Friday, January 29, 2010

The Day of Saint Blaise

The 3rd of February will mark what is said to be the most important day of the Dubrovnik Calendar: the day of Saint Blaise. The festivities will kick-off on Tuesday, February 2nd with the Commemoration of the Defenders of Dubrovnik at the Boninovo Cemetery. The calendar of events then continues throughout the day with various ceremonies, parades, and exhibitions, culminating in the Candlemas ceremony where white doves will be released at Fort Revelin at 20:00. The celebration will start early on Wednesday, February 3rd with the Patriotic Hymn played by the Dubrovnik Brass Band at 7 am. Other events that day will include a mass at the Cathedral in Old Town, a friendly soccer match, and a raffle. If you’re in town during this period, be sure to make some time to join the citizens of Dubrovnik in honoring and celebrating their patron saint.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Beaches in Dubrovnik

Many visitors come to Dubrovnik in search of the perfect beach holiday and with crystal clear waters and nearly perfect weather from May to October, most will have no problem finding it. However, some first-time visitors are surprised to find that Dubrovnik does not offer the kind of white, sandy beaches that are found at many other holiday destinations. Beaches in Dubrovnik and along the Dalmatian coast are generally comprised of small pebbles and rocks whose surfaces have been rounded by the tides. Often, what many locals call “beaches” are merely concrete slabs or large rocks from which swimmers can enter the sea. For those that require at least a pebble beach with a gradual slope to the sea, the following is a list of recommended local Dubrovnik beaches:

Banje Beach: The most popular beach in Dubrovnik and with good reason: the proximity and views to the Old Town are unparalleled. This is about as close as it comes to a sandy beach in Dubrovnik (pebbles are small) and the protection offered by Lokrum Island and the Old Town make it an ideal swimming beach for children. The East West Club offers lounge chair & umbrella rentals and serves cocktails & snacks at the restaurant/bar. The walk down to the beach requires several flights of stairs, but its location just next to the Old Town in the neighborhood of Ploce make it one of the most convenient beaches in Dubrovnik.

Lapad Beach: Another popular beach in a great location, Lapad beach sits at the end of a pedestrian-only street surrounded by restaurants, cafe bars, and ice cream shops. It gets crowded with vacationing families in the summer months, but those who value their privacy can easily find lots of secluded swimming spots just a few meters away if they walk a little further out onto the Lapad peninsula.

Sveti Jakov: Popular with locals, this beach is difficult to reach, but is well worth the several flights of steep stairs required. The pebble beach offers fantastic swimming conditions and great views of the Old Town, which is just 30 minutes away by foot. To reach Sveti Jakov, simply exit the Old Town at the Ploce Gate and walk toward the Excelsior Hotel with Banje Beach on your right. After passing the Grand Villa Argentina, bear to the right down the small side street and continue on to the end. There will be a small church (the church of Sveti Jakov) with the entrance to the beach just behind.

Lokrum Island: A small island easily visible from the Old Town and reachable by ferry from the Old Port. There are a couple of beaches on the island and lots of secluded places for swimming (including one nude beach at the far end). Lokrum makes an easy half-day trip from Dubrovnik and is a great way to escape the summer crowds of Banje beach.

Copacabana Beach: This is Dubrovnik’s most family-friendly beach and one of its most popular. It is located on the Lapad peninsula close to many hotels and shops. The beach club offers many amenities including lounge chairs & umbrella rentals; water sports such as waterpolo, water-skiing, parasailing, scuba diving, and windsurfing; sea slides for children; ice creams stands; and a beach bar. Of course, all these extras attract big crowds in the summer months.

Uvala Lapad: This stretch of beach goes from the center of Lapad to the Dubrovnik Palace Hotel. It is a mix of large rocks, concrete slabs, and small sections of pebble beach. Parking is very difficult to find, but those who come by foot or public bus will be rewarded with an often nearly-empty beach and beautiful, tranquil surroundings.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Three Island Tour

One of the most popular day trips from Dubrovnik is the Elafiti Islands. It is possible to reach them on your own by local ferry boat, but it is difficult to see more than one per day that way. A great way to see all three in one day is the Three Island Tour. The tour leaves from various locations including Gruz Port, Old Town, Lapad, Zupa, Plat, and Cavtat. Aboard an old wooden boat, you will visit the islands of Kolocep; known for its bountiful fruit orchids; Lopud, known for its beautiful sandy beach; and Sipan, famous for its aristocratic history. Tours include a lunch of fish and white wine and entertainment by local musicians. Prices vary by tour operator, but are generally between 40 and 50 Euros per person. It is said that Dubrovnik is best seen from the sea, and this is a great way to explore the area in a short time. Be sure to bring a bathing suit as there are lots of opportunities for swimming along the way.

Tours can generally be booked a day in advance by walking down to the port from which you plan to depart.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A Bit of Serbia Close to Dubrovnik

A short drive inland from Dubrovnik will take you across the border into Bosnia and Herzegovina and to the town of Trebinje. This sleepy town lies on the Trebisnjica River in the southern-most part of the Republika Srpska. Republika Srpska, meaning Serb Republic, is a political entity and territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina mostly inhabited by ethnic Serbs. Despite its close proximity to Dubrovnik (about 45 minutes by car), locals use the Serbian Cyrillic alphabet, which can be seen on most road and business signs. A day trip to Trebinje is a good opportunity to experience Serbian culture and to view the rocky landscapes just inland from the coast.

Trebinje also offers cheaper dining than you will find in Dubrovnik and a fresh fruit and vegetable market with lower prices as well. However, be aware that carrying produce across the border into Croatia is illegal and it may be confiscated by border guards. The town also has a small shopping center, a nice park, and a leafy central square with a selection of outdoor cafes, perfect for enjoying a coffee and soaking up the local culture.

To reach Trebinje by car, simply follow the main road from Dubrovnik toward the airport and turn off to the left just before you reach the entrance to the Getro/Lidl/Spiona Land shopping area (if you descend down into the shopping area then you have gone too far). Follow this road to the border crossing and then follow signs to Trebinje.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Supermarkets in Dubrovnik

Shopping for food in Dubrovnik can be a time consuming task as it often requires several stops. There are a few large supermarkets where you can buy most everything, but finding good, fresh produce can be a bit of a challenge. The following is a list of the supermarkets and produce shops where you can find all that Dubrovnik has to offer:

Konzum: This is the largest supermarket in Dubrovnik and has a slightly better selection of products than the other supermarkets in town, but it is not recommended for fresh produce (which is generally not very fresh). It is located just beside the main bus station and port in Gruz. There are also a couple of smaller Konzum stores inside and just outside of the Old Town.

Tommy: Another medium-sized supermarket with a good selection of products, but with very poor produce. But, what it lacks in produce it makes up for with a great bakery just out front: a good place to buy bureks, bread, and cakes sold whole or by the slice. It is located in the center of Dubrovnik’s business district in Gruz and can easily be reached by public bus from the Old Town.

Pemo: A smaller supermarket near Tommy, but with a better selection of produce and a larger butcher. It is located in a small shopping center with a couple of home and electronic stores upstairs. There is also a smaller Pemo in the village of Zaton.

Bio I Bio: A specialty shop selling mostly organic (“bio”) and healthy food options. It caters to those with dietary restrictions and those who prefer natural, unprocessed foods. It’s also a great place for finding international products from Asia and the Middle East. It is located on the top level of the Mercante shopping center in Gruz, on the same street as Pemo and Tommy.

Kerum: A medium-sized supermarket in a shopping center in Lapad. It has a good selection of products and a decent fresh fish section, but the produce isn’t great. Parking is really difficult to find here, but it’s convenient for those staying nearby in Lapad. There is also a smaller branch in Ploce near the Old Town.

Gruz Market: A large outdoor produce, fish, and flower market located on the Gruz Harbor. This is where you can usually find the best produce and freshest fish, but it is best to arrive early to get a good selection (especially for fish). TIP: When you enter the market, continue past the large tables in front and look for the older women in the back with a smaller selection. The produce is more likely to be locally grown and, though it may not look perfect, will probably taste better.

Batala Market: This place may have a name, but everyone just refers to it by the name of the street it is on: Batala. It’s a small market with a great selection of fruit and vegetables. Most of the produce is local and seasonal, but it is possible to find imports such as pineapples and mangos as well.

: I lump these two stores together because they are both international retailers with stores just across from each other in Zupa Dubrovacka. Both have a selection of international products and fresh produce, as well as random items for the home and clothing. Getro is much larger and has a more reliable stock of items, while Lidl tends to carry whatever happens to be on offer that month with seasonal products being their focus. Lidl often has great produce imported from Italy. Both stores can be seen from the main road traveling from Dubrovnik towards the airport.

: A Slovenian supermarket located in the village of Srebreno in Zupa Dubrovacka. It has an average selection of products with a few extra items imported from Europe that cannot be found elsewhere. The produce is generally not very good, but the fully-cooked, ready-to-eat, roasted chickens make a great fast meal.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Ice Rink Opens in Dubrovnik

Residents of Dubrovnik rang in the New Year with the opening of a new ice rink on January 1st. The rink is located near the parking garage in Ilina Glavica, just 10 – 15 minutes walking distance from the Old Town. It will be open daily from 10 am until 10 pm through the middle of February. An hour on the ice with skate rental costs 20 Kuna. For those that are inexperienced, skating lessons are available for 200 Kuna. A skating rink is a much needed addition to the city, which is otherwise lacking in winter time activities.