“If you want to see heaven on Earth, come to Dubrovnik”
Who said this? Playwright George Bernard Shaw when touring the east coast of the Adriatic Sea in 1929. His immortal words are echoed by those who visit Dubrovnik in 2020. Croatia, one of the few European countries welcoming US tourists during the pandemic, is definitely open for business but not overwhelmed by mass tourism like in recent years.
That means no unruly cruise ship crowds invading Stradun, the main pedestrian street of Dubrovnik’s Old Town. No hours-long wait for a table at one of the panoramic restaurants atop the city walls. And just like Venice, its maritime rival throughout the centuries, the quality of life for Dubrovnik residents is improved by a little less “love” from its legions of international fans!
Tourism is the lifeblood of the Croatian economy and one of Dubrovnik’s main income streams. However, this city is uniquely placed to understand the restrictions imposed by COVID-19. It was here that quarantine was developed over 650 years ago. Modern day travelers will be glad to know all that’s needed to enter Croatia this season is a negative PCR test not older than 48 hours and confirmation of paid accommodation in a hotel, villa or boat.
A Medieval City Designed Around Quarantine
The concept of quarantine dates back to 1377 when Dubrovnik’s Great Council passed a ground-breaking law to prevent the spread of the dreaded bubonic plague. All incoming ships and trade caravans arriving in the city from infected areas were required to isolate for one month. This was later prolonged to 40 days (“quarantine” derives from the Italian word quaranta, or “forty”).
In 1627 ten, interconnected stone buildings for quarantine were constructed right outside the Ploče Gate. Today the Lazaretto complex has been restored as the creative hub of Dubrovnik. Art exhibitions, concerts, workshops, lectures and theatrical events are hosted here, bringing new life to this historic structure.
Dubrovnik’s Walls Are the Finest in the World!
No hostile army ever breached these massive city walls during the Middle Ages. And no one should leave Dubrovnik without walking their circumference. The views over the Old Town and the shimmering Adriatic are spectacular!
The entrance at Ploče Gate on the east side of town is less busy than the other two. We recommend starting your wall walk here. It takes about two hours to do the whole 2 km. circuit. There’s precious little shade so bring water and wear a hat and sunscreen, too.
Surreal Sunsets From Mt. Srd
A cable car whisks you up Mt. Srđ for a view that takes in the walled city below, the Elafiti islands to the west, and the mountains directly behind you. This extraordinary vantage point made Srđ a key battleground during the 1990s Homeland War.
Focus on the rooftops in the city below to see the extent of war damage. Those with bright new terracotta tiles were hit by shells and had to be replaced.
Rocky Cliffs & Olive Groves on Lokrum Island
Lokrum Island makes for a great half-day trip from Dubrovnik. You can catch a ferry to and from the Old Harbor throughout the day. Once there, you’ll notice all the free-roaming bunnies and peacocks that crisscross the wooded island. And Game of Thrones was partly filmed on Lokrum. The Benedictine monastery even boasts a replica of the Iron Throne!
A saltwater lake in the middle of the island dubbed the “Dead Sea” is a popular place for a swim. Or there’s also a nudist beach; just head left from the ferry and follow the signs marked FKK.
We’re all searching for a little “heaven on earth” at the moment and there’s only one way to find out if Mr. Shaw’s observation holds any weight…