Croatia: Dubrovnik, the pearl of the Adriatic
If you are in a hurry, you can see Dubrovnik in 30 minutes and check it off your UNESCO World Heritage sites on top of that. That’s how long it takes to walk at a leisurely pace the 400 meters of its main street, the Stradun, from the Pile to the Ploce city gates - the two entrances to this charming, entirely walled city dating back to the ancient Greeks. But you would be missing so much!
Nowadays, visitors can enjoy the splendid Rector’s Palace while listening to a concert in its beautiful atrium, or walk along the top of the city walls with gorgeous panoramic views over the sea and little islands ... but please, do yourself a favour and do not come during the Summer months. This is when approx. 8,000 and more cruise-ship tourists per day (!) tromp through – think of rush hour at Grand Central Station in New York or the Ginza in Tokyo – in easily 30+ degree blazing sunshine and you get the idea.
Dubrovnik’s fascinating history goes hand in hand with the ebb and flow of the sea and the many peoples who wanted to control the natural port. Illyrians, Ostrogoths, Turks, Venetians – even Napoleon wanted to own this strategic location. But it has kept its own identity over the ages.
Dubrovnik was an independet republic – called Ragusa at the time - since the 13th century. It codified Roman laws and local customs and was considered very advanced for its time: it introduced medical services for its population in 1301, established a pharmacy (still in operation to this day) in 1317, abolished slavery in 1418 and built a 20 kilometer water supply system in 1436. Through its strong fleet, diplomatic ties and apt trading, Ragusa was one of the richest city states of the Adriatic.
More recently, in the mid 1990s, during the Homeland wars after the collapse of Yugoslavia, the siege of Dubrovnik by the Serbs has left many wounds that have not yet fully healed. The new red-tiled roofs over most of Dubrovnik attest to the vast damage of the attacks. But it is easier to put on a new roof than to heal a heart. Thus it is to be seen as a gesture of reconciliation through music and culture that the Belgrade Philharmonic, under the baton of the world famous conductor Zubin Mehta, will perform for the first time in Croatia since those belligerent times on August 27, 2011, as guests of the Julian Rachlin & Friends Festival. Surely it is not a coincidence that Mo. Mehta chose the lovely duett “La ci darem la mano” – “Give me your hand” - from Mozart’s opera “Don Giovanni” to mark this occasion, to be performed by a Croatian soprano and Serbian baritone.
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