Home » DESTINATIONS » How Dubrovnik survived disease, war and tourists

How Dubrovnik survived disease, war and tourists

(CNN) — Lord Byron known as it the Pearl of the Adriatic when he passed by on his Grand Tour in the early 19th century.

Fast ahead 200 decades and the mighty walled city of Dubrovnik however stands as a image of strength and stability in a region that has seen its honest share of upheaval and darkness.

Now, it really is making ready alone for the return of visitors just after much more than a calendar year of pandemic-enforced closures. Owning endured the depredations of overtourism, its individuals and enterprises are plotting a additional sustainable long term that spots heritage and custom of the metropolis at the forefront, with no compromising its sheer natural beauty.

Though the Covid nightmares of 2020 and 2021 may well earlier have been unimaginable to so several, Dubrovnik has a extensive and storied past when it arrives to dealing with hugely infectious illnesses.

In 1377, when the town was at the centre of the maritime republic of Ragusa, its rulers decreed that sailors, retailers and traders arriving from locations exactly where the plague experienced been rampant ought to be despatched to focused quarantine facilities.

Organized for the pandemic

Dubrovnik’s Outdated Town skims the Adriatic shoreline.

DENIS LOVROVIC/AFP by using Getty Graphic

“Almost 800 yrs in the past we knew everything about quarantine,” suggests Ivan Vukovic, just one of Dubrovnik’s main tour guides. Vukovic clarifies that arrivals from locations with significant caseloads were in the beginning sent to the little islands Mrkan and Bobara, just off the coastline, the place they would shell out a month in isolation.

By the 17th century, officers had built the now well-known Lazarettos of Dubrovnik, hulking, jail-like services wherever lots of arrivals had been isolated in a bid to reduce widespread infection. It all seems painfully familiar to these days of resort quarantine, albeit without the luxuries of a proper bed and web access.

Vukovic points out that the Republic of Ragusa’s spot in between east and west intended sailors and traders would occur to Dubrovnik from all more than the environment.

“Only the people who came from infected parts or suspicious regions [had to quarantine],” he claims, in an echo of how lots of nations around the world now guard their borders. “If you obtained a plague outbreak happening in the Center East, all those tourists would be isolated inside the Lazarettos.”

Vukovic adds that there is documentary evidence of health and fitness certificates and even social distancing. “In the Center Ages they understood how to trace the illness… They understood how to trace the contacts who experienced been associated, and they knew about the an infection.

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Dubrovnik’s Franciscan friary was contemplating up innovative strategies to limit bacterial infections again in the Middle Ages.

“When it arrives to [Covid-19], we are really dealing with it [with] the regulations of the Center Ages. Background repeats by itself.”

Even further reminders of Dubrovnik’s healthcare background can be identified at the Franciscan friary, appropriate in the heart of the town. Its pharmacy dates back again to 1317, the oldest of its type still functioning in Europe and key to Dubrovnik’s capability to survive the worst of the plague.

Friars devised smart approaches to dispense their potions, with draws and partitions applied to shield clients and pharmacists. Payments would be dropped into a devoted box and remaining for 10 times in a bid to avert infection. A 14th-century type of contactless payment.

Even though pandemic reminders abound, Dubrovnik isn’t really just a place to learn classes about infection manage we could all have performed with in early 2020. This is a spot deeply very pleased of its Croatian traditions and 1 which is working with them to mend wounds and get past the trauma of the gatherings which rocked this section of the environment in the 1990s.

Magic formula dances

Defending centuries-outdated elegance and tradition is part of Dubrovnik’s id.

The generations-previous Linđo dance continues to be at the center of existence listed here, as Jelica Čučević points out.

“Even these days, in the current time, there isn’t really any form of festivity or opening of any form of pageant devoid of a Linđo dance. Linđo should really be there… it really is a section of a tradition for centuries, you know? It is really a portion of the joy. It can be a portion of lifestyle, so that’s really significant.”

Čučević has been dancing the Linđo given that 1980 and right now is portion of the Linđo Folklore Ensemble, which showcases these tricky moves to the vacationers who occur to discover Dubrovnik and its past. Naturally, those people who take it significantly will need to put on regular costume to completely knowledge its joys.

Having said that, 30 several years in the past the mere act of dancing the Linđo posed major, everyday living-threatening risk for Dubrovnik’s citizens. When the Yugoslav military laid siege to the metropolis from October 1991 to May well 1992, snipers picked off innocent victims walking the streets. Assembly to dance was hard and close to not possible.

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Jelica Čučević demonstrates Richard Quest some regular dance moves.

“It was really dangerous to stroll in that time by the streets, but by some means, in that time… we located a way to mail a mystery information, you know, that we are likely to satisfy at two o’clock in the afternoon at a properly-identified location,” suggests Čučević. She was, she states, youthful and rather fearless, as were being a lot of other dancers, and refused to see their a great deal-beloved tradition wrecked. Her strength and fortitude speak to a broader sensation of group in Dubrovnik.

“There is a deeper connection that is a part of our custom. These are our roots, so it’s extremely significant to hold them going from generation to era.”

Ruined resort

The seaside web site of King’s Landing from “Game of Thrones” is also property to a vibrant and storied sailing culture.

Although the outdated partitions of Dubrovnik betray minimal of that time, it will not just take long to find monuments to that most tough of periods in the city’s record. And none are additional stark or interesting than the Belvedere Hotel.

This at the time opulent site, established higher on the cliffs over the azure waters of the bay, was home to Croatian refugees who arrived to Dubrovnik to escape the progress of Serbian troopers. It was destroyed for the duration of the brutal months of the siege and, in the 30 years since, has remained in that identical ruined state, a stark reminder of just how significantly Dubrovnik experienced at that time.

The Belvedere was only open up for 6 years right before the siege, but in that brief time experienced received a standing as just one of Europe’s finest accommodations.

“It was the greatest in the Adriatic, as I don’t forget it as a child,” claims Ivan Vukovic. “It had anything, from the outside swimming pools, you could go to the seaside, my mom went purchasing [there], my father went to the places to eat with his buddies.”

Currently, mother nature has recolonized the Belvedere, with mature trees increasing from the brickwork. The views from the 1-time suites keep on being each bit as impressive as they were being in the early 1990s, although. Yachts slip by, the horizon dotted with attractive islands, the h2o glowing in all its glory.

“It truly is wonderful to have it as a reminder how we obtained our own nation, as an impartial a single from the ’90s, and also to see what was taking place in this article, for the reason that people today have to study the errors,” states Vukovic.

An finish to overtourism?

Lockdowns gave locals a opportunity to reconnect with Dubrovnik. Now they’re all set to remind vacationers why this Croatian city is called the “Pearl of the Adriatic.”

UNESCO position couldn’t shield Dubrovnik’s Aged Town from the notice of mortar shells and gunfire. But in the many years due to the fact the war and independence, its magnificent walls and fortifications have assisted transform it into just one of Europe’s most popular vacationer destinations, not to point out the set for major-name Television shows this sort of as “Video game Of Thrones.”

Pre-pandemic, locals were struggling with the sheer numbers of persons coming listed here, pouring off cruise ships and leading to major congestion.

Close to a million cruise passengers were being arriving in the town each and every yr, with up to 9,000 a day filing through the slim streets. In 2019, officials went to the extraordinary lengths of positioning an successful ban on new eating places, closing 80% of souvenir stands and restricting cruise ships to just two for each working day.

As summer season 2021 bought underway though, all was tranquil. And for restaurateur Darko Perojevic, the transform of rate, irrespective of the problems of Covid, has intended he is been in a position to delight in his dwelling in the heart of the metropolis at the time much more.

“I would hardly ever depart the Previous Town, this is Dubrovnik!” he suggests, gesturing to the structures which utilized to draw in so numerous visitors. “The Aged City is Dubrovnik. I signify, if you go to other neighborhoods, to me that is not… it could be Split, it could be Zagreb or I will not know… Oakland. You know it’s all the similar. What helps make Dubrovnik is the Previous City.”

Inspite of Perojevic’s Azur cafe relying on travellers and its status to a lot of as a dwelling museum, he is eager to remind vacationers that it is really a position in which people today have roots.

“It can be also property to folks residing in the Previous Town like myself,” he states. “So I see this as my residing place.”

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Locals have been reclaiming the streets of Dubrovnik from vacationers all through the pandemic.

“My anxiety is we go back again to the pre-Covid point, mass tourism, and just too a lot of persons,” he adds. “It really is bittersweet. We bought the town back again to ourselves, but you know, financially it can be going a minor little bit down… I feel that we learned a lot, and I imagine that we will surely reset some matters and we know exactly where we don’t want to go.”

Darko thinks that the pandemic has specified him and other locals the probability to solution tourism in a new way. He is, he says, optimistic for the long term.

On the water

Although the Old Town defines Dubrovnik, so too does the sea. It is really obvious from the city’s area on cruise ship itineraries and the superyachts moored across the bay that the drinking water is a essential part of its attraction. But that enjoy goes back again centuries, to when traders sailed in this article. Today, locals with smaller vessels love absolutely nothing additional than tacking out and savoring the peace and tranquil of the ocean.

“For us it really is normally like aspect of dwelling,” states Dado Butigan. “It is really just… you go on a boat, you go for a swim and which is it. It is portion of our DNA mainly because we are blessed with this coastline and with the sea and every thing. And you just require to use it.

“You really feel peace and quietness when you open the sail and you just listen to the wind and the waves and a pair of birds. You just truly feel relief… It really is like real pleasure, I would say.”

To get an even increased sense of just how many boats and yachts get pleasure from this watery paradise, it pays to journey the Dubrovnik cable auto to the prime of Srd Hill. Listed here you can see the majesty of the Previous City and the sweep of the sea.

From this vantage level, Dubrovnik looks like a toy town. Some thing you just want to scoop up, place in your pocket, and choose residence. Image best in every single way. It is, most of all, precious. It’s extraordinary to consider what it has endured in both historical moments and contemporary, and that it however stands very pleased.

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