It’s easy to understand why the people of Dubrovnik are proud of their city – it just takes one look. It takes a little more effort, however, to understand how deeply this pride runs, and how many, how varied and how rich and justified are the reasons for this pride. And, thank goodness, it manifests itself in a way that is very easy to love: the people of Dubrovnik are known for their gallantry and hospitality. It’s not an empty or boastful pride.
Why does the city look the way it does? Why all those walls and bastions? It was first of all a refugee colony for the people of Epidaurum (today’s Cavtat), who fled from invading Avar and Slav tribes. At that time the land south of Stradun, as the main thoroughfare through the Old Town is popularly called, was an island, offering some protection from attack, but, of course, the walls began to rise giving those first fearful citizens their shelter.
That was in the 7th century. At that time, these lands were under the protection of Byzantium. Following the Crusades, Venice took over, and then the Croatian-Hungarian kingdom.
It’s hard to believe that this miraculous freedom of the tiny Republic of Ragusa, and this economic and political might lasted all the way to the beginning of the 19th century when the Dubrovnik nobles were tricked by Napoleon to letting his armies into the city in 1806. So it’s no surprise that the sense of individuality and collective pride is still so strong. It results, happily for visitors, in a very unique, visible and well-preserved culture that’s a joy to uncover.