“We have a new project and was wondering if you could help us?” came the Scottish accent down the phone line. “I will try my best, what is it?” I replied. “We are making a special application for the travel company Expedia about Dubrovnik, it’s called Hidden Dubrovnik and we need to find at least ten hidden secrets for tourists in the city,” he answered. Two things immediately flashed through my mind, a) this man has never been to Dubrovnik and b) I hope he doesn’t mean only the Old City.
It turned out that I was right on the first point and right on the second point. This was going to be a battle.
I knew that my Scottish friend had never been to Dubrovnik before; if he had he wouldn’t have assumed that there are ten hidden places inside the Old City Walls. I had to add “You do realise that over 2 million people visit Dubrovnik every year and that almost every single centimetre has been photographed by tourists, as well as the pages of foreign newspapers.”
But I have never been one to turn down a challenge. As the famous English entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson once said, “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!” Well it wasn’t exactly an amazing opportunity, at least not what Sir Richard would call amazing, but it was an opportunity to promote Dubrovnik, how could I say no. Now I would have to rack my brain a little.
The mission was to find ten hidden places inside, or very near, the Old City Walls. Now the word hidden could have lots of meanings. It could be physically hidden, yes but that one was going to be tough. It could be hidden in terms of being just difficult to get to...hmmm that one is close to being physically hidden. OK, this was going to be a challenge. I could have put Pero’s toilet on the list, that was hidden, but I am guessing that potential tourists wouldn’t want to read about that. Hidden yet interesting, if they were interesting they wouldn’t be hidden!
I got onto social media for some suggestions but was met with a wall of silence or places so unhidden that they had neon signs that could be seen from Mars. So I walked, I walked around the city, street to street, corner to corner. OK, I admit that I had few ideas in my head before I set off, but they were very flexible.
A couple of days later and the UK journalists arrived in Dubrovnik ready for me to uncover Dubrovnik for them. Just as my Scottish friend they had never been to Dubrovnik before, the challenge was getting harder. But armed with a camera, a video camera and a Dictaphone we set off for the Old City. I had found some new sights and some old more familiar ones. It was a little like what a bride should wear on her big day, I had something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. I also didn’t want to give away too many Dubrovnik secrets. You know those special tucked away places that we all know about but are reluctant to tell anyone about in fear that they’ll lose that special exclusive feeling.
“We will make ten such hidden guides of cities in Europe and Dubrovnik is the first,” said the reporter. I am guessing that they were working on an alphabetical order and they weren’t doing Athens, Berlin or Cannes. I could be wrong. And so the journey began and within a day and a half we had covered most of the stones in the city. They seemed pleased with my choices; I even managed to find a few on the way which added to the list. I had to be creative but it had worked, hidden Dubrovnik was completed.
One thing I must say publically is that in every, and I mean every, place that we went we were greeted with open arms. The hospitality we met was unparalleled. These places might have been “hidden” but the friendliness we all received was far from being hidden. And I am guessing that after this list comes out in front of millions of people around the world that these places will not remain off the radar. “I have been to Venice before and was expecting a similar destination but I must say that Dubrovnik has a really special vibe about it,” commented the seasoned travel writer in front of me. “Do you think the people who live here know what they have?” she asked.
If you were wondering what made it onto my list you’ll have to wait for Expedia to announce it. As the great author Roald Dahl once wrote, “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it.”