Heaven on Earth
Dalmatia - Dubrovnik
Walls are built to protect treasures, and in Dubrovnik this is particularly accurate, with 1,940 metres of stone surrounding one of the world’s most beautiful cities.
“The Pearl of the Adriatic” has captivated and seduced kings and artists for centuries with its immaculate medieval architecture. How will it inspire you?
Where words are not enough.
Where to go
Routes of Old Sea Captains
The routes of the old sea captains traverse an area of turbulent history and struggles for freedom, an area where trade, seafaring and shipping have been developed since ancient times and where life has always been lived in harmony with the sea and the rivers. Visit the ancient home of seafaring on the peninsula of Pelješac in the Maritime Museum in Orebić, the cradle of sea captains; in Korčula, the birthplace of Marco Polo; in the historical city of Dubrovnik, which was an independent republic for centuries, and this treasured tradition has continued in the modern-day sea and river ports of Ploče and Metković. In these parts, nature has crafted the wondrous landscapes of the Neretva Delta, a meeting-place between the river and the sea, the lowlands and the karst, the lake and the wetlands; of the eternal beauty of the Mljet National Park, with its lakes; the Elafiti islands of Koločep, Lopud and Šipan, with their Renaissance atmosphere and the diverse, mellow landscapes of Konavle. Look towards the open sea where fierce battles were once fought, where freedom was defended, and towards which merchant ships sailed the waters with billowing sails.
A city that leaves nobody unmoved
Once upon a time, Dubrovnik was one of the smallest but most important merchant states in the Mediterranean. It had consular offices in more than 80 cities. Its fleet of almost 700 merchant ships rivaled that of Venice. Under the heavenly patronage of St. Blasius and crowned by the famous Libertas banner flying from a high stone pillar guarded by its legendary knight Orlando, Dubrovnik is a city whose story is best told by the city itself. Walk along its main street, Stradun, whose stone pavement has been polished smooth by feet that have walked it for hundreds of years. The city’s glorious walls, fortresses and bastions offer a view of the magical Elaphite islands – Šipan, Lopud and Koločep, scattered like pearls in the azure of the sea. Named Elaphite islands after the Latin word Elaphos for deer, this archipelago, which used to be the habitat of this noble wild game, concentrates all the qualities of the untouched Mediterranean, featuring subtropical vegetation, expansive pine tree forests and olive groves, all surrounded by amazing sandy beaches.
From the Onofrio Fountain to the City bell tower, the filigree-like Gothic and Renaissance facades of the Sponza Palace and the Ducal Palace, the Baroque church of St. Blasius, the Cathedral of the Assumption of Our Lady, or St. Ignatius and the Jesuit College, every step in this town will be an experience par excellence.
Incidentally, should you happen to be here in summer, when Dubrovnik shines with a special glow and when the traditional Summer Festival turns the entire old town into an enchanting setting for this quite unique stage in the world, you will be able to listen to the immortal monologue of the unfortunate Danish prince ringing from the nearby Lovrijenac Fortress perched atop a 37 metre high cliff. Spoken from that venue, Hamlet’s immortal words ‘To be or not to be…’ ring particularly loud.
Explore the fascinating history of the islands
About the time that Marco Polo set sail for terra incognita, his hometown began to develop into a kind of urban sculpture built of stone with regular lines. That sculpture remains well preserved to this day. The streets of Korčula were carefully laid out by a local builder who was also an ingenious town planner. The streets are based on a fishbone pattern and are a true blessing in the summer. Although they bask in the golden glow of the sun both morning and afternoon, the heat of the midday sun is directed around them. If you want to experience the atmosphere of Korčula, may the good winds bring you here in July, when the city plays host to the International Festival of Song and Wine, celebrating the famous traveller, the Festival of Chivalry and the traditional sword dances performed in original costumes dating from the 16th century. The dances depict the struggle between the white king and the black king.
Once a part of the Dubrovnik Republic, the Pelješac peninsula and the small town of Ston, boasting 5.5 km long defensive walls, was a strategic point defending the approach to the famous Republic. Nourished by the graces of warm southern Aeolus, Pelješac is well known to wine lovers as the kingdom of Dingač, the most highly regarded Croatian wine.
The town of Orebić – renowned centre of maritime affairs in the 18th century – is a popular site for visiting art historians. Full of beautiful stone palaces and villas, whose facades reflect the wealth and life of luxury led by the families of seafaring men, and particularly striking for its magnificent gardens containing the most exotic plants that mariners brought from all corners of the world, Orebić is indeed a place that will remain etched in your memory.
If you have ever been inspired by the legend of Odysseus, held captive on an island by the nymph Calypso and have wondered what the famous Ogygia looked like, then the island of Mljet is the place for you.Located in the southernmost part of Croatia, the island has scenery that appears only in picture books of the world’s most beautiful fairy tales. Before your eyes you will see a lake in the middle of the island, and in the centre of that, another small island with a monastery dating from the 12th century. Although Calypso herself may not be nearby, the scene will capture your heart forever and you may never want to leave.