To be driven by our appetites alone is slavery, while to obey a law that we have imposed on ourselves is freedom.
-Jean-Jacques Rosseau, The Social Contract
Historic preservation in the U.S. typically involves buildings from the 20th century. For a nation founded in 1776, or 240 years ago, anything still standing after 100 years is impressive. That being said, you can imagine how remarkable it is to visit one of Croatia's seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Old City of Dubrovnik. Referred to as "old town," this walled community is literally a living, breathing museum. Visiting during the off season means that many restaurants and destinations (including Lokrum, sad face) are closed, but it gives you a better sense of this magical little place without being surrounded by 15,000 tourists.
Dubrovnik ("oak wood") was reportedly founded in the 7th century and the old town was completed in the 13th century. The area is rich in history that is too complicated to condense into a few sentences, but essentially this area has enjoyed a peaceful, prosperous existence for nearly 700 years, with the exception of the 1991 Siege of Dubrovnik that I mentioned. Dubrovnik even ruled itself as the Republic of Ragusa from the late 1200s to the early 1800s. Other fun facts: Dubrovnik abolished slave trading in 1418, the town's pharmacy has been in operation since 1317 and is the third oldest in Europe, and, well, Game of Thrones.
While I was in Dubrovnik, I was sure to visit Fort Lovrijenac, or St. Lawrence Fortress, for some spectacular views of old town. Like everything else in Dubrovnik, this spot has some interesting history:
Early in the 11th century the Venetians attempted to build a fort on the same spot where Fort Lovrijenac currently stands. If they had succeeded, they would have kept Dubrovnik under their power, but the people of the city beat them to it. The "Chronicles of Ragusa" reveal how the fort was built within just three months time and from then on constantly reconstructed. When the Venetian ships arrived, full of materials for the construction of the fort, they were told to return to Venice. (midsummer-scene.com)
Finding the fort was a bit of a challenge as I had to first make my way through a maze of limestone houses and steps. For this reason (or maybe it was being in the off season, or even the overcast day) I had the fort to myself to explore as I pleased. Fun fact: Fort Lovrijenac is referred to as a "fortress and a theater," so many plays are performed here during the Dubrovnik Summer Festival. I doubt the fort was historically used as a theater, but it makes for an interesting mix of uses.
P.S. When my mom heard that I had ventured over to beautiful Croatia, she couldn't resist joining me so now we are exploring the country together. With Mango tagging along, of course.