Being 65 and 69 years old does not mean you hang up your boots; you just may not wear them as long because you take time to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. Elizabeth Weigt, a Bermudian by birth along with her husband Michael have now decided to call Croatia home. We asked her why? Could she really leave the ‘Jewel of the Atlantic” for the” Pearl of the Adriatic”?
From the exotic climes of an island in the middle of the Atlantic to the Dubrovnik coastline. How did you first discover Dubrovnik?
In my life I have been fortunate to have lived in the US, Canada, Ireland and the UK. I have also travelled extensively. Because of the high cost of living and medical as well as the fact Bermuda is an island 600 miles in the middle of the Atlantic, I knew I would never retire there. I was actually on my way to Montenegro but also wanted to see Dubrovnik. We landed at night and made our way to a lovely B&B (Hotel Haus am Meer) in Cavtat. The next morning, I opened the door shutters and stepped out onto the balcony and knew I was ‘home’. The trip to Montenegro was cut short and the search in earnest for a place began.
What were your first impressions when you saw Dubrovnik and did you immediately think that you could call the city your new home?
The dramatic landscape, blue Adriatic, the weather was perfect. I felt so at home in the ‘old city’ but also loved the countryside and coast. The people were warm and friendly and without being pushy and could not have been more kind and helpful.
Whereas many Europeans and Americans now call Dubrovnik home as far as we know you are the only Bermudian living in Dubrovnik. Was it difficult to adjust your lifestyle when you arrive?
Not at all. I think it is a question of attitude. I am a guest here and have been made very welcome. It is all a question of attitude and respect. Coming from Bermuda where our two economic pillars are international business and tourism I have witnessed first-hand expatriates who constantly try to compare their life to what they had. It is insulting and non-productive. One has to respect the culture and customs of a country. There is also an organisation here called the Dubrovnik Foreign Circle. Its membership is geared to individuals who are married to or have Croatian ties or to expatriates who have decided to call Croatia home. I have found their support and assistance invaluable in helping to assimilate.
Enjoying the advent in Zagreb
Both Dubrovnik and Bermuda are tourist destinations and both live from the travel industry. Is it even possible to compare the tourism industry in both destinations? And if so is there anything Dubrovnik could learn from Bermuda?
Bermuda has made its share of mistakes with respect to the tourism industry. Many of these mistakes stem from not understanding the unique tourism product that a place has and who their ‘visitors’ are or what they want. Bermuda still has lots of work to do but it has of late been able to narrow its focus and target accordingly. Bermuda is an island and one cannot drive there so it is a little easier to control. Having worked in tourism all my life I recognise that it is not always easy to be all things to all visitors. However, their experience must be what drives your tourism and economic success. Bermuda grappled for years with their cruise ship policy and finally, I think, have it all most right. Dubrovnik desperately needs to address this situation as the crowds I have seen benefit no one, least of all the visitors who arrive by land and air, local shopkeepers and restaurant/cafe owners.
Hamilton on Bermuda has recently been declared as the most expensive city in the world. How do Bermudan prices compare to Croatia ones?
There is no comparison. Bermuda has a population of 65,000. It is 21 miles long by 1 mile wide has no natural resources, other than its weather and people, no industry and no ability to feed itself. There are some local farmers but by and large everything must be imported, including water at times. The cost of medical insurance is prohibitive and property is very expensive. In Croatia, as in other parts of Europe, one has choices and you have a country rich in farming. Life is simpler here, there is a wonderful sense of family and materialism has not taken over ‘yet’. It’s not just a question of cost but of quality of life.
What do you miss about life on Bermuda?
My family, my Mother is still there as is my daughter and my three grandsons. Most of my friends are making plans to visit at some point in time, they are very envious of me. And I am lucky I do get back several times a year.
Elizabeth swapped the golden beaches of Bermuda for the turquise Adriatic of Dubrovnik
Could you see yourself dropping roots in Dubrovnik and living here all year round? Although the city has a vibe through the warmer months the calm of the winter proves challenging for many people.
At our ages, not that we are ancient, we prefer the ‘calm’ to the frenzy of the summer months. We enjoy the simple thing and way of life Dubrovnik/Croatia offers and the ability to take our dogs on walks and enjoy the company of new friends. From the first time I visited almost a decade ago my mind has not changed. I really love this part of the world. My new challenge, to learn Croatian. Now that we will have the time we want to explore the country and not just visit.