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‘The air is full of rock music in Dubrovnik,’ he says, sitting in a café in the Old Town. ‘High in the sky above Dubrovnik, I believe there is a kind of garden, and every time I write a melody I am picking flowers from that garden.’

A rock musician turned classical composer, Đelo is a man of many talents – he performed for Pope John Paul II and even represented Yugoslavia in the 1968 Eurovision Song Contest, competing with Cliff Richard singing Congratulations.

Perhaps his proudest achievement, however, was during the siege. While the city was cut off from the outside world, Đelo dared to organise a schedule of children’s choir rehearsals and recitals, practising everywhere from apartments to inside Dubrovnik’s medieval towers. He recounts holding secret rehearsals in empty theatres – the frescoes above the choir illuminated by candlelight – and conducting string quartets as Yugoslav Army propaganda speakers blared out from the slopes above the city. ‘We defended ourselves with music,’ he tells me solemnly. ‘It was the only way we knew how in Dubrovnik.’ Music still runs through Dubrovnik’s DNA. Strolling the city’s streets after dark, I hear the splash of a piano chord from an upstairs window and the strains of jazz music from a distant café, carried along by the gusts of the bura.

Where to eat
Lucin Kantun in Dubrovnik’s Old Town serves some of the most creative cooking in the region (00 385 20321003; closed Jan; dinner mains from £7).

Where to stay
Sprawling over a hillside at the western edge of Dubrovnik’s Lapad Peninsula, the modern Dubrovnik Palace is one of the smartest addresses in town, with a glitzy array of swimming pools and restaurants. Rooms have panoramic views of the Adriatic (closed Dec–Feb; from £80).

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The article ‘The perfect trip: Croatia’ was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.

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