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Dubrovnik: Heaven on Earth!


„Those who seek  Earthly paradise  should come and see Dubrovnik“ (G. B. Shaw)

G.B. Shaw, famous Irish writer, wrote “Those who seek  Earthly paradise  should come and see Dubrovnik” after he visited this famous city in 1929.year, enchanted by its beauty, magnificence, harmony and everything else that makes  Dubrovnik so unique and special worldwide. Settled in furthest south of Croatia, this little city is a shining star on many  renowned world magazine covers and proudly wears title of one of the most beautiful cities of the world. For that reason it attracts many prominent tourists: actors, musicians and other artists, members of royal families, world jet setters etc..It used to be a city-state, widely known as Dubrovnik Republic  and  the  strongest Adriatic centre next to Venice. With the status of one of the most attractive tourist Mediterranean destinations, today it fuses old and new; centuries old history and dynamics of modern European city. This pearl of Croatian Adriatic  has been  included  in UNESCO list of world world’s heritage in 1979. as evidenced by a large number of protected historic  buildings.  Historical city Dubrovnik is enclosed by 2 kilometres long city walls,  numerous  fortresses and towers which protected the city from attacks of different enemies during the history. Inside the walls were built many impressive  structures ( palaces,  churches, monasteries, monuments ) by which is widely known. Walk along the walls is an experience not to be missed.

Vicinity of many magnificent islands (Lokrum, Elafites, Mljet, Korčula), magical landscapes and breathtaking perspectives, extremely preserved nature with beautifully imbedded Mediterranean architecture make this city one of the most attractive world destinations. Therefore, visit Dubrovnik and become one of the many  who will confirm famous G.B. Shaw saying.

Legendary Bono Vox recited  verses in Croatian language written in 1628 by famous Croatian poet Ivan Gundulić!

At the U2 concert held in Zagreb 1995 and 2009,legendary Bono Vox recited in Croatian ‘Oh beautiful, oh precious, oh sweet  liberty’ – Croatian  17th century poet Ivan Gundulić  from his famous Hymn to the freedom. Famous Gundulić verses have been also used as a moto for a song ‘Miss Sarajevo’ which he sung on unforgettable concert in Sarajevo in duet with magnificent  Luciano Pavarotti in 1997.

Freedom (Libertas) above all!!!

In the Republic of Dubrovnik freedom was considered to be one of the greatest values in life. Therefore the word LIBERTAS (FREEDOM) was written in capital letters on its famous flag. It was also supported by the fact that the Republic of Dubrovnik was the first in Europe to make a decision on abolishung slavery and in 1416 imposed a ban on transporting slaves. Freeedom was celebrated in verse all over its territory. Thus, on the fortress Lovrijenac, written in stone, there is the inscription in Latin that goes like this:»Freedom is not to be sold for all the gold of the world!»

It inspired many writers,as well. The great baroque poet Ivan Gundulić ( 1589 – 1638 ) celebrated it in the famous «Hymn to Freedom» from his pastoral drama «Dubravka»:

                    Oh, Freedom, so beautiful, dear and sweet,

                   Our Lord gave us all the treasures in thee.

                   The only true source of our glory,

                   The only adornment of our grove, (Dubrava)

                   All silver and gold and all our lives

                   For your pure beauty cannot be the price! 

Since then  these verses have been  the inspiration to many other artists.

The opening of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival starts with the flag-raising ceremony accompanied by the song «Hymn  to Freedom», and Bono Vox from U2 recited it on the humanitarian concert in Sarajevo in 1997, and later on in Zagreb in 2009.

Dubrovnik–a famous European cultural centre (often called a town-museum)

More than a thousand-year-long history has made Dubrovnik what it is now- a European cultural centre. At the beginning it was a small community, but very soon it saw the days of great flourishing and became the seat of the independent Republic of Dubrovnik, which met its end when Napoleon conquered it in 1808.

The Republic mastered the art of maritime affairs and by building strong fleet became a rival to Venice. Owing to maritime development the sea trade became more important, and it contributed to the growth of power of the Republic, which was best reflected in the social and cultural life of the town.

During the periods of the Renaissance and Baroque the Republic was a cultural centre on the whole of the Croatian territory. Literature, art and science were flourishing. It was the period that gave the greatest and most famous works of the authors who gained high reputation and glory out of the Republic,too.

The fact that the language of the Dubrovnik writers was chosen to be the basis of the standard Croatian language shows how much the Croatian writers of the nineteenth century were fascinated by the beauty of spirit of the Republic. Besides, there are many data in the town chronicles about the advancement and developed awareness even of the average inhabitants of the town.The Republic is known for having built one of the first mediaeval sewage systems ( 1296 ), which is still in use. The first quarantine in the world was introduced in Dubrovnik (1377 ). It is also proud of having opened the third pharmacy in Europe, which has been in use since 1317. It was the first town in Europe to issue the decree on abolishing slavery (1416 ). The Dubrovnik maritime insurance law is the oldest in the world (1568). However, the most curious fact is that the Republic of Dubrovnik was the first state in the world to recognize officially the USA (1783 ) and by doing so stimulated other countries to do the same.

The praiseworthy fact, indeed! The greatness of the Republic was not in the size of its territory but in the spirit of its people!

The long history is present in the whole town,which is at the same time a museum and a stage,where the cultural heritage and the contemporary life walk hand in hand. The historical nucleus is surrounded by the monumental town walls preserved in their original form, open to visitors as the main attraction of Dubrovnik. The tower Minčeta, the fortresses of St.John, Bokar, Revelin, St.Luke, and Lovrijenac, the Duke’s Palace, the Franciscan Monastery, the Church of St.Vlaho – the patron of the town, Orlando’s Column – all of them are just a few of historical witnesses that should be seen, and the spirit of the bygone times will come to life before your eyes.

The famous Feast of St.Vlaho – UNESCO’s Unmaterial World Heritage

The Feast of St.Vlaho, the patron of the town, has been on the UNESCO’s list   of the world heritage since 1st Sept,2009. It is based on the legend about the appearance of St.Vlaho, who helped the inhabitants of Dubrovnik defend their town against Venice. The great honour of the patron saint has been unchanged all through the stormy times the town has experienced continuously since the year 972. St.Vlaho’s Day ( 3rd February) was a holiday for all the inhabitants of the Republic. They even introduced St.Vlaho’s Freedom Day for all the punished persons and prisoners to enable them to celebrate the day freely.

The celebration was very picturesque, with the ecclesiastical flags and dressed in folk costumes, just as is done nowadays. The preparations for the ceremony are long and carefully performed.

St.Vlaho’s Feast is at the same time the celebration of religiosity and human creativity, ranging from folk customs, songs, dances, traditional weapons to traditional gastro-delicacies. It represents the beauty of Dubrovnik spirit – its past and its present.

Dubrovnik Summer Festival-The most renowned Croatian festival

Dubrovnik Summer Festival is the oldest and most famous Croatian festival. In the period from 10th July to 25th August you can enjoy various musical, drama and dancing performances in  the unique atmosphere of the town squares, towers and streets. From year to year   the Festival has been a host to many famous names of the world elite composers,soloists, orchestras and actors.

 The Republic of Dubrovnik – a great maritime town-state!

  • Dubrovnik maritime insurance law from 1568 is the oldest one of the kind in the world
  • In the 16th cent. the fleet of the Republic numbered about 40,000 seamen and more than 180 big ships, and was among the strongest on the Mediterranean.
  • The term «the Dubrovnik vessel» (argosy) can be found in Shakespeare’s works.
  • In the 15th cent. Dubrovnik was one of the largest European cities, with about 40,000 inhabitants.
  • Besides on the Mediterranean, the Dubrovnik seamen sailed even to     North America,and some stayed there to live with the local people.

How Dubrovnik helped the USA?

The Republic of Dubrovnik was the first state in the world to recognize officially the USA in 1783. By doing so, they inspired some other countries to do the same.

Slavery was first abolished in Dubrovnik!!!

The Republic passed the law on abolishing slavery in 1416, and was the first state in Europe to do so. By that act it affirmed its dedication to the ideals of freedom and humanity.

Richard the Lionheart in Dubrovnik!

The story about the English king Richard I Lionheart and his shipwreck on the small island of Lokrum is a proof that stormy weather does not always mean something bad.

Both the old English and Dubrovnik chroniclers recorded the King’s arrival in Dubrovnik in 1192. Returning from the third Crusade on a Venetian ship, Richard I fell in great storm. He made a vow to Our Lady to build two churches in Her honour if he escaped death: one on the land on which he would step first and the other in England. The ship reached the island of Lokrum safely. Having heard about the King’s vow, the Dubrovnik authorities sent their representatives to the King with the request to change his vow and build a church in Dubrovnik instead on Lokrum. Richard showed understanding for their reasons and had the church built in Dubrovnik.It was devoted to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, but it was destroyed in the great earthquake in 1667. Today on its site you can see the beautiful Dubrovnik cathedral. Richard I, known for his gentlemanly behaviour, came to like Dubrovnik very much and stayed there for some time. His lion heart was touched by the hospitality of his hosts and the beauty of the town. He even left the Venetian ship, on which he had arrived, and sailed back on a Dubrovnik sailing-vessel, which was more adequate to his royal taste and needs.

Agatha Christie and her honeymoon in Dubrovnik!

World-famous Agatha Christie spent her second honeymoon in Dubrovnik and in Split. The two towns, not chosen accidentally!

Bathing wih the view of the Town Walls

The beach just at the bottom of the Town Walls has been reported by many travel brochures as one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe. Bathing in the crystal-blue sea and at the same time having the view at the Town Walls, the magnificent monument of the past times, is a breathtaking experience.

The Trsteno Arboretum – the oldest in the world!

The Trsteno Arboretum not far from Dubrovnik has been developing since        15th cent. and is the oldest in the world. It is a wonderful example of a Renaissance park with many interesting and exotic plants. The two oldest plane-trees are more than 400 years old. The walking paths fit beautifully in the luxuriant vegetation of the park.

What to visit?

  • The magnificent Town Walls represent one of the best protective systems in Europe. Their total length is 1940 metres. They were being built from 13th to 17th cent. With their four fortresses they surround the old part of the town: Minčeta, Bokar, Sv.Ivan (St.John) and Revelin. Nowadays they are often in use as stages for various cultural events and concerts and the Minčeta tower is known for weddings organized there.
  • The fortress Lovrijenac-known as the Gibraltar of Dubrovnik-is situated

out of the town walls on a sheer rock, 37 metres above the sea level. It is a historical symbol of resistance to the Venetian Republic. It is of a triangular form, with two bridges leading into the tower, and above the entrance gate there is the inscription carved in stone:

«Freedom is not to be sold for any treasure in the world!»

 Nowadays Lovrijenac is a stage for various drama performances, Shakespeare’s  «Hamlet» being the most famous of them.

  • Orlando’s Column – the oldest preserved public sculpture in Dubrovnik.

The erection of the column is connected with the legend of Roland (Orlando), Charlemagne’s nephew, who helped Dubrovnik in  fighting against the Saracens. The column was erected in the 15th cent. as a symbol of freedom and independence. During the Dubrovnik Summer Festival the flag with the word Libertas (Freedom) on it flutters on the column.

  • St.Vlaho’s Church – of the saint who is the patron of the town. It is on the main square. St.Vlaho’s statue with the maquette of the town survived both the great earthquake and the great fire.
  • Sponza Palace – had different functions in the Republic: a custom-house, a bank, a school. Every year the opening of the Summer Festival takes place on the square in front of the Sponza Palace.
  • Duke’s Palace (Rector’s Palace)- the seat of the government and the Duke, the highest political bodies in the Republic. Today it is used as the exhibition area for the paintings of  old masters and for the concerts of classical music.
  • Franciscan Monastery – in its museum there is the inventory of the third oldest pharmacy in Europe.
  • Stradun – the main street (walk) in Dubrovnik. The New Year’s open-air party on Stradun is so interesting and exciting that in the recent ten years or so it has placed Dubrovnik among the most attractive destinations in the world
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