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According to legend, Richard the Lion-Heart was cast ashore here after being shipwrecked in 1192 while returning from the Crusades. The vow he made to build a church on the spot where he came ashore should he be saved was kept at least in part. Although he came ashore in Lokrum, at the request of the people of Dubrovnik, he agreed to have the church built in the city itself.
In 1859 Maximilian Ferdinand of Habsburg, then the owner of the island, came to Lokrum. He had a mansion built in the shape of a tower and a marvelous garden laid out, crisscrossed with pathways.
The very name of the island of Lokrum shows that even in ancient times there were plants from the far corners of the world growing here (Lokrum comes from the Latin acrumen, sour fruit). The tradition of bringing in exotic plants and gardening that existed from the time of the Benedictines to that of Maximilian Ferdinand was continued in 1959 with the foundation of the Botanical Garden. Most of the plant varieties derive from Australia and South America; of particular interest is the collection of eucalyptuses, cacti and succulents. In 1964 the island of Lokrum was declared a Managed Nature Reserve, and in 1976 a Special Forest Vegetation Reserve. There is a little lake called the Mrtvo more, Dead Sea, on the island, linked with the open sea, and suitable for children and non-swimmers to bathe in. On the Lokrum hills there is a fortress called Fort Royal, built in the shape of a star by the French in 1806; it gives marvelous views of Dubrovnik, Cavtat and the islands. From the port of Dubrovnik it is just a pleasant ten minute voyage to Lokrum; an arm's stretch away from the city, this favorite excursion spot is also set far back in the middle ages.
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