The Pearl of the Adriatic

History, architecture and Nature blend seamlessly in the Croatian city of Dubrovnik

Updated - February 25, 2011 08:15 pm IST

Published - February 25, 2011 07:02 pm IST - Chennai



‘Dubrovnik is a small city, but it suffices the world' a Dubrovnik poet of the 16th Century said. And, he's right! Known as the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic', this picturesque city has few rivals for its beauty and architecture. Dubrovnik is said to have reached its golden age in the 16th Century, when Venetian glory and power was on the wane.

This small republic that had no army of its own, brought its defence mechanism by adroit use of diplomatic skills.

Standing tall

We enter the city through a double gate. At 1,940 m long and 25 m high, the gigantic walls surrounding the city are a wonder.

The inner city gate welcomes us with the statue of St. Blaise (by Croatian sculptor Ivan Mestrovic), and we take a long street brimming with architectural brilliance.

We saunter along the paved street, and stumble into the Onfrio's Fountain (by architect Della Cava from Naples, who also designed the Dubrovnik water supply system in 1436). The fountain is, in fact, a pool with 16 sides from which the central structure rises.

In the lower part of the fountain, an ornamental drainage channel is visible. The cupola or dome above is made of bricks, the earlier one of stone being destroyed in the earthquake. Fascinatingly, boys and girls share space with pigeons for a sip of cold water from the fountain.

Next, we visit the Duke's Palace, the city's piece de resistance.

Rebuilt by the famous Giordano Della Cava in the Gothic style, the palace's simple façade belies the grandeur within. We step into the atrium boasting of a wide Baroque staircase. We are told sedan chairs were used to transport royalty to the upper chambers.

The rooms are startlingly beautiful, built as they are in French style. Gilt-edged marble-topped tables, chairs covered in finest petit point, priceless Ming jars from China, ormolu jars and jardinières from Italy, and the carpet, a rich Aubusson, add to the beauty.

A medley of work from the great Masters, including a large painting of Diana, the huntress mesmerises you. The music room houses a grand antique Anton Walter piano and a French antique clock.

The state room mostly has 17th and 18th Century furniture upholstered in ivory and gold. Chandeliers from Vienna hang from an ornate ceiling.

A sight to behold

The bedrooms with their four-poster beds and diaphanous drapes cascading to the bed and wall panels covered in satin are a sight to behold! Paintings of soldiers kidnapping women adorn the walls of the king's domain. Special mention must be made of the secret cabinet with 100 drawers for keeping documents. Jewellery was said to been hidden in wall panels concealed behind glass paintings!

A gilt stand with a gigantic gold-bordered mirror is placed above it to warn the king of a possible stabbing from behind!

Many of the palaces and lofty buildings once housed families of aristocrats and nobles. After Napoleon's conquest, the city's grandeur was enhanced in keeping with French tradition.

One such is the Friars Manor, with its impressive cloister and façade.

The cloister is divided into four symmetrical parts, and in the middle is a small Gothic fountain from the 15th Century. It opens out to the gardens — bursting with date trees, hibiscus flowers, apricots, lemons, olives, parsley, fennel and plenty more!

As sunlight filters through the trees, the smell of freshly-watered grass teases the nostrils and the humming of bees fills your ears, you realise it's magical. And, that's Dubrovnik for you.

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