Sunday, July 7, 2013

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Dubrovník is one of the most popular Mediterranean destinations.  It is known as the "Pearl of the Adriatic".  While not the largest city in Croatia (#13), it is home to around 43,000 people.

After WWI, and the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, Dubrovnik became part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.  After WWII, it became part of Yugoslavia.

In 1979, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  During the early 1970s the Old Town demilitarized so that it would never become a casualty of war.  That didn't go as planned.  When Croatia declared independence from Yugoslavia, in 1991, Serbia and Montenegro demanded that the city be handed over.

Once the war broke out many Croats went to Durbrovnik's Old Town thinking it would be safe.  Who in the world would bomb a UNESCO World Heritage Site?  Serb and Montenegrin forces laid siege on Dubrovnik for seven months.  More than half of the city was damaged and hundreds of people were killed.

The city is surrounded by a series of defensive stone walls.  The limestone walls were mainly built during the 12th to 17th centuries.  The walls run about 1,940 meters (6,360 feet) long and reach up to 25 meters (82 feet) high. 

Onofrio's Fountain was built upon completion of the city's water supply in 1438.  It is a popular meeting point in the city.

The St. Savior Church is a Catholic church in old town.  It was built in 1528.

Construction of St. Blaise's church was completed in 1715.  The Baroque church is dedicated to St. Blaise, the city's patron saint.

The Old Synagogue was established in 1352 and gained legal status in the city in 1408.  It is the second oldest synagogue in Europe and the oldest Sefardic synagogue still used in the world today.  It is primarily a museum but the main floor is still used for worship on hold days and special occasions.  It is located on a tiny side street so it's difficult to get a decent photo of it.

The Assumption Cathedral was built in the 12th century and today is the seat of the Catholic Diocese of Dubrovnik.  The story goes that it was financed by Richard the Lion-Heart.  On his return from the Third Crusade he was shipwrecked off a local island and saved by the people of Dubrovnik.  To show his gratitude he gave a substantial amount of money to build the church.  Unfortunately it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1667 but completely rebuilt in 1713.

Outside of the city walls is Fort Lovrijenac which sits on a 37 meter (121 foot) high sea cliff.  It was built in order to protect the city's western sea access.  While construction began in 1018 it wasn't completed until the 16th century.

View from Mt. Srđ
The best view of the city is from the top of nearby Mount Srđ.  A cable car ride to the top only takes a few minutes.

On top of Mount Srđ is Fort Imperial which was built, from 1806 to 1816, during the Napoleonic Wars.  There is the Homeland War Museum which shows how the city was affected during the 90s siege.   I've been to Croatia many times but prior to visiting Dubrovnik I had never heard of the fighting in Croatia referred to as the "Homeland War".

Here's a Rick Steves video on Dubrovnik that I found out on YouTube.

©Rick Steves

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