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A number of our Croatia tours visit Dubrovnik which was founded in the first half of the 7th century by a group of refugees from Epidaurum, today's Cavtat. They established their settlement at the island and named it Laus. Opposite that location, at the foot of Srd Mountain, Slavs developed their own settlement under the name of Dubrovnik (named by "Dub" - a type of wood). The settlements were separated by a channel that was filled in during the 12th century, and since then the two settlements have been united.

At that time the city walls started to be built as a protection from different enemies - Arabs, Venetians, Macedonians, Serbs, etc. - who wanted to conquer Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik thrived in medieval times as Ragusa, a rival to imperial Venice. Citizenship was bestowed upon the skilled and the entrepreneurial. Much was destroyed in the earthquake of 1667, and later the city was overrun by the Habsburgs and Napoleon. However, Dubrovnik retained a strong sense of identity and artistic prowess.

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Exploring Dubrovnik

Protecting the city-state through centuries of trade and torment has been St. Blaise, whose statue stands over Pile Gate, the main entrance to the old town. From here, you can walk right around the towers and bastions (entrance 30kn) of the high city walls, which takes about an hour.

At ground level, take a walk from Pile Gate down Stradun to the old harbour. You'll first come across the Franciscan monastery. Although rebuilt after 1667, the cloister is a Romanesque original from the 15th century. On the other side stands the dome of Onofrio's Great Fountain, built around the same time. Nearer the old harbour, the baroque Church of St. Blaise stands across Luza Square from the elegant Sponza Palace, formerly the Ragusa Mint. Inside you will find the Memorial Room of the Dubrovnik Defenders, with pictures of all those who died during the 1991 bombardment.

Also near the harbour are the Rector's Palace, the seat of government in the old republic; the Cathedral and Treasury; and the Dominican monastery, where the museum holds a few Titians and an 11th century Bible. The nearest beach is Lazareti, just past Ploce Gate; another, with more family-orientated attractions, can be found at Lapad, a short bus ride from Pile Gate.