Dubrovnik, in the Dalmatia region of Croatia, is recognised by UNESCO as a town of special interest. It is home to many historical monuments, such as Orlando’s Pillar. It also contains a number of ancient palaces and fascinating museums. On the many available day trips from Dubrovnik there are some wonderful sights to be seen. Not far from the city is the Pelješac peninsula, where the stone town of Ston is situated. South of Dubrovnik is Mljet Island. This is where you will find a famous Benedictine monastery dating back to the 1100s, established on an island in the centre of a lake.
Dubrovnik is famed for its Ston oysters and mussels, said to be the Adriatic’s best shell fish. It is also known for its frog and eel stew, originating in the Neretva valley. It is here that you will find more sweet pastries than any other seaside town. The best known are Kotonjata and Rožata, while Arancina and Mantalata cakes are also very popular. The best wines in this part of Croatia are Pelješac’s Postup and Dingac, as well as Korcula’s Grk and Pošip. Dubrovnik itself produces the very fine malvasia, from Konavle.
Croatian continental dishes generally have early proto-Slavic origins. In more recent times, as Croatia has developed closer ties with countries which have very specific style of cooking, such as Hungary, Austria and Turkey, dishes using freshwater fish, various cuts of meat, and vegetables have become more popular. These ingredients now feature in the majority of continental Croatian dishes.
Croatia’s coastal dishes have been heavily influenced over the centuries, as one would expect, by Greek, Roman and Illyrian styles of cooking. In more recent times, Mediterranean styles – in particular Italian and French – have also featured highly. As cuttlefish, squid, shrimp octopus and lobster are all readily available here, a number of different preparation and cooking methods using prosciutto, olive oil and vegetables are employed to create delicious seafood dishes.
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Bana Jelacic Square is Zagreb’s main square, honouring Count Josip Jelacic. This high achieving army general abolished serfdom and conducted a number of successful military campaigns in the 1848 Revolutions. Although the square’s official title is the Trg Bana Jelacica, locals generally just refer to it as Jelacic Square. You will find it in Zagreb’s Upper Town, not far from Dolac market. A large number of streets, like Radiceva, Illica, Gajeva, Splavnica, Bakaceva, Harmica and Jurišiceva, all meet at this pedestrianised area where no cars can enter, so those on foot and bicycles have greater freedom to explore. Watch out for the trams, however!
Stone Gate (or Kamenita Vrata, as it is known in Croatian) originally was one of five gates in the fortified walls surrounding Gradec (today known as the Old Town of Zagreb), which guarded access to the district. The Stone Gate allowed access to the eastern side. These days, it is the only gate left standing, and is an excellent place from which to begin your explorations of the Old Town. It is said that this was the only structure left standing after the destruction of 1731, as it was decorated with a picture of Jesus and Mary. In order to preserve this picture which had brought about such a miracle, a church was built around it and it now can be viewed inside a case. Worshippers regularly visit to pray here.
You have not properly seen Dubrovnik unless you have explored its city walls, which encircle the Old Town of the city. These symbols of the city were built in the 1200s and over the centuries up to the 1500s they were modified and strengthened. Today, they are the best preserved of their kind in the world, over a mile in length and as much as 82 feet high. Due to their height, they offer amazing views of Dubrovnik and the sea beyond. Enter the walls beside the Pile Gate and watch Shakespearian plays being performed on the Lovrjenac Fort terrace when the Summer Festival comes to town.
The Rector’s Palace dates back to the late 1400s, when a grand residence was required for the rector of Dubrovnik. He was not allowed to leave the palace during his term of office, lasting one month, unless the senate allowed him to do so. These days, it is a fine museum and plays host to Summer Festival concerts. This Gothic-Renaissance building is intricately decorated with brilliant sculptures – despite being rebuilt a number of times over the centuries one would have to look closely to see that not all sections belong to the original structure.
Kvarner is definitely one of the most beautiful regions in Croatia, as this is where you will find the awe-inspiring Absytrus Islands of Krk, Cres and Lošinj. Absytrus was the brother of Medea. The islands that are named after him are steeped in history and legend. The internationally known Apoxiomen, by the Greek sculptor Lizip, was discovered off the coast of Lošinj in the late 90s. This athlete cast in bronze dates back to the 4th century B.C. The famous Baška tablet was discovered on Krk. The Crikvenica, Rijeka, Opatija and Vinodol Rivieras are also located in the Kvarner region.
The most popular drinks in the Kvarner region are Vrbnicka Žlahtina, a white wine produced in Vrbnik, and Trojšcina, a white wine produced on Susak Island. These are soaked up by Kvarner scampi (the Adriatic’s biggest and best), lamb served with sheep cheese or šurlice, a type of pasta from Krk Island eaten with seafood or goulash. Rab cake and Lovran chestnuts finish off a traditional meal in this region of Croatia.