This summer, visitors to Župa dubrovačka will be able to "Walk Through Mlini's History", on free guided tours through one of the most beautiful places in the Dubrovnik area. Last year, the series of walks event aroused great interest among tourists, but also the local population. This was a sufficient reason for the Tourist Board of Župa dubrovačka to renew the program for this summer.
"Walk Through Mlini's History" will be held every Saturday from June 18 to August 27, starting at 10 am. The meeting point is in front of the lower entrance to the Astarea Hotel, and takes around 1h 30. The program is in English and is free of charge.
I was pleasantly surprised by the interest of the guests as well as the reactions of the participants related to the program - Photo Vedran Mezei
The program initiator and host Vedran Mezei is the author of the historical novel "The Third Key", which was also a topic of our conversation when we sat down.
Almost four years have passed since our last interview. Can you tell me what has happened in that time in relation to your literary work?
Yes, a lot has happened in the last few years. Because of my first book, “I Am Here!", I even ended up in prison. Fortunately for me, it was to promote the book, which was organized in cooperation with the administration of the Dubrovnik and Zagreb prisons. The services of these institutions considered that some topics from the book could be useful to prisoners on their way to rehabilitation.
I used the time in the pandemic the most to work on a new novel. Although it was published in the "Year of Corona", it did not significantly disrupt plans to promote the book. It seems to me that "The Third Key" has successfully found its way to domestic and foreign readers.
Tell us about your The Third Key. What’s the story about?
The Third Key is a novel in which two plots intertwine; historical and contemporary. The historical part follows the witnesses of the most tragic event from the time of the Dubrovnik Republic, the great earthquake of 1667, while the modern part talks about the relationship of two young people who through their short adventure discover many interesting facts from Dubrovnik’s history. Both parts of the story are connected by a historical document colloquially called "Charta Libertatis" ("Paper of Freedom").
Although it is fiction, I sought to base the novel on historical facts so that it could serve as a reliable source of information related to the City’s past. Some of the characters are also real historical figures and the novel reveals many interesting facts from their biographies. At first glance, "The Third Key" may seem like a historical novel, but that is not its main feature. The book questions the ideal of freedom as a universal value through various historical and social circumstances, which seems to me to be one of the very important topics in the time in which we live.
What has been the reaction to the English edition of the book from those who do not live in Dubrovnik or do not know much about it?
I think that the English edition of the novel served as an interesting and educational read for all those who wanted to get to know Dubrovnik and its surroundings or preserve the memory of their stay in our city.
I have heard that “TheThird Key" was often a suitable souvenir gift for lovers of the written word. Some readers revealed to me that they read the novel very quickly, in a day or two or even in just one night, which I was very glad to hear.
There are also two maps in the book; one of the Old Town, and the other of the wider Dubrovnik area, where the places mentioned in the novel are particularly prominent. Some readers toured the city or its surroundings according to these maps and thus visited most of the locations where the novel takes place.
Where did the idea for the title of the novel come from?
The title comes from an interesting line of Dubrovnik history, more precisely from the treasury of the Dubrovnik Cathedral. It is known that this extremely valuable treasury was kept with three different keys; one key was held by the rector, another by the archbishop, and the third by the secretary of the Republic. In this way no one could access the treasure on their own. The three keys in the book represent the three basic elements of the human being, but we will leave the finer details to those who choose to read the book.
The book launch for The Third Key was held in an unusual place. Tell us more.
It is about the Bettera summer house in Župa dubrovačka, where the plot of the novel is mostly located. This extremely interesting historical site has long been neglected, which in a way gives it a special charm. Three promotions of the Croatian and two promotions of the English edition of the "Third Key" were organized on the terrace of “the old house” in Beterina. I was pleasantly surprised by the interest in these events, which in addition to promoting the book had a charity fundraising aspect, and we organized tastings of fine local wines, live music and presented the more than five centuries old summer house in its historical context.
What makes the place special is its connection with one of the great scientists of the 18th century - Ruđer Bošković. It is assumed that as a child Bošković came here to the countryside to his uncle Ruđer Bettera. Also associated with this place are rumours of ghost summoning sessions as well as a tragic story about the life of a young woman whose death is associated with these events. The Bettera summer house is also the last destination of the "Walk Through Mlini's History" program.
The last promotion of the "Third Key" was before Easter at the Rector's Palace in Dubrovnik. How did that come about?
We marked the 355th anniversary of the great Dubrovnik earthquake, so the Rector's Palace seemed to me the perfect place to organize such an event given its historical significance and the unique ambience it provides visitors. I organized it in cooperation with Dubrovnik Museums and the Association of Parents of Children with Developmental Disabilities "Dva Skalina". All the income from the sale of books, wine tasting and hand-painted Easter eggs was intended for them. I'm grateful to all the locals who attended and supported this charity initiative.
What are your first impressions of the ‘Walk Through Mlini’s History’ tours you have launched?
I was pleasantly surprised by the interest of the guests as well as the reactions of the participants related to the program. Because this is not a classic tourist tour, but the idea was that in addition to historical attractions from the Republic of Dubrovnik and Župa dubrovačka, we present tourists with places, events and historical figures mentioned in the novel. This is in a way a presentation of a book in motion, i.e., an encounter with the author through a special walk.
Tell us a little more about the program itself, what can visitors expect if they decide to take a walk through the history of Mlini?
The meeting point is in front of the Hotel Astarea, where before going for a walk, the participants get acquainted with the plot of the novel as well as basic information about the history of Dubrovnik and the Republic of Dubrovnik. During the tour of the place, the parish church of St. Hilarion (Sv. Ilar) is presented and the details related to the great earthquake of 1667 in which this sacral building was completely destroyed.
The story of the church of St. Roch (Sv. Roko) tells of the various epidemics that have plagued the Republic for centuries, after which the walk continues along the nearby beach. It reveals details about the stay of St. Hilarion in the Župa dubrovačka and the famous legend associated with the name of this saint. Upon arrival in Beterina, we talk about the Russian-Montenegrin siege of Dubrovnik from 1806, when the Bettera mansion was looted and burned. The terrace of the "old house" presents details about the rich history of the summer house, where we reveal stories of ghosts and the how a young woman met her tragic end.
And finally, what would you say to the readers of the Dubrovnik Times at the beginning of another season of "Walks Through Mlini's History?
I would like to invite your readers, as well as all guests who plan to spend their vacation on the Dubrovnik Riviera, to join us on one of the "Walks Through Mlini's History" which will be held every Saturday from mid-June to late August, and perhaps throughout September. All are welcome!