All That Jazz

Things you don’t expect to see in Dubrovnik

1. A NATO-sponsored Jazz Ensemble.

I’m not sure it’s worth even attempting to add to that list. But you won’t be surprised to learn that the story starts in an Irish bar. It turns out that the band have just arrived in town for three days of concerts with the Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra, and having flown straight in from their base in Brussels they’re getting their priorities right. By having a pint.

James, the drummer, explains that NATO’s Jazz Ensemble is part of the wider Shape orchestra. That’s right – a whole team of musicians who play some pretty mean tunes. But getting band members from every nation can be tricky, as different countries face economic pressures of their own. And music isn’t always a priority.

The idea of a touring band sponsored by the military immediately conjures up images of Windsor Davies and Don Estelle in It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, and part of me wonders which highly decorated general gets to sign off the money for what might seem like a fairly outdated enterprise.

However, their invitation to perform in Dubrovnik has come fro. the organisers of the Wine and Jazz Festival which begins today. For me, this sounds like a fabulous combination. But the event’s website confusingly advises you to “book early” for the concert, and then says that tickets only go on sale one hour before the concert begins. So it’ll be a last minute queue to get a good seat.

As a general rule of thumb, the more central an eatery is to a famous site, the more expensive it gets. And Dubrovnik is no different, although you can also add to that painfully slow service and painfully loud Spanish tourists sitting next to you. To be honest, I only chose the undercover outdoor seating area because something has arrived that I didn’t order – heavy rain.

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This doesn’t dampen the spirits of the Spaniards, who seem to rarely draw breath in between their sentences. The woman in the party then lights up a high tar cigarette which she helpfully blows downwind to my table. It’s amazing what a few years’ difference the smoking ban has made back home. Previously I wouldn’t have given a second thought to a tobacco filled atmosphere – and returning home from the pub with a smelly shirt was a given. But in 2013, I don’t expect it to happen during a lunchtime meal outdoors.

The sunshine attempts to break through the clouds, so it’s a chance to escape the bustling square and head to one of one of the city’s most celebrated bars. As long as you can find it.

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There are only a few clues as to Buza’s location, and when you get there, even fewer frills. But despite its basic furnishings and relatively high prices, it’s hard to beat the setting on the rocks below the city walls.

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