Carefully and faithfully restored after heavy bombing and artillery devastation during the 1991 civil war which followed the breakup of SFR (Socialist Federal Republic) Yugoslavia, Dubrovnik is once again known as the “Pearl of the Adriatic”. Originally known as “Ragusa”, the city was founded in the 7th Century A.D. The defensive stone city walls were constructed beginning in the 8h Century. Local historians note that the severe earthquake of 1667, which destroyed half of the city, marked the “beginning of the end” of the Republic of Dubrovnik (which was abolished in 1808). From 1808 through 1815 the city/area was ruled by Napoleon. Then the city fell under the rule of the Hapsburg Empire from 1815 through 1918.
Today Dubrovnik has a larger city-wide population of only 42,000, with just 900 people living in Old Town within the historic city walls.
While walking around the pedestrian zoned Old Town, getting oriented is easy, as the main street — “The Placa” (Placa Stradun), often referred to as just “Stradun” which is not on any street signs) — running from west to east, divides the city in half (the oldest section lies on the southern side). Placa joins the two main entrances to the Old Town at Pile in the west and Ploce in the east. The name Stradun comes from the Italian strada, meaning street. The street is paved with limestone and the uniform Baroque buildings that line the street (along with many churches) have made it one of the best known sights in Dubrovnik.
The Dubrovnik Cathedral, built in the Venetian Baroque style from 1671 to 1713, was constructed on the site of an earlier Romanesque cathedral that was active between the 12th and 14th Centuries and was completely destroyed in the major 1667 earthquake.
We had a delicious local seafood lunch at Proto.
Before, and after, lunch at Proto Restaurant, in the center of Old Town, we had an opportunity to visit a “most disturbing” museum: War Photo Limited. It is an exhibition center of war and conflict photojournalism that convers two floors displaying photographic exhibits by world renown photographers covering recent and ongoing regional and global conflicts. It was heart wrenching to see an entire floor of photographs (and a few videos) of the civil war following the breakup of SFR Yugoslavia and the siege of Dubrovnik in late 1991 by the Yugoslav Army and Navy after Croatia declared independence. The museum notes: “The historic city and its residents suffered months of bombardment surviving without electricity, water and very little food. Overwhelmed by those displaced from Dubrovnik’s surroundings, by the Yugoslav Army advance, thousands sheltered in basements, hotels, museums, and any place [that] offered the slightest protection, living through the winter and spring in a city under siege.”
The museum is accomplishing its mission with its visitors: “It is the intent of War Photo Limited to educate the public in the field of war photography, to expose the MYTH of war and the intoxication of war, to let people see war as it is, RAW, VENAL, FRIGHTENING, by focusing on how WAR INFLICTS INJUSTICES ON INNOCENTS AND COMBATANTS ALIKE.” [emphasis added]
The Franciscan Monastery existed in several locations both within Old Town and outside the city walls. The present day Franciscan church, located on the west end of the Placa (Stradun), was restored in the Baroque Style. The Monastery cloister is considered on of the finest in Dalmatia.
Some of the best views of Dubrovnik are from atop the city walls, which can be entered in only two locations (at the Pile and Ploce gates). The old stone walls, well maintained after restoration from the 1991 war damage, hug the Old Town with a circumference of 2 kilometers (1.2 miles). The city walls are considered among the best preserved and most attractive on this planet. The walls were originally built between the 8th and 16th Centuries. Up to 6 meters (19 feet) thick on the land side, the walls were built as defense against attack from the mountainous hinterland – the Ottoman Empire, for example, lay just a few kilometers inland. The walls were never breached. (The Republic of Dubrovnik only fell after Napoleon’s armies were invited in on the condition that they would respect its independence.)
The city has several fortresses, including Fort Lovrijenac, high atop a 37 meter (122 feet) cliff just west of the Old Town city wall.