Dubrovnik – Pearl of the Adriatic

I first became aware of Dubrovnik in the 1990’s – during the Croatian War of independence – when the city was besieged by Serbian forces. 

The siege lasted for almost 8 months.  When Serbian artillery began to bombard the UNESCO World Heritage part of the city – the Old Town – the international media attention and outrage echoed all over the world – even to Australia.

Today, Croatia’s Dubrovnik is a thriving tourist destination, and probably now more famous for having been the filming location for Kings Landing in Game of Thrones. I’m a GoT fan myself (except for the final series), but the part of Dubrovnik that most fascinated me was its completely intact city walls – almost 2 kilometres long – which are open to the public to walk all along. That’s what features in the above video.

How did a medieval city-state afford to build and maintain such a structure?

It turns out that the primary form of defence of Dubrovnik was not its walls, but its trade and diplomacy. Its merchant fleet shipped goods all over the Adriatic and Mediterranean, and its diplomacy worked to avoid unnecessary conflicts, even paying tributes where necessary. 

The walls were a secondary line of defence – enough to make the city a fairly tough and expensive place to attack – shifting potential aggressor’s cost versus benefit equations in favour of peace rather than war.  

Maybe there’s some lessons for the modern world in this medieval approach to peace…

I visited Dubrovnik in the month of May – which in 2023 used to be considered the “shoulder season” – but now that global heating is making Summer way too hot – I suspect “peak season” in this part of the world won’t be defined as Summer for too much longer.

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