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Published: April 21st 2016
Our last stop before Venice was Dubrovnik, a place we have been eager to see. We eschewed the expensive cruise ship shuttle and took a public bus into town, arriving at the famous hole-in-the-wall. We decided once again to start with coffee and internet research at a cafe right there. The waiter gave us a passionate speech on Croatian history and the young man sitting next us chimed in and told us that Croatia had banned slavery early in the fifteenth century, before any other country. What a great introduction to Croatia!
We had noticed a "Game of Thrones" tour offered, and realized that we recognized locations from scenes in the series. Some history of Dubrovnic
: "The prosperity of the city was historically based on maritime trade; as the capital of the maritime Republic of Ragusa, it achieved a high level of development, particularly during the 15th and 16th centuries, as it became notable for its wealth and skilled diplomacy. The city successfully balanced its sovereignty between the interests of Venice and the Ottoman Empire for centuries. Dubrovnik merchants traveled lands freely and on the sea the city had a huge fleet of merchant ships (argosy) that traveled all over the world. From these
travels they founded some settlements, from India to America, and brought parts of their culture and flora home with them. One of its keys to success was not conquering, but trading and sailing under a white flag with the word Latin
: Libertas (freedom) prominently featured on it. The beginning of modern tourism is associated with the construction of the Hotel Imperial in Dubrovnik in 1897. Dubrovnik is among the 10 best preserved medieval walled cities in the world. Although it was demilitarised in the 1970s to protect it from war, in 1991, after the breakup of Yugoslavia, it was besieged by the Serb and Montenegrin soldiers gathered in the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) for seven months and suffered significant damage from shelling.
We next walked into the city, over a moat on a drawbridge and through Pile Gate. During the republican era, the wooden drawbridge to the Pile Gate was hoisted each night with considerable pomp in a ceremony which delivered the city's keys to the Ragusan rector
. We bought tickets to walk the walls that run almost 2 kilometres (1.2 miles) around the city. The walls run from 4 to 6 metres (13–20 feet) thick on the landward
side but are much thinner on the seaward side. They are as high as 82 feet in places. The main walls were built in the 14th and 15th centuries, but older fortifications were there from at least the 7th century. This is a very popular attraction (910.584 visitors in 2014), but wasn't very crowded when we were there. You can still see damage from the shelling in 1991, and people are still very angry about the attacks.
I bough a souvenir coin from the 1700's, flattened and made into a pendant, from a young man near the Pile Gate. He was dressed in period clothing and working out of a small space in the wall that has probably been use for 600 years...and he was listening to the Chile Peppers "Californifaction"...!
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