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Like so many islands along the coast, KORCULA was first settled by the Greeks, who gave it the name Korkyra Melaina, or Black Corfu, for its dark and densely wooded appearance. Even now it's one of the greenest of the Adriatic islands, and one of the most popular, thanks almost entirely to the charms of its main settlement, Korcula Town, whose surviving fortifications jut decorously out to sea like the bastions of an overgrown sandcastle. There are good beaches at the village of Lumbarda 7 km away, but the rest of the island lacks any obvious highlights.
The main Rijeka-Dubrovnik ferry drops you right at the harbour at Korcula Town. In addition, local ferries travel daily between Split and Vela Luka at the western end of Korcula island, from where there's a connecting bus service to Korčula Town. There's also a daily bus service from Dubrovnik, which crosses the narrow stretch of water dividing the island from the mainland via car ferry from Orebić, just opposite Korčula Town on the Pelješac peninsula. Orebić is the obvious gateway to Korčula if you're approaching from the south: there are several daily ferry sailings from there to Dominče, 3km south of Korcula Town, and a regular passenger-only boat service in summer (daily 6am-8pm) that brings you to the centre of town. If you arrive at Dominče on one of the ferries from Orebić, you can avoid the thirty-minute walk into town by waiting for one of the Lumbarda-Korčula buses, which call in at the Inkobrod shipyard just uphill from the harbour.
KORČULA TOWN sits on an oval hump of land, a medieval walled city ribbed with a series of narrow streets that branch off the main thoroughfare like the veins of a leaf - a plan designed to reduce the effects of wind and sun. Controlling access to the two-kilometre-wide channel which divides the island from the Pelješac peninsula, the town was one of the first Adriatic strongpoints to fall to the Venetians - who arrived here in the tenth century and stayed, on and off, for over eight centuries, leaving their distinctive mark on the culture and architecture of the town. Korcula's golden age lasted from the thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries, when the town acquired its present form and most of its main buildings were constructed, but a catastrophic outbreak of plague in 1529 brought an end to Korcula's expansion. Further disaster was narrowly averted in 1571 when, in the run-up to the Battle of Lepanto, Uluz Ali turned up outside the town. The Venetian garrison withdrew without a fight, leaving the locals to defend themselves under the command of local priest Antun Rožanović - they managed to repulse Ali, who went off to destroy Flvar Town instead.
With the decline of Mediterranean trade that followed the discovery of America, Korcula slipped into obscurity.The twentieth century saw the development of shipyards east of town, and the emergence of tourism. The first guests arrived in the 1920s, although it wasn't until the 1970s that mass tourism changed the face of the town, bequeathing it new hotels, cafes and a yachting marina.
Korcula's most famous event is the performance of the Moreška sword dance, which traditionally falls on St Theodore's Day July 29) - although these days it's re-enacted weekly throughout the summer for the benefit of visitors. Another good time to be in town is Easter Week, when the religious brotherhoods (charitable associations formed in medieval times) parade through the town with their banners - individually on the days preceding Good Friday, then all together on Good Friday itself. A comparatively recent event - but planned to become an annual feature if funds permit - is the seaborne re-enactment of the 1298 Battle of Korčula (Sept 7 or nearest convenient date), when the Genoese under Admiral Lamba Doria defeated a numerically superior Venetian fleet, capturing Marco Polo in the process.
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