Monday, 14 October 2013

Must-see Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik turned out to be a beautiful old city, encircled by its massive walls. These have served it proud, not least in the war of the 1990s, when it seemed that the Serbian/Montenegrin forces thought the city might be a push-over. The modern city spreads out alongside and behind the Old Town. An earthquake in the 1690s, a disaster for the people of the time, of course, meant that the rebuilding brought about a uniform feel to the old town, especially along the main street, Stradun, also known as Placa. The entrance through the Pile Gate leads you along this fine urban street towards its landmark tower, marking the Stradun's opening out into a fine square marked by St Blaise's Church. Here you can continue to the eastern gate of the city, but the feel of the town sweeps you round to the right, where another square opens out, marked by the twin centres of power - the Cathedral and the Rector's Palace
Above is the beautiful Paolo Veneziano Crucifixion under which we celebrated Mass at the Dominican Monastery at the eastern end of the town, which is balanced by the Franciscan Monastery at the western end. The Jesuits are in there too, with a big place on one of the highest spots, reached by a mini Spanish Steps. It's all a superb example of a compact old city that has evolved over the centuries from two communities, Roman and Slavic, separated by water along the course of present-day Stradun. The whole place is pedestrianised, and even in late September was thronged with visitors.
My only reservation about places like Dubrovnik is that if you look closely you will not find many locals in these historic areas. The famous bit becomes almost a living museum while the centre of the living city is elsewhere, in Dubrovnik's case further west. I've seen this in places as varied as Vilnius in Lithuania and some towns in Italy and Spain. While visitors admire beautiful old buildings and throng cafes and restaurants in one part, the real life of a town goes on elsewhere. There isn't an easy solution to this, but it is noticeable when a town or city is both a visitor attraction and a living centre. We saw several examples of this last year - Lucca being one and Florence being an outstanding example. Many of our own old towns in the UK also pull this off, like York or Salisbury.
But that's just being fussy. Don't let the tourists put you off - there's always room for one more!  Dubrovnik is beautiful. If you haven't been there, go - Fr M approves big-time.  

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