Delightful Dubrovnik; Damian Bathersby Visits Croatia and Takes a Step Back in Time

Article excerpt

IT IS almost impossible for the thousands of tourists who visit Dubrovnik each day to leave without getting a history lesson.

From the centuries of threatened invasions which saw massive fortifications built around much of the original settlement, to the much more recent conflict which locals refer to as the Homeland War, the ancient Croatian city has had an eventful past.

The walls saved the Old Town section of the city from invasion many times, including as recently as late 1991, soon after the start of the bloody war which claimed tens of thousands of lives.

In a nutshell, Croatia declared independence from Yugoslavia, resulting in a four-year war between Croat forces and the Serb-controlled Yugoslav People's Army, alongside local Serb forces.

Many ethnic Serbs living in Croatia also opposed the secession and joined the war against the Croatian defenders, seeking a new Serb state within the country.

It was a messy, horrible conflict, but Dubrovnik officials believed their walled Old City's World Heritage listing would save it.

They were correct until December 1991, when Serbian and Yugoslav forces began an all-out assault which cost many lives and destroyed large parts of the historic port city.

Most of the buildings have been repaired but visitors to the still-beautiful city don't have to look far to see some of the battle scars. Not surprisingly, just over 20 years after the battle, there are still plenty of locals who lived through it and the pain of the war and those who perpetrated it, are only just below the surface.

Our guide, barely in her forties, could not disguise her anger and hatred.

But there is much more to Dubrovnik than the recent war. …