|The town of Dubrovnik|
In late September and early October we went on a holiday to the Adriatic and visited the Croatian town of Dubrovnik.
Dubrovnik is one of 8 sites in Croatia that is registered with UNESCO as a world heritage site, and it is indeed a beautiful old town. It is also a stupendously busy one! Like Venice, and other places that make it onto the conservation list, the town has been swamped by tourism, and many of its inhabitants have now moved to quieter and more convenient homes elsewhere.
Listed in the 1970’s, the attentions of UNESCO will mean that Dubrovnik is being preserved for posterity (although this did not save it from being shelled heavily during the Civil War in the Balkans in the 1990’s.) The tensions caused by the conservation of the town as a living museum did give me pause for thought however. Must preservation come hand in hand with a level of tourism which in itself compromises the very nature of that which is preserved?
|Roman cistern in Dubrovnik with bomb damage and sandbags during the 1990's|
In the UK there are only 25 cultural world heritage sites, which seems a low number in comparison with the number in Croatia, a much smaller country. There are many places at least as deserving as those already on the UNESCO list at home and abroad, including lovely Lavenham, which, with its unique collection of cloth merchants homes and its fine 15th Century church certainly compares with many places that have already been listed.
While encouraging more people to come to Lavenham is an admirable aspiration (the village and its businesses could certainly absorb more visitors without problem on most days of the year), the idea of encouraging the sort of hordes that we experienced in Dubrovnik or Venice does frighten me a little.
Holiday cottages and second homes are already an issue in the community. It is very important that the demands of cultural tourism go hand in hand with making sure that places of special interest continue to stay alive, and retain the sense of place that made them unique in the first place.
|Tourists take time out in the shade in the old town of Dubrovnik (note the restored Roman Cistern!)|