Monday, 25 October 2021
The Restless Native The Restless Native

How is Modern Day Dubrovnik like the Ancient Rome?

Written by  May 05, 2016

One of the cartoon characters popular in this part of the world when I was a child was Asterix the Gaul. This French made comic strip, cartoon, and finally - movie hero was cunning and courageous, and had access to a magic potion which gave him superhuman strength.

In one of the animated Asterix movies from the year 1976, Twelve Tasks of Asterix, our hero and his big friend Obelix had to complete 12 gruelling tasks put before them by the Caesar in order for the Romans to leave their village alone. This cartoon was one of my favourites, but there was one part of it I never understood as a child. Towards the middle of the film, Asterix and Obelix find themselves in a lovely Roman town talking to a tiny character with a droopy face and monotone voice who is there to explain the next task. As soon as they meet him they realise the entire town is full of crazy people, acting in all sorts of disturbing ways. Upon inquiring why all the residents are so strange, little guy tells them they have all been to the “place that sends you mad”, and that's exactly where they need to go to complete the task. When asked what they need to do there, the character says:

“Oh, nothing much. You just have to obtain a certain permit that will then allow you to the next task.”

“I see“, says Asterix, “nothing but a simple administrative formality.“

“That's right, a formality…“ – says the Roman ominously.

This leads into one of the toughest tasks in the entire film, as our heroes navigate the endless corridors and offices of the Roman administrative building “that sends you mad“, acquiring form after form and battling ever conflicting information fed to them.

Eventually, tired and half crazy, Obelix goes into a rampage, punching through walls of the building and screaming…
…and that, ladies and gentlemen, is what running a business in Croatia is like.

Croatian bureaucratic machinery is fierce and can make a grown man weep if taken on ill prepared. Here, you need a signed and stamped paper for everything. Maybe it’s in our blood. After all, the history of Dubrovnik is so well documented because of the efficient archives of the Dubrovnik Republic. I wonder if this means that one day, in the distant future, there will be a historian giving a lecture on the ancient Dubrovnik, holding a framed faded copy of my request for a building permit or change of address.
He might carefully take the document around the auditorium giving everyone a chance to examine my hastily filled out form.
“For lack of more information about 21st century Dubrovnik, we are left to deduce poor penmanship is indicative of insufficient formal education in the area.” – Lecturer would reveal pompously, completely missing the point.

Oh well, who can blame him? How is he to know the real reason behind my scribbled handwriting are five cups of coffee I had to go through on the morning in question, to prevent myself from going mad and punching through the walls.


Bozidar Jukic is a Dubrovnik local with too many interests to name them all, with writing being at the very top of the list. He is a lover of good food, music and film, and a firm believer in the healing power of laughter. His professional orientation is towards tourism and travel so it comes as no surprise he spends most of his time alongside Mrs. Jukic running their own local tour company. Their goal is helping travellers from all over the world get a more intimate experience of Dubrovnik and what it has to offer. To find out more about their work, visit their website or Facebook page.

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