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Sunday, 18 May 2014


Wednesday, May 18th., Flying Cloud, at sea.

I wrote a description of Cattaro, the ride to Ragusa, and Ragusa before 6 a.m. after only about four hours sleep. After breakfast we went ashore, and visited monasteries, etc., under the direction of the head of a museum. Some of us left him early and sat in a cafe. Then rejoined the yacht at the small port and sailed to old Ragusa.

The entrance into Ragusa is formidable, a curving canyon cut deep through rock, with a warning archway at intervals, and extremely formidable battlements above. But once within the city nothing frowns on you. For years I had formed the idea that Ragusa must be among the most picturesque cities of Europe. It is. But my picture of it was completely wrong. I had thought of it as being in an advanced state of ruin, decay, and secular dirt. Despite its age - and its houses are largely fifteenth century - it is the most spick and span town I ever saw, the cleanest, the neatest, the brightest. And it is a mass of smooth granite. Its streets are paved with granite, upon which there are no irregularities to martyrise the feet. Its tram lines are more truly laid than any others I have examined in a small town. Large open-air cafes. Bands that play native music. Excellent hotels of which I sampled two. Good food. many barbers' shops. Scores and scores of beautiful women who are neither shy, coy, nor pert, but charming with dignity. Some local costumes. A large cenotaph by Mestrovic on a wall. Wild and majestic scenery all around. Ragusa is obviously a rich city, but, contrary to what too often happens with rich cities, the peasants of the countryside are not down-trodden; very much the reverse.

Ragusa had a most destructive and yet most happy effect on my preconceived notions of the Balkans.

The Republic of Ragusa, or Republic of Dubrovnik, was a maritime republic centered on the city of Dubrovnik (Ragusa in Italian and Latin) in Dalmatia (today in southernmost modern Croatia), that existed from 1358 to 1808. It reached its commercial peak in the 15th and the 16th centuries, under the protection of the Ottoman Empire, before being conquered by Napoleon's French Empire in 1808. It had a population of about 30,000 people, of whom 5,000 lived within the city walls. It had the motto Non bene pro toto libertas venditur auro (Latin for "Liberty is not well sold for all the gold").

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