“Out of the mouths of babes,” is an English saying that means children, although inexperienced, are capable of saying wise, insightful, or mature things. I have been having lots of “mouths of babes” over the past few days as my niece, Millie, is currently visiting with my mother for an autumn break.
This ten-year-old associates Dubrovnik with certain things, regardless of the weather conditions. Ice-cream, swimming and pizza must be connected to everything she does in Dubrovnik. In fact if she could eat pizza and ice-cream whilst floating in the Adriatic she would be as happy as a god with two tails.
We navigate our day (and our walking around) via ice-cream shops that have stayed deep in her memory. Of course it also means that even though we are into November she has been splashing in the sea. This proved quite amusing as a family walked past us dressed up like they were on the rim of the Arctic circle whilst Millie was throwing her beach ball around in the sea with her auntie, yes my wife has been forced to join her in the sea.
And then came the question that had me thinking. I was asking her questions about her school and asked if she had done Croatia in her geography lessons. “Yes, we have learnt about Europe and the EU,” she answered. I stopped myself from saying the EU part might be a waste of time when Brexit comes into force. “So what did you learn about Dubrovnik?” was my next question. “Oh, we didn’t learn about this country yet,” her answer made me think. “You do realise that Dubrovnik isn’t a country,” I prodded her. “But I thought Dubrovnik was a country for itself,” she answered. “What gave you that opinion,” was my quick reply. “Well it has everything to be a country and I thought it was surrounded by other countries,” was her response. Well I couldn’t argue with her logic. To her Dubrovnik wasn’t connected to any other country and therefore must be a separate state. Millie had done what the majority of people in Dubrovnik secretly thought about and brought back the days of the Republic. Viva La Republic!
“Oh, so what country is Dubrovnik in,” she quizzed. “In Croatia,” I answered. “But it isn’t connected to Croatia,” a child’s answer. I thought about explaining the problems brought about by the Republic handing over Neum to the Ottoman Empire to form a buffer zone against the Venetians or the fact the for the past 25 years we have been planning to reconnect the country with a bridge in Peljesac (or as Kolinda would say Peljašački most) but stopped myself. A child’s logic is that we must be a separate state and she will not get any arguments from me.
In fact I was having a conversation about this very subject with a friend (no, not another 10-year-old) the other day. “The key is money, as ever,” he started. “The main reason that Dubrovnik kept its independence for so long was money, or the fact that we had plenty of money,” he finished. It was the Switzerland approach to diplomacy.
“And if we want an independent state again, a new Dubrovnik Republic, we need to convince the government that they would be better off financially if we were free from their control,” he was in full flow now.
With Catalonia and Scotland ringing the independence bells the loudest in Europe at the moment they have both missed these points. One of the first arguments that England used to convince Scots to vote “stay” when the referendum was held was that they would be poorer going it alone. If the Scots could had created a plan that convinced the people and the UK government that they would all have been richer then they might have had more luck with the votes. The same goes for the Catalonians. Dubrovnik already has a huge income and massive potential to earn even more, so the first step is partially solved.
But then came my standard question when Republic plans are brought up – “But who would govern the new state?” This question, as it has so many times in the past, brought a question marked expression on my friend’s face. But with the Catalonian question drawing to a conclusion and Scotland coming back on the table it isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that Dubrovnik, or Dubrovnik’s possible future alone, will be talked about in hushed voices again. But for now I’ll be enjoying a week of ice-cream, pineapple topped pizza and cold dips in the sea.