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Check it Out: Dubrovnik

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“Those who seek paradise on Earth must come to Dubrovnik,” wrote George Bernard Shaw. Dubrovnik, also known as “the Pearl of the Adriatic” is one of the most beautiful small cities in Europe. With its intricate maze of medieval-esque streets and cafes, it’s a lovely place to explore, even in the winter. The best time to go weather-wise is Easter or Autumn, in between the chilly rain and summer heat—but the Christmas festivities and month-long July outdoor festival are certainly a fabulous excuse to check out the town. Here are some Must-Sees on our List: 

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  1. For an unforgettable view of sea- and cityscape, walk the famous ancient City Walls. Go early in the morning or late evening to avoid the crowds to watch people weave their way among the maze of Dubrovnik streets. The magnificent fortifications date back to the 10th and 13th centuries, reaching 25m in height at their highest. The main entrance is just outside Pile Gate, and is open from 8am to 5:30pm. Admission is 90 krona and it takes about one hour to make the 2 km (1.24 miles) loop, so be sure to pack water and snacks just in case.

  2. Art lovers and history buffs should head over to the Francisco Monastery (14th century), to admire its stunning Gothic-Romanesque architecture. The library that lies within is one of the biggest in Europe, with over 70,000 books, more than 1,200 of which are manuscripts several centuries old. The monastery also houses the third oldest functioning pharmacy in the world, dating back to 1317.

  3. The 15th-century Rector’s Palace is another worthwhile stop. Its elegant halls feature countless pieces of old furniture, paintings and sculpture, an atrium and a theatrical stage. Nearby, the Archaeological Museum also houses an intriguing collection of hundreds of objects (coins, ceramics, glass), dating back from Prehistoric, ancient Egyptian, Roman and early Christian periods. 

  4. Visitors not afraid of heights can take a cable car out to the top of Mount Srd for about 94 kuna ($15) roundtrip. A clear day will grant you views of up to 35 miles and ample photo opportunities. Go at dusk to watch the sunset over the salmon-colored rooftops. On the top of the mountain is also the intriguing Museum of Croatian War of Independence, located with Fort Imperial and worth a visit. Exhibits include documents, art, photographs, weapons, mines, and explosives. When you’re done you can sample some Mediterranean fare with excellent views at the Restaurant Panorama, located at the upper cable car station.

  5. Dubrovnik would be nothing without its port! You can trace the city’s seafaring history at the Maritime Museum. Located in St. John’s Fortress, exhibits include sailors uniforms, navigational instruments, maps and model ships.

  6. If you’re looking for souvenirs, browse Dubrovacka Kuca in the medieval St. Dominik’s Tower—they have an impressive selection of local rakija, wines, olive oil, honey and truffle products.  For fresh seasonal foods, try the morning open-air market on Grunduliceva Poljana in the old town. Visitors into designer clothes and shoes should drop by Maria Concept Store for the latest in forward fashion.

  7. The more adventurous might consider taking a ferry to Mljet National Park and wandering its many hiking trails and 12th-century Benedictine monastery. You can also take a boat out to the beautiful wildlife reserve of Lokrum (departs every half-hour from the Old City Harbour). Ferry companies operate year round to these destinations, and further to Korcula and Split in warm months. 

  8. On the eastern end of the Stradun Street stands the famous stone column fashioned in the form of a knight. According to legend, Orlando and his fleet defended Dubrovnik from a 15-month-long Saracen siege, and in honor of his memory they erected the column in Orlando’s visage.

  9. If you fancy an excursion, drive out to Plitvice Lakes National Park, and admire the beautiful cascades, and unrivaled pools of bright green and blue. Although there are a few buses, the best way to get there is by car, and may require an overnight, as it’s more than 400 kilometers from Dubrovnik.

Visit Dubrovnik and nearby Split and Istria Peninsula on an Adriatic cruise or roadtrip from Zagreb. Call Willamette Intl Travel to discuss options for traveling throughout Croatia. 

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Vendor of the Month: MIR Trains

The MIR Corporation hosts private train travel throughout Eastern Europe, Central Asia and China. These customizable journeys are scheduled by Seattle-based experts who work closely the Trans-Siberian Express Co. National Geographic Adventure has rated MIR twice as one of the “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth,” and we’re inclined to agree.

Since the fall of the Soviets, this entire region has been opening up, revealing vast histories and complexities. Train is an ideal way to travel through these lands, as many roads and infrastructure have yet to be improved. The train network has existed in this area since the Russians first set down rails in the late 19th century as part of the Great Game political struggle with Britain over India.

The tours will take you on paths as diverse as the Caucasus, Balkans, Silk Route, and the Trans-Siberian Railway. Ride on one of their packaged tours or build one of your own. Their customizable nature allows them to tackle any challenge; within memory they have coordinated with overland 4X4 trips, RTW travelers, and those hoping to catch the solar eclipse in Siberia.

MIR CorporationWhile onboard, you’ll sleep in well-equipped cars, all-inclusive drinks and meals. Stops will be to major highlights on the route, terrific events like the Mongolian horse races or historic monuments like the Kremlin. Wander the Ring of Fire on the wild Kamchatka Peninsula or relish in the rich Mediterranean-like cuisine and wine of Tbilisi.

Your hosts will be English speaking guides who serve as cultural ambassadors. WIT and Mir will also coordinate if you would like to spend extra days before, between, or after you travel. Willamette will also assist you in preparing for all your visas, flight routes, and border requirements before your trip—in order to make sure your trip is enjoyable, authentic and stress-free.

MIR Corporation

For a terrific firsthand report on one client’s tour to on the Trans-Siberian express, check out the link: WIT Client Chet Benson’s train trip from Mongolia to Moscow. He compares Siberia’s green and lush landscape to Oregon: it was “like traveling through an endless series of Willamette Valleys.”

NEW 2012 Space Program: In their recent May 2012 issue, National Geographic Traveler selected Mir’s “Inside the Russian Space Program” tour as a 2012 Tour of a Lifetime. The tour, only available in September, permits guests to witness the manned launch of the Soyuz spacecraft on its way to relieve the crew of the International Space Station. Led by Dr. Steven Lee of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, it will provide exclusive access and insight into Russia’s Space Program. For a fee, you can even attend actual cosmonaut training, ride the world’s largest centrifuge, fly in zero gravity, or climb into a Russian Orlan space suit.

Willamette International Travel is proud work with Mir! Call us for info or to book a tour, at 503.224.0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

Photos courtesy of the MIR Corp

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