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Sunday, 21 September 2008

DIA 323-324 - Dubrovnik (Ragusa)

Cipili - Dubrovnik

I am a 16th Century Venetian Cloth Merchant

Hello. My name is Pietro Dandolo. Women love me for my charming manners and my fine length of leg. But I am even better known as a talented and highly successful cloth merchant. The only cloth merchants more successful than I live in a Godforsaken city named Ragusa. The merchants of Ragusa thieve our trade, and must be stopped.

They have 200 merchant ships in their fleet. It is the biggest fleet in the world. We need to rule over them once more so that we may share in their good fortune. In the Year of Our Lord 1205 we took their city, and they were forced to pay us tribute. We also took freely from their supplies of silver, hides and wax. The position of rector of the city was allotted to a Venetian. However, we lost our claim to the city in 1358 - Ragusa fell into the control of the Hungarians.

The situation worsened when the infidel Ottomans began terrorising Europe. One day they will be judged by God, just as the Byzantines were judged and found wanting, but that day has not yet arrived. The citizens of Ragusa pay a thousand gold coins to the Porte, and these handed over with the honeyed words of the shrewd diplomat. The Gran Signore (our name for the Sultan) left them alone, and their unholy alliance has given them trading rights with the infidel. They trade freely with the East and with the West, all the way to Syria, Egypt, France and Spain. They specialise in glass-blowing, weaving, textiles, and they have recently started trading in salt. They put their consulates all over the world - they know the latest intrigues and sell others the political information they have gleaned. They would no doubt deliver up their grandmothers if the price was right.

True, their city is beautiful, in similar tradition to Venice. In 1292 regulations were laid down, and everyone must abide by these, from successful merchants like me to lowly butchers. Windows and doors must be just so and houses made of stone. Their sewage system has lasted over 100 years and perhaps will last into a new millenium. The main street is paved and plays with the light in the most delightful way. A huge fountain near the entrance of the city brings in water from eight miles hence. The city holds wheat silos filled with wheat, and the citizens continue to construct additional fortifications to protect themselves against our might. The Fransciscans, Dominicans and Benedictines all have churches within the city walls.

Nevertheless, I pray to God everyday to let justice be done. These so-called Catholics do business with infidel. I would never sully the beauty of my rolls of cloth by allowing ungodly hands upon them. The citizens of Ragusa may pride themselves upon their diplomacy, but I predict that a man named Napoleon Bonaparte will take the city in 1808, and that the city will later be ceded to the Austrians. My intuition tells me so. God always judges in the end.

Now I must leave you. The brothel calls, and it would not be gentlemanly to keep the ladies waiting.

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