Our holiday started in Dubrovnik. After contemplating just how much wonder and delight my special girl brings into my life, I had decided to propose to my dearest on the first day of our holiday together in this very romantic place. Even before I had reached Dubrovnik I thought it sounded perfect. Founded by Latin refugees from the fall of Epidaurum in the 6th century CE, the city of Ragusa (as Dubrovnik was known until recently) maintained its independence for over a thousand years in a very turbulent region. They fought off original attempts by Venice to occupy the city, but mainly, Ragusa kept its independence by diplomacy. They relied on massive walls surrounding the city (built ever higher), protected with a tiny civilian militia, to protect against fortes, but most of the attempted invasions where prevented by the skilful Ragusan diplomats. In fact Ragusa was often used as the meeting place for warring regional factions to sit down and work out peace treaties. While the rest of the Dalmation coast constantly traded hands between Austria and the Republic of Venice from the 12th to 14th centuries, Ragusa grew as a important port and trading partner. Even during the Ottoman occupation of the Balkans, tiny Ragusa was the only region to remain independent from the Turks (apart from the inhospitable Montenegran highlands), having purchased a peace treaty at the price of 120 000 gold ducats per month. For its context, Ragusa was highly progressive, being peaceful and relatively secular. In 1808 Ragusa invited Napoleon inside, ending its independence and introducing the progressive Napoleonic Code. This is a city that I felt my dearest and I could have a real affinity with.
I arrived in Dubrovnik five hours earlier than my beloved, and the minute Dubrovnik came into view I was breathless. The city is simply stunning, a gorgeous old town, untouched by recent development, sitting on narrow ledge of land between the mountains and the Adriatic.
I ran around the city to scout out the most romantic places to propose at, planning to propose that night after my love reached town. I decided that a stroll through town would be a perfect start, then perhaps we could get some icecream and sit on the city walls overlooking the ocean. My dearest had told me that she would meet me at our apartment (a quirky six story building deep in the old city, where the owners opened the front door by using an elaborate arrangement of strings from the sixth floor), but very anxious to propose, I put the ring in my pocket and went to meet her at the bus stop. Several hours after she should have arrived, I started to worry. Running backwards and forwards from the bus stop to our apartment I was sure she had not snuck in, and calling the airport her flight had come in, only an hour late. A few more hours, and I started to panic. The airport told me she had left an hour ago in a taxi, bad advice to complement the bad advice they gave her, the reason why she had ended up stranded at the airport, needing to hitch into town. Finally, at 2am on the last check at the bus station before calling the police and embassy, I saw my love walking towards the bus stop, and all the panic swept out to be replaced with love. Needless to say, Plan A was out.