Thursday, November 01, 2007

Dubrovnik, Croatia, The place we visited last weekend

Dubrovnik, often referred to as the 'Pearl of the Adriatic', lies on the picturesque Dalmatian coast and offers an eclectic mix of historical buildings, ancient traditions and modern café culture. Although severely damaged by an earthquake in 1667, Dubrovnik managed to preserve its beautiful Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque churches, monasteries, palaces and fountains.

Despite further damage in the 1990s by armed conflict, it is now the focus of a major restoration programme coordinated by UNESCO. Visit the Franciscan Monastery with its historic 15th century apothecary or the Dominican monastery, which houses paintings from the Dubrovnik school of art. Stroll along the cobbled paths and promenades and soak up the local atmosphere in one of the city's many pavement cafes.
George Bernard Shaw was enchanted by this beautiful city: for him, it was paradise. Millions of people also take home happy memories from this "jewel of the Adriatic".

Dubrovnik has a remarkable history. An independent, merchant republic for 700 years (abolished by Napoleon in 1806), it traded with Turkey and India in the East (with a consul in Goa, India) and had trade representatives in Africa (in the Cape Verde Islands). It even had diplomatic relations with the English court in the middle ages. (There is a letter from Elizabeth I on display in the City Museum in Dubrovnik). Its status was such that powerful and rich Venice was envious of this Croatian-Slav city.

The old town was completed in the 13th century and remains virtually unchanged to the present day. Tall ramparts surround it and there are only two entrances to the old town which lead to the Stradun, the city's promenade. One of the greatest pleasures for many visitors is to have a drink in one of the nearby cafes and watch the world go by, whilst they themselves are being watched by the city patron, St. Blaise, or Sveti Vlaho as the locals call him. In 1991/2, the Serbs shelled the city causing considerable damage, but thanks to local efforts and international aid, the old town has been restored to its former beauty.

Hotel Dubrovnik Palace
But whatever we say, our words do not give justice to this dazzling place. So come soon and see it with your own eyes!

Dubrovnik is a tranquil cultural and tourist center in Croatia,hosting many musical, art and theater events year round. The annual Dubrovnik Summer Festival is a cultural event when keys of the city are given to artists who entertain Dubrovnik's population and their guests for entire month with live plays, concerts, and games.

Ivan Gundulić, a 17th century Croatian writer, predicted the downfall of the great Turkish Empire in his great poem Osman. He wrote these immortal verses that are performed on every opening of the world famous Dubrovnik Summer Festival:

O, beautiful liberty, dear and sweet,
Thou heavenly gift where riches all meet,
Actual source of our glory of these hours,
The sole adornment of this grove of ours,
All silver, all gold, and our lives so dear,
Cannot recompense thy beauty so clear.

With these verses Dubrovnik major invites actors and poems to enter through main gates inside city stone walls.

Dubrovnik and his surroundings with beautiful islands have lot to offer in touristic activities for younger generations also. Climbing on steep hills, hiking through the Mediterranean nature, paddling and swimming in clean transparent sea is what is also part of fun in Dubrovnik.

New historical discovers say that the usual misconception of Dubrovnik coming to be as joining of Laus island and Slav settlement of Dubrovnik is disputed by the fact that there was no island of Laus, only a peninsula, and it seems that there was a port on its location dating back to ancient history (thought to be the lost port of Heraclea.)

In 1991 Croatia and Slovenia, which at that time were republics within the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, declared their independence. In that event, the Socialist Republic of Croatia was renamed the Republic of Croatia.

Despite the demilitarization of the old town early in the 1970s in an attempt to prevent it from ever becoming a casualty of war, following Croatia's independence in 1991, the Serbian-Montenegrin remains of the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) attacked the city.

On October 1, 1991 Dubrovnik was attacked by the JNA with a siege of Dubrovnik that lasted for seven months. The heaviest artillery attack happened on December 6 with 19 people killed and 60 wounded. Total casualties in the conflict according to the Croatian Red Cross were 114 killed civilians, among them the celebrated poet Milan Milisić. In May 1992 the Croatian Army liberated Dubrovnik and its surroundings, but the danger of JNA sudden attacks lasted for another three years.

Following the end of the war, the damage caused by shelling of the Old Town was repaired. Adhering to UNESCO guidelines, repairs were performed in the original style. As of 2005, most damage had been repaired. The inflicted damage can be seen on a chart near the city gate, showing all artillery hits during the siege. ICTY indictments were issued for the JNA generals and officers involved in the bombing.

General Pavle Strugar, who was coordinating the attack on the city, was sentenced to an eight year prison term by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia for his role in the attack of the city.

See the Video of Attack on Dubrovnik, Croatia (a UNESCO World Heritage Site)
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