Croatia mapCroatia

Croatia is located in the northwestern part of the Balkan Peninsula. It is a small crescent-shaped country. Its capital is Zagreb, located in the north. The present-day republic is composed of the historically Croatian regions of Croatia-Slavonia (located in the upper arm of the country), Istria (centred on the Istrian Peninsula on the northern Adriatic coast), and Dalmatia (corresponding to the coastal strip) running parallel to the east of Italy.

Although these regions were ruled for centuries by various foreign powers, they remained firmly Western-oriented in culture, acquiring a legacy of Roman law, the Latin alphabet, and western European political and economic traditions and institutions. A part of Yugoslavia for much of the 20th century, it joined the European Union.

Of all the photogenic towns (including Zadar and Split) along the Dalmatian coast, Dubrovnik may very well be the most picturesque. Beneath Mount Sergio, the white marble of the city’s walls contrasts with the blue waters.  At its peak, Dubrovnik was a very successful competitor of Venice, and one of the most prosperous commercial cities in the world.

The disintegration of the Roman Empire allowed barbarian tribes to raid and pillage settlements along the coast. Refugees and survivors fled to off-shore islands where they could better defend themselves, and found a new life by the sea.

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Dubrovnic: “jewel of the Adriatic”

George Bernard Shaw was enchanted by this city: for him, it was paradise.

Dubrovnik was an independent, merchant republic for 700 years (abolished by Napoleon in 1806), it traded with Turkey and India in the East and had trade representatives in Africa. It even had diplomatic relations with the English court in the middle ages. (There is a letter from Elizabeth I on display in the City Museum in Dubrovnik).

The old town was completed in the 13th century and remains virtually unchanged to the present day. Tall ramparts surround it and there are only two entrances to the old town which lead to the Stradun, the city’s promenade. In 1991/2, the Serbs shelled the city causing considerable damage, but thanks to local efforts and international aid, the old town has been restored to its former beauty.

Its massive stone ramparts and splendid fortress towers curve around a tiny harbor, enclosing graduated ridges of orange-tiled roofs, copper domes, and  bell towers. In the 7th century AD, residents of the Roman city Epidaurum (now Cavtat) fled the Avars and Slavs of the north and founded a new settlement on a rocky island, which they named Laus, and later Ragusa. On the mainland hillside opposite the island, the Slav settlement called Dubrovnik grew up. In the 12th century, the narrow channel separating the two settlements was filled in, and Ragusa and Dubrovnik became one.

The city was surrounded by defensive walls during the 13th century, and these were reinforced with towers and bastions during the late 15th century.

Enter the old town through the Pile Gate – in front is the Stradun. Here you will find 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, you will find the locals’ favorite 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 historic exhibits. Opposite the palace through a narrow street is a square, Gunduliceva Poljana, which is the site of the morning market. In the same square is the Jesuit Monastery from the early 18th century.

From here you can head for the little old town port and visit the city walls, built between the 13th and the 16th centuries, which encircle the city and which have been remarkably preserved.

The city became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

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Did You Know?

Dubrovnic Game of Thrones Kings Landing mapDubrovnik has been a prominent Game of Thrones filming location since Season 2 and the Croatian city is a must-visit for any Game of Thrones fan.

The cobbled, maze-like streets of Dubrovnik are, after all, the setting of King’s Landing, the epicentre of Game of Thrones universe (and the capital city of the warring continent of Westeros). In this fabulously photogenic fortified port city hugging the Adriatic Sea, a highlight is a stroll along Dubrovnik’s awe-inspiring medieval walls, from which you’ll gaze out over terracotta rooftops, Baroque church spires and the emerald-tinged waters of what Game of Thrones fans will recognize as “Blackwater Bay” – the site of the explosive battle between the armies of King Joffrey and Stannis Baratheon near the end of season two.

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