Can you be a tourist in your own city? Well let’s face it at the moment there aren’t any foreign tourists so there’s an absolute need for some kind, any kind, of tourists.
I’m not sure if I have ever been on a guided-tour of the Old City. That all changed this weekend as I became a member of the “follow me” brigade.
Firstly, it was actually nice to get out of the house for an afternoon and actually socialize with real people, rather than virtual faces. Of course, it did help that the weather was absolutely beautiful, spring and all the hope that it brings are hammering on the door.
We started, just like the standard tour groups, on Pile. But with one major difference, we were literally the only living things (apart from the pigeons) on the entrance into the city.
The tour, which was strictly socially distanced, was a 2-hour insight into the love stories of the city. Clearly, this was a theme more interesting to the female population as I was one of only two males in our group. The history, legends, art, culture and social/political workings of the city, or should I say Republic, never cease to amaze me. And just when you think you’ve got a good grasp on everything your eyes are reopened with a plethora of stories about love.
As we entered the city and were greeted by an almost empty Stradun, I couldn’t help but think just how bloody gorgeous the city is when its empty. If Dubrovnik was a model it would be a super-model!
In many ways it was like a trip down memory lane for me. The pandemic gave me a chance to experience Dubrovnik just how I did over 20 years ago. So many visitors don’t get the chance to see the stone without sandals sliding over it, or admire full façades without gawky advertising all over them or to even imagine what life was like in the golden days of the Republic. I have a tough time explaining to many friends who visit that it’s even more enchanting in the winter. For I, like many other foreigners who live here, actually prefer the city out of the warm seasons.
I learnt a million things, all loosely based around romance. I also learned that of all the streets inside those proud walls only one is named after a woman - Ulica Cvijete Zuzorić. James Brown was spot on when he sang “It’s a man’s world!”
From the old prostitute district in the walls, to an airplane crashing and the greatest foreign love stories, Edward and Wallis Simpson and Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Love was in the air!
Indeed, judging by the number of foreigners who still choose Dubrovnik as their location to say their vows love is certainly still in the air. And quite frankly in such majestic surroundings falling in love is easy. The tour ended, as was rather fitting, on Porporela, the site on many romantic liaisons. We thanked our excellent and informative guide and took the rare opportunity to stroll the city. I say rare because visits are very few and far between.
With our heads filled with all things “cupid-like” it was easy to ignore life’s dilemmas. Drinking coffee-to-go on the best bar in the city – the stone palisade of St. Blaise – and being the only customers of the day in the ice-cream shop. Priceless!
Slouching along Stradun and window shopping at the closed-up stores. Standing at one end of Prijeko and being able to see right to the other end without all those tables and adverts. And of course, being able to park with a stone’s throw of the walls.
We so often can’t see the forest for the trees. We can’t appreciate the incredible beauty around us. We’re being bombarded with all kinds of information that our filters become blocked and we fail to see what is right in front of our noses. There have been very, very few positives to come out of this pandemic, but that Sunday afternoon soaking up Dubrovnik would have to be in my top three.
“A thing of beauty is a joy forever: its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness,” once wrote the great poet John Keats. There was sheer beauty that day and I was walking right in it.
Read more Englishman in Dubrovnik…well, if you really want to