Entering Dubrovnik, you cross the Franjo Tudman Bridge. Locals rarely refer to it by that name, instead calling the new cable-stayed structure the “New Bridge”. Tudman is now a controversial figure. He fought as a partisan in WWII, and when Croatia declared its independence from Yugoslavia he became its first president. There is evidence that he engaged in ethnic cleansing like that of Slobodan Milosevic, but he also engineered what appears to be a very successful conversion of Croatia to a working capitalist state. He has been accused of corruption and nepotism, and his daughter was convicted on corruption charges. I think it is fair to say that his record was mixed but positive in many ways for Croatia. He died in 1999 and thus avoided criminal charges for the ethnic cleansing.
Dubrovnik was traditionally said to have been founded in the 7th century by refugees from a nearby community who moved to an island for safety from the invading Slavs. Recent archaeological evidence suggests that there was already a substantial community there by that time, and that it was not founded on an island. Croatia apparently has a lot of nudist beaches, and perhaps all that going about naked
resulted in poor record keeping.
Throughout its history until modern times, Dubrovnik prospered as a maritime and trading center, at times rivaling the influence of Venice. Skilled diplomacy allowed it to avoid some of the changes in government suffered by other Dalmatian cities. N 1667 it suffered a devastating earthquake which resulted in the death of 5000 citizens and widespread destruction of buildings. In 1699, in order to provide itself a buffer zone against the Venetians, it sold some land on the coast to the Ottomans. This is now the only sea access for Bosnia-Hergegovina, and breaks up Croatia into two parts separated by a foreign power.
During the wars of independence in the early 1990’s, Dubrovnik was demilitarized to avoid damage, but Slobodan Milosevic persuaded Montenegrin forces to attack it on the grounds that it was historically part of Montenegro, despite the lack of evidence of that and the lack of Montenegrins in the town. It was shelled extensively. Eventually it was rescued by Croatian forces, and all the damage has been repaired according to UNESCO guidelines for World Heritage Sites (which it became in 1979). Today the main evidence of the damage is in the new
tiles on many roofs.
Most tours of Dubrovnik start at the Pile Gate. Immediately after entering, you can take a very steep flight of steps up to the top of the old fortress walls. Walking the length of the wall is one of the prime tourist events in Dubrovnik. From there, you can see the entire old city from above as well as getting views of the surrounding area. The walk is about 2 kilometers, and at this time of the year is not for those who can’t stand the heat and sun.
Once the wall walk was over, we sat down and had a beer to refresh ourselves enough to go and find a bar built into the outer wall, facing the sea. There are two Buza cafes, and one has terraced levels of seating under umbrellas facing the sea, with soft Frank Sinatra playing and excellent service. I can’t think of a place I would rather have a glass of wine and just vegetate. Jan and Alan walked down some steep steps to the bottom and took a swim in the Adriatic. Young men jumped off a large rock promontory probably some 40 feet above the
After an afternoon rest, we returned to the old city for a delicious dinner in a streetside restaurant and saw a final changing of the guard at the city gate.
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