Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Dubrovnik, Day 2 and 3

We got up early, had a Danish from the bakery next door for breakfast, a coffee from across the street and we were climbing the staircase that leads to the walk around the whole of old town Dubrovnik by 8.30 AM. We were told to do the walk early as there is no protection from the sun and it can get really hot walking the 2 Km around Dubrovnik this way. Not only is the walk long but also laced with steep stair cases going up as well as down. Carol counted the stairs up only and the count was 376 steps. We had a good morning exercise for sure. Nothing is for free in Dubrovnik; the walk costs KN 75 (Euro 10.-). Your ticket will be checked half way around again.
The walk gave us bird’s eye views of the city itself but also of the Adriatic Sea way below. This city surely picked a pretty spot to plant itself. While the old harbor is manmade, the whole of the layout, including the harbor, is pleasing. I could tell that good planners had a hand in setting up the streets, the municipal buildings, the churches. The effect on the eyes, on the mind is very calming. Dubrovnik is a lovely town.
Historically most of the buildings date from 1667 or thereafter, since a very large earthquake leveled most of the town in that year. Of course the town itself is much, much older. While the books tell us that Ragusa (Dubrovnik’s old name) was founded in the 7th century, another theory, and the one I like much better, is that the Greeks had a post or station here. Greek boats could only travel 45 to 50 nautical miles per day. At night old Greek boats were always pulled on to a sandy beach by the sailors so they could sleep and rest. Known Greek settlements were in Budva and KorĨula, 95 Nautical miles apart. Dubrovnik is right in the middle. It had sandy beaches in ancient times. So why would the Greeks not use this spot to rest at night? Why would they not settle here too, especially since Dubrovnik had fresh water? So my theory is that this town was established by the Greeks, a long time ago.
I always ask myself why a town is there. I mean, what made people settle here? Yes, Dubrovnik became a big stopover of ships during the many crusades in the middle ages. Yes, Dubrovnik is in the middle of the East and West trade routes and a shipping trade center that the Venetians were always keen to possess. Yes, it was prosperous and the people were educated and forward thinking when those in a lot of other towns were not. It is documented that as early as 1301 medical services were introduced. Ragusa had an official pharmacy as early as 1317 and this pharmacy where you can buy drugs and have prescriptions filled, is still open today. Slave trading was abolished in 1418; imagine, 1418, way before others even thought about it. An official, 20 KM long, city water supply system was constructed for the whole of the town in 1436. Dubrovnik had a system established for orphans as early as 1432. To control the great plaques they established a quarantine hospital, a lazaretto, in 1377. The republic of Ragusa had Statutes as early as 1272.
Dubrovnik was and is an amazing city. Even today, the city is well run, well governed and prides itself on being self sufficient. The traces of the last war with Serbia in 1991 are hardly visible.
We looked at all the local people from the top of the wall; we saw what they built. Yes, the walk beats you up, yes, you get out of breath sometimes, but it is a must see walk. Dubrovnik is not only the old city, of course. Carol and I spent 3 days in old Ragusa but could not see all there is to see. We did not visit the surrounding islands. For me, 3 days in one place is enough, I need to move on. I like the big picture, not the smaller details.
We took a rest after our work out on day 2 and luckily we had no plans because the sky clouded over and it poured buckets of water. We needed to eat something since breakfast was scarce and, despite the rain, we walked into town to find a restaurant. Most of the eating is done in outside patios, to find an inside restaurant large enough was not easy. For some time we believed we could eat under an umbrella setup but the proprietor refused to serve in the rain even under the umbrella. He made room for us at a small table under an overhang and we had our small fried fish in the rain, but fairly sheltered.
The last day, day 3, we had bought concert tickets for a night performance. To occupy us during the day, we bought a self guided tour booklet and Carol was giving me a tour of Dubrovnik, she did a great job. We visited the famous old drugstore. For a change of pace we visited the only mosque in town. Carol also visited the synagogue, established by Spanish and Portuguese Jews banned from the Iberian Peninsula in the 15th century by the Catholic Crown.
We learned about the pledge of Richard the Lion Hearted, who after the 3rd crusade (1189-1199) found shelter in Dubrovnik and promised to build a church if he survived a storm at sea. He was the money man behind the Dubrovnik Cathedral.
Ruder Boskovic (1711-1787), his theses about particles of an atom; confirmed by Rutherford’s experiments, were predecessors of Planck’s Quantum Theory.
Dubrovnik was, and is today, in the center of many things. The minds of the people are strong and the city is beautiful.
At our night performance, we heard 3 pieces of music, one by Mozart, 2 by Mendelssohn, directed by a Russian-born conductor. The members of the Dubrovnik Orchestra were such a mix of people, a representation of the cosmos in which Dubrovnik sits. East and West, the whole world is represented here.
This city sure is the Crown Pearl of the Adriatic, and the Crown Jewel of Croatia.

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