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CROATIA : DUBROVNIK

Dubrovnik , also lovingly named “pearl of the Adriatic”, is an old city on the Dalmatian coast in the extreme south of Croatia. From the 13th century onwards, Dubrovnik has been an important Mediterranean sea power. In 1667 the city was severely damaged by an earthquake, but it managed to preserve its beautiful Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque churches, monasteries, palaces and fountains. Damaged again in the 1990s by armed conflict, it is now the focus of a major restoration programme co-ordinated by UNESCO.  The population of Dubrovnik was 43,770 in 2001, 49,728 in 1991, and the majority of its citizens are Croats with 88.39% (2001 census).  

It was an independent, merchant republic for 700 years (abolished by Napoleon in 1806), it traded with Turkey and India in the East (with a consul in Goa, India) and had trade representatives in Africa (Cape Verde Islands). The city’s wealth was based on maritime trade; in the Middle Ages, it became the only eastern Adriatic city-state to rival Venice. Supported by its wealth and skilled diplomacy, the Latin/Slavic Ragusa/Dubrovnik achieved a remarkable level of development during the 15th and 16th century.  In 1815, by the resolution of Congress of Vienna, Dubrovnik was annexed to Austria (from 1867 on Austria-Hungary), and remained in the Kingdom of Dalmatia until 1918. During that time its official name was 'Ragusa'. Then it became part of Yugoslavia from 1929 onwards. From April 1941 until September 1943, Dubrovnik was occupied by the Italian army and after that by the Germans.  Despite the 1970s demilitarization of the old town by in an attempt to prevent it from becoming a casualty of war, Following Croatia's independence in 1991, the Yugoslav People's Army attacked and surrounded the city on October 1, 1991 and the siege lasted until May 1992. The heaviest artillery attack happened on December 6 with 19 people killed and 60 wounded. Total casualty in the conflict on this area according to the Croatian Red Cross were 114 killed civilians, among them the celebrated poet Milan Milisic . Following the end of the war, a major rebuilding project led by the Croatian authorities and UNESCO began. 

The 13th century old town has not  changed much compared to medieval times. Tall ramparts surround it and there are only two entrances to the old town which lead to the Stradun, the city's promenade with its cosy cafes.. In 1992 considerable damage was caused to the city centre. Local efforts and international aid, however, restored the old town  to its former beauty. The old town can be entered through the Pile Gate - in front of which is the Stradun with the Onofrio Fountain, built in 1438. On the right is the Franciscan Monastery, with one of the oldest functioning pharmacies in Europe, in operation since 1391. At the other end of the Stradun is  the locals' favourite meeting place, the Orlando Column, with the nearby Sponza Place and the baroque church of St. Blaise. Here is also the Rector's Palace, built in 1441, which is now a city museum packed with valuable and historic exhibits. “Gunduliceva Poljana” square is the site of the busy morning market. In the same square is the Jesuit Monastery from the early 18th century.


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