolest place in the Eastern bloc.
Tito died in 1980, and Yugoslavia was kept together by fear of Soviet invasion. Then in 1989, the Soviets let it out that they weren’t going to do that sort of thing anymore and all of a sudden the Eastern bloc had fallen apart, and so had Yugoslavia. The central government tried to keep the country together by force, there’s a big sign on the walls of Dubrovnick showing exactly where Yugoslav bombs hit. (It wasn’t just Serbia then). The whole thing would get a whole lot uglier to the north in Bosnia, but the Serbs pretty much gave up on Croatia in general and Dubrovnick in particular, leaving a bizarre-but-delightful mixture of medieval Europe and the Caribbean on this small peninsula near the southeastern tip of the Croatian coast.
With Communism long gone, the locals have gotten into tourism big time. Outside the walled village, to call it a city would be a little much, there are dozens of resort hotels up and down the peninsula catering to anywhere from movie stars to backpackers, getting oneself into one of the ritzier resorts would be a challenge, but as I only had a few hours, I would have to concentrate on the old town, which after all is the main attraction.
Dubrovnick’s secondary attraction is its size. The whole town is tiny, with the possible exception of the main square, and with the streets on the northern side little more than sidewalks, or in some cases, stairways, there’s an intimate, claustrophobic feel to everything, there are churches everywhere, baroque things full of centuries-old paintings, and little room for more than a few dozen worshipers at a time. There’s also a synagogue, but mostly what there are, are museums, restaurants and internet cafes. I’ve never seen so many of those things in a single place before. Computers everywhere! Very strange indeed. The prices for food and drink aren’t all that bad either. There are lots of places which offer really good seafood, or so I’m told, and the place I did go to had excellent fried squid. The people working the multitudinous cafes are rather nice about letting one sit there for extened periods of time, assuming of course you buy a drink or two, and this is a wonderful town to practice the art of people watching. There is also an secret entrance in one of the seaward walls to a beach, this has an excellent view of the harbor.
I’m not really sure if you can stay in the old town, but there’s a really good, if always crowded mass transit system, so getting to a hotel is easy. Dubrovnick is undoubtedly just as nice a resort as you can find anywhere else in the Adriatic.