Home' Get Up and Go : Spring 2013 Contents Discover A Whole New
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The hot August day hardly cools
as sunset looms. Sipping chilly
Ozujsko beers at a hole in the
wall cafe eases the heat. But this is no
ordinary cafe. Stepping through its
nondescript doorway is akin to entering
another world. One minute you’re
wandering the mediaeval alleyways
within the UNESCO listed walled
section of Dubrovnik’s Old Town,
marvelling at the aristocratic palazzi
and Baroque churches, and the next,
literally emerging through a ‘hole in
the wall’ onto a small landing perched
high above the cobalt blue Adriatic Sea.
(Instructions on how to find it later.)
From there Cafe Buža unfolds down
a series of terraced rock ledges hewn
to the limestone cliffs with little more
than narrow metal railings preventing
you from tumbling towards Italy.
Once the gasps recede, find a seat,
place your order, settle down and
drink in a vista typical of the local
area: yachts under a gentle tack, locals
lounging around and the scent of char-
grilled seafood not far off. If you can
tear yourself away from this sublime
idyll, catch the cable car to the summit
of nearby Mount Srd for a stunning
panorama, which on a clear day, lets
you appreciate the scale and layout
of the walled city and takes in a large
part of coastal Croatia.
Europe on a platter
Dubrovnik’s Old Town is one of those
rare travel experiences; a pedestrian-
only precinct, steeped in history
(much of it under siege), bustling in
parts but with pockets of serenity to
get lost in. Wandering around imbues
a sense of wonder, but also a sense of
displacement, as if all of Europe at
some stage had staked a claim here. See
the curling staircase above Gundulić
Square and be instantly reminded of
Rome’s Spanish Steps; note the 17th-
century Baroque cathedrals abutting
Gothic palaces or Renaissance
mansions and think Budapest; linger
in cafe Gradska Kavana and be
teleported back to fin de siècle Vienna.
And the cuisine, like the architecture
and language, reflects Dubrovnik’s
geopolitical standing as a once-great
maritime power wedged between East
and West. While seafood abounds,
Dalmatian food borrows heavily from
Italy, but is earthier. Risotto becomes
rizot (with a hint of Hungarian
paprika) and wafer thin prosciutto
becomes the exquisite air-dried prsut.
(Add a fresh fig and sharp paski sir
cheese for a taste of Greece.) If you
somehow tire of the superb fish,
prawns, octopus, and the famous
Ston oysters, there’s always goulash
or Turkish kebab skewers (raznjici).
Look for a local wine called Grk -
that’s not a typo, but a divine white
with the subtle sweetness of Sauternes.
Few cities are defined by a wall as much
as Dubrovnik. The two-kilometre
winding battlement surviving today is
the result of what was first begun in
the Middle Ages. Surviving the 1667
earthquake virtually intact, it reaches
almost 25m at the highest point. The
wide walkway on top, with its cafes,
look-out posts, watch towers, forts
and intimate views into the Old Town
as well as out to sea, make a stroll
along its ramparts mandatory.
From this vantage point you can
see the reddish terracotta tiles rippling
across the town’s roofs. Look closely;
more recent repairs using slightly
different coloured tiles are one of the
few reminders today of the seven-month
artillery siege Dubrovnik endured
during the breakup of the former
Yugoslavia republic in the early 1990s.
Back down on the ground, it’s best to
enter the Old Town through the west
gate (Pila), which takes you across a
wooden drawbridge. Past a series of
left and right turns (another part of
the wall’s defensive mechanism) comes
the impressive Onofrio fountain. After
that, the broad marble boulevard
known as the Stradum – buffed to a
smooth sheen by centuries of weather
and walkers – stretches eastwards
towards the harbour. Breathtaking.
The alluring difference
Sure, it’s a scene that could easily
be replicated in a hundred different
European locales, but in Dubrovnik’s
Old Town it’s somehow different.
Perhaps we should simply take George
Bernard Shaw’s advice: “Those who
seek paradise on Earth should seek it
Plus, occupying prime Mediterranean
real estate as it does, with the climatic
and culinary advantages that that
bestows, this unspoiled, sophisticated,
cosmopolitan walled speck on the edge
of Europe has one thing nowhere else
in the world can claim: a cafe like Buža.
To get there (and this is best done
in daylight hours the first time) head
down the eastern end of the Stradum
towards the 15th century Venetian
clocktower. Near the Church of St
Blaise, turn right and pass the farmers’
market (if early morning) heading up
towards the Jesuit Church on Bošković
Square. From there, keep a look out
for, and then follow the hand-painted
signs pointing to “COLD DRINKS
with the most beautiful view”. •
LEFT: Strada of Dubrovnik. The Strada is
the main shopping street and gathering
area in the city of Dubrovnik in Croatia.
Dubrovnik’s Old Town encloses a rare and enticing city.
Grant Doyle enjoys the views.
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