The Republic of Ragusa
Trip Start Jun 08, 2010
79Trip End Aug 26, 2010
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The strength of the city was it's massive walls, which had survived the years intact. I bought a ticket and an audio tour and spent two hours walking the circuit around the top of the walls in the late afternoon. With little shade, and a hot Croatia, I wouldn't recommend it at noon, but it was pleasant enough in the early evening
Venice was never able to conquer it's rival, and a sizable annual tribute to the Ottoman Empire kept the city safe from land-based invasion. In the end, the Republic of Ragusa died of natural causes. A massive earthquake in 1667, with subsequent fire and looting, reduced the once mighty city to rubble. Although almost all of it was rebuilt or replaced, the city never regained it's place amongst the trading elite. It was eventually absorbed into the Austro-Hungarian Empire, after which it followed the usual East Coast Adriatic story of conquest by Napoleon, return to the Empire, incorporation in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, occupation by Italy in WWII, inclusion in Yugoslavia, then Croatian independence. It's current primary enterprise appeared to be tourism.
While the city escaped serious conflict for most of its existence, it was shelled by the Yugoslav Army with the help of Montenegrin militias in 1991, during Croatia's bid for independence. When I visited, just about all of the damage has been repaired. The only obvious sign tourists were guaranteed to see was a poster placed at the main gate marking in detail every spot that was damaged during the war
There were some photos of the war I saw in the Rector's Palace (Knežev Dvor) Museum. They were presented in black and white. I know black and white is supposed to be more dramatic, but it made me feel like I was looking at damage from WWII. If they were color, I believe they would have had more immediate impact as an event that had taken place in my lifetime, and was probably still living in the hearts and minds the town's adult residents.
Of course, the intent could have been to distance the events from the mind of the viewer. There was certainly no cloud of past wars hanging over the tourist-packed old town. The mood was particularly lively as tonight was the first night of Dubrovnik's summer festival. A fireworks spectacular had been planned for the old town harbor. There was also a meeting of European ministers and a giant cruise ship in port adding to the commotion.
Apart from the walls, Dubrovnik was dotted with little museums, monasteries, and of course all of it contained the original Renaissance architecture (or restored versions of it)
Although this ethic of adherence to older architectural forms was impressive, by and large, the result was fairly uniform, blocky buildings. Apart from the usual suspects, religious and civil buildings, there was not a lot of interesting architecture. Compared to Split, the walls were far more impressive, but the buildings within those walls, far less.
There were a few interesting church features I hadn't seen before. In the Franciscan Monastery (Franjevački Samostan) marble columns on the main altar twisted in a snake-like form, rather than taking the typical straight shape of columns in most Baroque altars. Another church, the Church of St Ignatius (Crkva sv Ignacija), had a grotto for one of the altars. The original was one of the oldest built in Europe, dating from 1885. In this grotto-type altar, a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes sat back in an area constructed to resemble a cave, but surrounded by flowers. Closer to the viewer, a woman knelt in veneration.