Why Dubrovnik is one of most underrated European destinations ever – Orange County Register

The stone steps were steep and uneven, the difficulty of the ascent exacerbated by the summer heat, but on reaching the top I knew instantly why the walled city of Dubrovnik earned its nickname, “the pearl of the Adriatic.”

On one side of the path, akin to a narrow Great Wall of China, a white stone city steeped in the past bustled with 21st century citizens. On the opposite side, the calm, deep blue Adriatic Sea stretched for miles, uninterrupted except for one red-and-white sailboat.

The Croatian city has been the backdrop for films like the “Game of Thrones” and offers accordingly themed tours, but my friend and I decided to walk the walls at our pace on our own. It takes about an hour to make a full circle, but it took us longer because of the countless photo opportunities.

Every few steps, a new glimpse of the Old City revealed itself. It didn’t take long to feel like we were in a different world. An ideal time to go is in the late afternoon – the path closes before sunset, but it’s kind of fun to be among the last visitors to be escorted out by the guards.

After getting a view of the Old City from above, walk inside  it. The gates don’t close, and the energy in the evening is infectious. In a narrow street we got ice cream cones – mine apple pie flavored – from the popular Dolce Vita shop to cool down. When we left, the UNESCO site was as lively as when we had arrived.

We took a bus north along Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast to Split, a shore-side town known for a fortress-like complex at its center. First, we strolled the Riva boardwalk which was lined with restaurants and remarkably classy. We stopped at the highly recommended Buffet Fife, which serves traditional Dalmatian cuisine like pasticada with gnocchi, a stewed beef cooked in a special sauce poured over soft dough dumplings.

Then we made our way to the Marjan, a hill covered in Mediterranean pines. Steps extended as high up as we could see but even the first lookout point, which…

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