Dubrovnik, the Pearl of Croatian Coast
It may seem like an exaggeration, but sometimes it is really difficult to find appropriate words for your first meeting with Dubrovnik, Croatia – especially if those words must be new, and fun, and of course informative at the same time. Because these days everbody knows Dubrovnik. It is a brand for it self – but let us be honest, Dubrovnik certainly deserves its glory. Located at Adriatic sea, this city of rich history and undeniable beauty today is a „must-see“ destination.
Whether you travel by plane, bus or on a deck of comfortable cruiser Dubrovnik will take you at a first glance. Encircled with recognizable walls (with total lenght of almost two kilometers, or more than a mile!), Dubrovnik proves not to be just another trendy tourist destination.
History of Dubrovnik
Situated in the very south of Croatia, Dubrovnik is a city of truly impressive past. Historians are still debating about the city’s emergence time (new evidence locating it far away in times of early Roman civilization) but it has been proven that Dubrovnik existed as a smaller colony even two thousand years ago and recognized as a city in the 7th century.
But the golden era for Dubrovnik was yet to come: the city grew, and at the same time its influence spread to the surrounding area. In year 1272 Dubrovnik received the Statute – basic legal document that regulating the administration, criminal and procedural law and other issues important for everyday life in an independent city.
The most important period in the history of Dubrovnik began in 1358 when King Ludovik 1st confirmed to Republic of Dubrovnik (Republic of Ragusa) all attributes of statehood and independence. From that time onwards, all institutions of government, including the duke (acting as a head of Republic), were exclusively elected among the people of Dubrovnik without the need for King’s confirmation.
Oh, That Priceless Freedom
Interesting fact: even at those early days of young Republic, a special attention has been devoted to concept of liberty. This is so evident in the inscription „Libertas“ (Latin word for freedom) which is still visible on the Dubrovnik’s flag. And it went beyond symbolic gestures and fancy words on flags in 1416. Dubrovnik adopts a decree which abolishes slavery in its territory, and even forbids the carriage of slaves over its sea. At those early times Republic of Dubrovnik was among the first countries in the world that abolished slavery! Those who disobeyed were threatened by severe punishment, including jail sentence and additional fines.
And one more small note, especially important for American tourists: did you know that the Republic of Dubrovnik was the first state to recognize the United States of America independence, back in 1783? Really freedom-loving people, those people from Dubrovnik!
Republic of Dubrovnik: Sailors And Merchants
Anyway the glorious history of Dubrovnik went on. Although somewhat isolated in the small Adriatic sea, far from the Atlantic maritime paths, Dubrovnik has become a true European naval force with 40,000 sailors and more than 180 large ships – and all of that by the 16th century.
Once they have established their first trade and diplomatic contacts, things have started to develop faster and faster. Bigger ships were built, capable of taking even more dangerous journeys. Apart from Apulia, the Kingdom of Naples and Sicily (all parts of today’s Italy), the Dubrovnik ships carried all sorts of goods from the eastern to the western Mediterranean.
They sailed between Turkish Empire, Cyprus, Greece and Crete in the east, and all the way to Spain, Portugal and France in the west. With its „karaka“ ships, navy of Dubrovnik also appeared in London and Antwerp, carrying mostly wine from Crete to London and English wool on their way back.
Quite understandably, over the course of many long centuries (filled with wars and threats from barbarians hordes), it was necessary to preserve the precious freedom and ever more obvious wealth. The most visible relics of violent time are excellently preserved high defensive walls, which still encircle the old city core (in a way predictably named „the Old Town“).