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The Times Shopper: Dubrovnik

This 'Old Town' Mall Is Right Out of the Middle Ages

October 25, 1987|JENNIFER MERIN | Merin is a New York City free-lance writer .

Dubrovnik's Old Town, surrounded by a thick stone wall, hasn't changed much since the Middle Ages. Cross a moat and go through iron gates to get into town. Cars are prohibited.

The strolling is delightful. Streets are paved with blocks of stone so worn by pedestrians that they shine like marble.

Placa, Dubrovnik's main street, stretches between the western and eastern gates. Narrow side streets, so steep that they're almost entirely made of stairs, lead off both sides and are lined with tall, narrow stone houses. Some of them have been occupied by the same families since the Middle Ages.

Arched doorways frame carved wooden doors and arched windows are adorned with flower boxes. An occasional tree, gnarled with age, snakes up a wall and shades a balcony.

Add sparkling public squares with magnificent fountains and monuments, and dozens of churches whose bells echo hourly through town: You have a post card well worth the buying.

Shopper's Paradise

But that's not all there is to buy. Dubrovnik is not only one of the world's most beautiful towns, it's a shopper's paradise. Boutiques offer handicrafts, beautifully embroidered clothing, charming and useful articles for the home, silver and gold filigree, leather clothing and accessories, and more.

Some products have obviously been manufactured for tourists. Others are rich in tradition and suitable for collectors. Many Placa shops, owned by a large state company called Dubrovkinja, are identified by shop number (rather than name or address), and numbers have seemingly been assigned without regard for location. Salesclerks are able to tell you where a specific shop is.

Dubrovkinja shops sell similar goods at standard prices, but each has special treasures.

No. 201 sells liquor and chocolate. Attractively bottled cherry brandy sells for $3 to $6. Excellent local wines include Malvasija ($3.50), deliciously dry Grk ($2) and a flavorful red wine called Dingac ($4). Kras' thick bars of creamy milk chocolate with hazelnuts ($1) and chocolate-covered cherries ($4 for handsome boxes) are popular gift choices.

No. 703 highlights wooden handicrafts. Intricately carved stools sell for $45, big salad bowls are $13, carved cups cost $2, beautifully turned candle holders are $2.50 and pepper mills cost $4.50. The shop carries colorful rag-weave bedspreads ($20, queen size) of durable cotton and synthetic blends. Handsome woven rugs, 2 by 4 feet, are available in vibrant blue, yellow, red, gray, brown or black ($6).

Books on Cookery

No. 709 offers books on Yugoslav cookery, art and handicrafts, history, culture and travel ($8 to $25). Illustrated children's books about "Petar Pan" and "Pepeljuga," a favorite with Yugoslav tots, are $1.50. Nicely covered notebooks (35 cents to $1.50) and colored pencil sets ($5) are sure to please youngsters.

No. 712 stocks reasonably priced Yugoslav crystal. Samobor's has 24% to 27% lead shot glasses ($45 for six) and small liquor goblets ($60 for six). Zagreb's Pekor factory makes wine glasses with several attractive patterns ($74 for six).

Rogashka, from Llubjiana, presses or cuts 26% lead crystal and manufactures for Wedgwood and Mikasa. Samples bearing their marks are reasonably priced. For example, Mikasa tumblers sell for $58 for six. Paracen's colored cut glass decanter and goblets sets in purple, burgundy or green are $83. Check for bubbles and other imperfections before buying.

No. 713 has leather goods. Attache cases cost $45 and up. Stylish women's suits are $300; men's briefcases, handbags and wallets are inexpensive.

No. 715 has copper coffeepots ($5 to $7), icons ($10), leather and ribbon belts ($4), dolls ($20), embroidered blouses ($43) and sweaters with wave patterns ($59).

No. 716, a jewelry store, has rings and pendants with gems and semiprecious stones set in gold. Styles are attractive. Prices are rather high. Women's rings, zircon in 14-carat gold, cost about $100; men's rings are about $167.

Contemporary Jewelry

No. 720 has contemporary jewelry made by members of the Assn. of Applied Artists, an entrepreneurial alliance in Zagreb. Some earrings and big brooches are made of hand-painted plastic slabs ($5). There are enamel pins and pendants ($3.50) as well as sculptural pins made of folded and crinkled metal ($9).

No. 721 sells hand-thrown ceramics, including pitchers and mugs sets ($27) and large bowls for fruits or salads ($25). Impressive enamel paintings and ashtrays are $12.

Other Placa shops are privately owned. Kalajdisalibovic Zlata offers handmade leather creations. Innovative suede and leather collars in blue, tan, black and gray cost $2, belts to match and in additional colors are $5 to $15. Other belts that hug the hips are ornamented with metal shapes ($34 to $42). Handbags are of leather in combination with felt-backed pieces of embroidered antique aprons ($50 to $66). All made by the shop's designer/owner.

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