No post about Dubrovnik would be complete without talking about what happened here from 1991-1992. The early 1990s saw the breakdown of Yugoslavia and the formation of several new nations, including Croatia. During that time the Balkan area was plunged into war and turmoil. Dubrovnik was heavily shelled. Almost 70% of the buildings in the old town were stuck by shells; the shelling and fires caused massive amounts of damage. The world watched as this historic, picturesque city was destroyed.
Often people turn a blind eye to war that happens somewhere else, but much of the world was captivated by what happened here. I was really too young to understand the full gravity of what was going on. I remember there being a war, but I didn’t really know anything about the place where the war was happening– the people, land, and buildings being affected by the horrific violence.
I arrived in Croatia not really knowing what to expect. Two decades really isn’t that long a time– the scars of war often linger for much longer than that. However walking around Dubrovnik the only reminders are the signs with information about the damage and restoration. When the war ended a decision was made to restore the city to as it was before the fighting. Around ten million dollars were spent rebuilding Dubrovnik– including bringing in stoneworkers trained in the traditional methods.
The key is a little hard to read: red is fire, the black triangle is roof damage by a direct hit, the black circle is pavement damaged by a direct hit, and outlined triangle is roof damaged by shrapnel.
I imagine it’s not that simple– walking around I can’t help but think that just about everyone here over about the age of eighteen lived through a war. Yet, maybe it’s because of how fast the rebuilding occurred, or maybe it’s because Dubrovnik didn’t suffer through the extreme poverty that often follows war, but life really does seem to have gone back to normal here.
One thing of note was in traveling from Split down to Dubrovnik we had to cross out of Croatia, into Bosnia and Herzegovina, and then back into Croatia. The whole ordeal was rather perfunctory; the border guards glanced over our passports and then waved the bus through the checkpoint. Still an interesting reminder of how the borders were drawn here.
Now that I am in Dubrovnik I can see why everyone always talks about just how beautiful a place it is. Here are some photos from the past few days.
A note about orientation; many of these photos are taken from the tops of the walls surrounding the old part of Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik was originally protected by massive walls, forts and towers, and now those are open to visitors to explore and get a view of the city from above.