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The Yugoslavs did not change the name of Italy's best resort, the islands of Brioni, when this subtropical archipelago, with the rest of the east Adriatic coastline, passed to Tito's control after World War II. A prewar Baedeker listed five hotels on Brioni with 370 rooms, 20 of them with private bath, and available in that era at anywhere from $2.50 to $7 a day, meals included. From May to November there was bathing on a sandy beach seven minutes from the hotel, golf on an 18-hole course, six tennis courts, two polo fields and 100 bicycles to rent for excursions amid the palm and bamboo groves. Today, the existence of these prewar amenities is neither confirmed nor denied by Putnik. One thing is sure, putniks are prohibited. Brioni has been adopted, beach, bicycles and bamboo groves, as the private domain of J. Broz Tito.
What is left for the tourist and the traveling Titoist are the coastal resorts of the Istrian peninsula, that arrowhead growing between Trieste and Rijeka. Portoroz (alias Portorose) is advertised as "the gem of Slovene Istria," but I fear that it is no gem, nor its Palace Hotel a palace. There is a garden of cedar trees and a terrace by the sea, and there are schooners to hire for trips down the coast, and motorboats that make regular excursions to Koper, nine miles away, which may be remembered as Capo d'Istria.
Nostalgic Austrians, a few Scandinavians and a smattering of English come to Porec down the coast, where the Riviera Hotel offers 76 rooms, 12 of them with private bath, at $4 a day with full board. There is an outdoor cafe shaped by palms, where you can pause and refresh with a Jugo-Kokta. The ruins of a Roman temple of Jupiter look to the bay, there is a small beach behind the Riviera, where the landlocked Austrians find the sea, and out in the harbor is the unpeopled island of St. Nicholas, where the Riviera runs two annexes with room for 80 visitors who like the simple life.
It is somewhat startling to come at last to Opatija and find Jaguars and Mercedes-Benzes pulled up in front of the hotels. In the hotel dining rooms tail-coated waiters pop open bottles of Traminec (Traminer) and Rizling (Riesling), all home-grown. The Yugoslavs make their own bottled water, too, known as Tri Srca, or Three Hearts, but it is no more palatable than it is pronounceable, and I would advise the vulnerable to bring their own from Italy or brush their teeth with Rizling.
Here, on the Kvarner Riviera, Kvarner shrimps, or skampi, are the speciality, as well as oysters, mussels, lobsters and Adriatic eels. After dinner, the huge terrace of the Kvarner Hotel fills with a m�lange of Swedes, Belgians, Germans and Austrians, who sip sweet Yugoslav maraschino with a glass of soda on the side, local Benedictine made without the help of a monk, and slivovica, a high explosive distilled from plums. An American-style dance band plays All of Me and Bye Bye Baby in the Glenn Miller style, while the conglomerate confr�rie pushes about on the crowded floor. Toward the sea are the lights of Rijeka, nee Fiume, which Gabriele d'Annunzio captured for Italy in an outburst of patriotic outrage in 1921. I Can't Give You Anything But Love wail the Yugoslav saxophones playing American jazz so the Germans can shuffle, and out on the sea the night fishermen, dazzling the mackerel, make a highway of lights across the black Adriatic.
In the morning, coffee is served with blobs of whipped cream, a holdover from the Austrians. The artificial beach, screened from the sea's sharks by a steel net, fills quickly. Umbrellas bloom on the shelves of sand built above the boulders. Some hotels offer baths with warmed sea water. Ten kilometers down the road, past Tito's Villa Istranka, which he can use if a Brionic boredom sets in, is the long, curving rock beach of Medveja. Cars and tents are pulled up by the strand and bathers change behind the doubtful privacy of hanging fish nets. Beer-barreled Teutons float in the water, ladies under parasols sit offshore in rowboats, the steamboat to Rijeka puffs black smoke on the horizon, passing the wide-prow, sloped-masted sailing freighter that plies the Istrian trade.
But the real gem of the Yugoslav Adriatic is not in Istria at all, but in Dalmatia, far to the south. It is Dubrovnik, the ancient, walled city by the sea that lived for 1,000 years as an independent republic, guaranteeing civil rights in the 13th century, abolishing slavery in the 15th century, building public schools and turning out astronomers, doctors and writers whose plays are still given, often on the very castle walls on which their scenes were laid long ago. In the 1500s its ships were a hundred score, ranging far from the Adriatic up into the North Sea, carrying textiles, bells and cannon, and locks made by those Ragusans who stayed home.
Aside from renaming Ragusa Dubrovnik, the Yugoslavs have left the place untampered, and visitors who fly from Rome or take the 24-hour boat trip down from Venice still find a medieval city stopped in time. If orange blossoms now bloom in the moat once designed to keep out the Turks and the Venetians, the Placa, the ancient shopping street, seems quite the same as it must have been in its salad days, even though the local citizenry apologizes for the fact that it had to be rebuilt after the earthquake—in 1520. A Gothic arch frames every plate-glass window and not a sign hangs outside. The state-owned stores sell Serbian cigaret boxes of inlaid cherrywood, filigree silver jewelry and flutes edged with gingerbread trimmings; but their cigaret holders, long, slender, carved and colorful, will not take an American-sized cigaret. Europe's oldest drugstore is still operated by the Franciscans who first opened it in 1317, but the monk is now an employee of the new social democracy.
The state's hotels, especially the Argentina and the Imperial, are the best I have seen in Yugoslavia, and the Excelsior would be a delight anywhere. Diners in summer sit on a canopy-covered, oleander-decked terrace looking across the Adriatic to Lokrum Island, where Richard the Lionhearted, homeward bound from the Third Crusade, was supposed to have piled up his ship on the rocks. There is dancing in the garden at night, swimming in the sea by day, skin-diving for lobster across on Lokrum's rocks, and for anyone who wants lunch on the beach, the Excelsior maintains a seaside restaurant.
All summer long on the city's 17 natural stages, the Belgrade Opera has been filling the open air with Borodin, Mussorgsky, Verdi and Britten. Serbs, Croats and Macedonians have been exercising their folk dances and songs, and the dramatic presentations have included not only the works of the local talent, but those two popular performances, Kraljevic Danski and San Letnje Noci, otherwise known respectively as Hamlet and A Midsummer Night's Dream.