We made only a quick stop in Dubrovnik (my best image of the fortified walls above), before moving on to Korčula island where we are spending a week.  The beautiful walled city of Dubrovnik was nearly destroyed by artillery bombardments during a months-long siege in the 1991-95 Croatian War of Independence.  Twenty years on, it’s hard to believe this was the site of a siege.

A U.S. paper noted the siege at the time below.

Over 68% of the buildings in the Old City were struck by Serb artillery shells in 1991-92.   It was estimated that Dubrovnik suffered 200 dead and 900 wounded during this period which destroyed more than 3,000 residences and damaged 5,500 buildings.

Below are excerpts from a December 26, 1991 letter to the editor of UK’s Guardian newspaper by Katheleen Wilkes, an Oxford professor who regularly visited the Dalmatian coast, who wrote this from Dubrovnik shortly after the 1991 shelling of the city:

“Once again I am writing a reaction to a GUARDIAN article which, after a month, has somehow reached Dubrovnik. Written by Edward Pearce, it was entitled “Audit of Destruction”. It cannot go unchallenged.

Pearce is particularly sarcastic about the destruction of Dubrovnik, calling it “humbugging aestheticism” to get worked up about “a pretty little place which one is sorry to see knocked about”. Nobody, nobody here in Dubrovnik has the SLIGHTEST interest in saying their human tragedy is worse than that in Iraq. Why should they? But for the people who live here, and who looked after the palaces and monuments on behalf of the whole world, it is more than “pretty little place”. Not only monasteries and palaces and hospitals are destroyed; so are the people – too many of them, Serbs among them…

Dubrovnik… there is still no water or electricity, scant food, no glass in the windows, temperature at freezing point. But they are painting the boards that cover the windows in the main street of Stradun with pictures, jokes, prayers; Christmas cribs are being constructed with bits of rocket and broken stone; concerts and lectures are held in between the funerals. The occupying army is about one kilometer away, still occasionally shooting. Croatia has ordered the cancellation of every midnight mass in the Republic on Christmas Eve – the government knows well how any Croatian religious occasion provokes more bombing.”

Today, the old part of Dubrovnik city is spectacular, although it was crowded with late summer tourists at the time of our visit.  It is probably the nicest of the “old towns” we’ve seen thus far on our journey. Impressive that they have recovered so quickly from a very trying time.

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hrvatska aka croatia

We’re leaving Croatia today and heading to Venice. Croatia is such a beautiful country. From its island laced craggy coastland to super dense forests (that shelter bear and wolves), it offers a lot of diversity. On our drive to Lake Plitvice, we drove through the coastal port city Rijeka. Both days on our way coming and going it was gray and overcast, but even the brightest sunrays couldn’t add any sparkle to what could be the ugliest city. Several tall boxy buildings constructed in communist times dominate the view towards the Adriatic from the highway. The surrounding hills are covered in buildings that are shorter and of similar style, or rather anti-style. It is the armpit of Croatia. It lies along the coast in the bend connecting Istria to the mainland, as does Opatija, which is referred to as the Croatian Riviera.

Lake Plitvice on the other hand, is unbelievably stunning. Kevin hiked in the morning while the boys and I rode bikes. We ended up ditching our bikes and taking the ferry across the lake to hike around where we just happened to run into Kevin. He took the boys back by ferry and I hiked back. I enjoyed not having a camera. I never would have been able to capture any image that could do reality justice. I just enjoyed being in its wonder. I saw a man on the ferry with serious photog equipment and later saw him squatting waiting to get his shot without tourists. His pleasant looking wife just stood by patiently. His work must be good, or they are not married. Anyway, good pics can be found online.

Well, we’ll be on our way soon.  We plan to visit a Slovenian cave in route.  More from soon    from Italy!