World Heritage city sees booming makeover, rebirth
In just a few weeks the terrace of the Hotel Excelsior will be singing again after months of silence.
Without a doubt there will also be a few jaws dropping, whether they be among guests delighted with the $20-million makeover of one of this city’s landmarks, or dumbstruck by the better-than-ever views of Dubrovnik’s walled old town from the hotel’s revamped Piano Bar.
It’s been a long, hard climb from there to here for the five-star Excelsior, which has been a target of war and a shelter for refugees, but is still the place to stay if you are looking for a room with a view of this UNESCO World Heritage city.
Come late May, the Excelsior will reopen after an extensive, seven-month makeover aimed at helping set new standards in this former war-torn city which has its sights firmly fixed on wowing the world.
Dubrovnik, Croatia, has been doing that one step at a time, first by fighting to free itself of socialist rule under the Yugoslav government, then by rebuilding its bombed-out labyrinth of medieval streets, houses and churches, one stone and one red-tile roof at a time.
But as each hotel reopens, they are coming back better than Dubrovnik’s fiercely proud residents could have imagined as they wandered the burning streets in tears, surveying the ruin that resulted before shelling was stopped, thanks to intense international, and UNESCO, pressure to protect one of the world’s rarest showcases of art and architecture from the Venetian, Renaissance and Baroque periods.
“Dubrovnik has always had five-star hotels. But you can't compare five stars before the war and after the war,” says Jasna Durkovic, a longtime Dubrovnik resident and general manager of the Hotel Excelsior.
“After the war, it took five years to convince the world that this is a safe place. Now, we think, Dubrovnik will be a five-star destination that can be compared with Nice or Monte Carlo or the Cote d’Azur.”
- A staggering 40 per cent of Dubrovnik's hotel rooms are still closed or undergoing massive renovations more than a decade after this tourism gem became a prime bombing target during the 1991 to 1995 Croatian war of independence, known here as the Homeland War.