Photo: Sean Smith/The Guardian
The complete city
Dubrovnik is spectacular. The bright limestone wall, repelling war and pestilence since medieval times, encircles the city in a protective embrace. It has also kept out McDonald’s, Burger King and Pizza Hut, but still attracts tourists.
Inside is a sea of red roofs, topping sand-coloured, limestone buildings. The streets are made of the same bright stone; after centuries of footsteps, they shine as though someone polishes them every day. South and west are the clear blue waters of the Adriatic; north and east is a newer town, the same limestone and red. This was the most colour-coordinated city on our Summer 2002 Semester-at-Sea voyage.
In 1991, live on CNN, the Yugoslav Army shelled this Balkan cultural capital for eight months. I remember ugly warships in the beautiful harbour of a seaside walled city, glistening in the sun. Dubrovnik had no military importance and had not been at war since the 15th century.
We walked on top of the perfect circle of the city wall, stopping at cafes to look out towards Italy, then Greece. Inside the circle were charming Mediterranean-style buildings and a few crumbling houses waiting to be restored. In other cities, mounds of rubble indicate neglect or the ravages of nature. Here it was the effect of man’s inhumanity to man and culture.
Thanks to the constant work of the Croatians, the wall of Dubrovnik is intact. It feels complete.