Monday, September 06, 2004

Eternal dalmation

Stew. When we said we were going to Croatia on holiday some said we’d only be able to eat stew. Some questioned whether we’d be safe, after all hadn’t it been bombed to hell? Some read that it was the new cool place to go on holiday. Nobody actually knew what it would be like.

Dubrovnik was shelled into little pieces by Bosnian forces in 1991, apparently more to break the Croatian spirit than for any strategic reason. Despite months of siege, Dubrovnik didn’t fall, and when the war finished they embarked on an expensive rebuilding programme, which spiralled the country into debt, but revitalised the soul of its people.

Where most cities are in constant evolution, or in Vegas’ case; revolution, Dubrovnik is as complete a town as you could hope to see. The continuation of a seven hundred year old planning strategy means that even the most modern buildings use the same materials and are built in the same style of the rest of the town. The limestone streets have been polished to a shine over the years. The result is that the town always looks finished. Altogether it gives the place a magical feel, particularly at night. You can see why it is supposed to encapsulate the essence of the country.

Walking the city walls, or passing the [sigh] Irish pub, or talking to the sophisticated, cool, cosmopolitan Croats you forget its recent past. Anyone over the age of twelve was actually a victim, or even participant of the war. This was my first visit to anywhere that was a warzone in my lifetime (apart from the time I got lost in Manchester and skirted the edge of Mosside), I’m looking forward to a fortnight in Basra in a couple of years.


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