28 Jan 2008
Dubrovnik a city with a history larger than life and a beauty that beckons as a tourist destination Dubrovnik is located at the southeastern tip of Croatia and only a short distance from Montenegro. When visiting Montenegro, the airport near this unforgettable city will most likely be your first stop.
Dubrovnik is like many Mediterranean seacoast cities with the hills in the background, the red tile roofs of the buildings in the foreground, and the islands offshore. This alone is enough to lure the visitor back again and again but there is much more to this crown jewel of the Mediterranean.
The history of Dubrovnik begins in the 7th century when barbarians wiped out nearby Roman cities and the residents fled to the rocky inlet that they called Laus Greek for rock. A fortress was built to deter the attackers and the settlement increased in importance. Eventually, the area became known as Ragusa. However, attacks continued and the fort was strengthened. One of the legendary heroes of Dubrovnik is Sveti Vlaho also known as Saint Blais. His image is prominent in many places throughout the fort and the city. It is said that in the 10th century he warned of an impending attack by sea from the powerful city-state of Vienna. Preparations made on the basis of this warning saved the city.
The fort continued to play an important role in the history of the area. An earthquake destroyed it in 1667 but it was quickly rebuilt. And, finally, in 1991 and 1992, as civil war ravaged Yugoslavia, Dubrovnik was hit hard. Thousands of shells fell on the city and the fort. A few pock marked buildings still show the scars of shelling, however, the major damage was to the orange tile roofs. The damaged tile was replaced with new and brighter colored material leaving a patchwork appearance of the old and the new. Repair work continues on some of the ancient buildings. The guns are silent now as they look out over the waters. The high walls reaching down to the sea provide a place for boys to explore without fear of invading armies.
Tourist trade is essential for the life of the city and, for the most part, life has returned to the city and the fort. Shops, restaurants, and craftsmen are now plentiful as are the tourists. Visitors can freely walk on top of the thick walls, stroll along the wide avenue called the Stradun or slip into one of the narrow alleys in the old town protected by the walls of the fort. The markets with vendors selling produce and other supplies are always busy. Internet cafes have also sprung up in some of the alleyways allowing the old to connect with the new.
The Catholic Church is prominent here inside the walls of the old city of Dubrovnik. Worship services are still held in this large church but, for the most part, it is just an important tourist attraction. Its large paintings and statues attest to the skill and imagination of the artisans as well as the devotion to the various saints. The white cross on Mount Srd and the large ornately decorated churches tells all that Dubrovnik remains a symbol of the Catholic religion that receives special privileges and support from the government of Croatia.
Places for luxury boats some private some for tour groups are safe for now as political stability appears to be settling in through the region of Croatia, Bosnia, and Montenegro.
When you come to Montenegro, be sure to include a visit to Dubrovnik. Decide for yourself what draws one back to this awakening jewel. Is it the view? Is it the fort and the old city with its high, thick walls made of stone? Or, is it the rich history and endearing charm that set this place apart from the rest?
Mount Srd Mount SERD (slight roll on the r)
Sveti Vlaho SVET-ee VLAW-hoe
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