Byline: KATE WICKERS
There are daily invasions at the port of Dubrovnik - but these plunderers don't arrive in pirate or warships, waving swords or pistols. They come in cruise liners, clutching a wedge of Kuna, the currency of Croatia.
By sea is really the only way to arrive in order to appreciate the city's full grandeur. Skyscraping stone ramparts, built between the 13th and 16th century and up to 12m thick and 35m high, soar dramatically from the jagged rocks and have served the city well for centuries, making Dubrovnik one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Europe.
Walking around the two kilometers of wall gives a fabulous bird's-eye view of the city and coast. It's from here that you can't help but notice the legacy of the 1991-92 siege.
Battered by shells, the city endured substantial damage but down below you'd hardly guess. The marble streets gleam, Baroque facades have been restored and stonemasons have done a fine job at repairing the walls. It's not until you're high up that you notice the contrast between the well-weathered original terracotta roof tiles and those imported from France to repair the 68 per cent of roofs that were damaged.
Tiny roof gardens with potted lemon trees and abundant bougainvillea serve as the only outdoor space most residents have, but they make the most of it by dragging out sofas and TVs during summer evenings.
Trekking around the ramparts is thirsty work so my family and I were relieved to discover a large nook in the wall (once an ammunition store), which had been cleverly transformed into a caf selling iced tea.
After an hour we'd come full circle and descended to go in search of St Blaise, the city's patron saint, who greets visitors from the top of Pile Gate, the imposing Western entrance. From here we wandered along the Stradun, the historic pedestrian promenade, to the atmospheric Franciscan Monastery.
We traced a line of fire made by Serbian missiles through the original building, much of which was destroyed in the 1667 earthquake. But the 14th century shady cloister is beautifully intact, a botanical delight full of palms and pungent aromas.
It's also home to one of the oldest pharmacies in Europe and the museum's prize possession is the preserved foot of St Blaise, which my three sons found wonderfully weird.
At the top of Placa Stradun, the Onofrio fountain draws quite a crowd, who come to wash their hands in the water that gushes from the mouths of its 16-stone gargoyles.
With clean hands, we headed to Kamenice where we ordered too much food - platters of green-lipped mussels and grilled squid and a seafood risotto we hardly made a dent in. …