The early years of life in Dubrovnik were ones of discovery. After some time living in Dubrovnik my parents and friends started to visit to see where I was now living. Although I had explained a lot about the city they still didn’t really know what to expect. Seeing the Old City for the first time is an unforgettable experience but I personally get a bigger thrill watching people’s faces as they see Dubrovnik for the first time. A normal reaction is firstly a jaw dropping followed by “wow” or “oh my God” and this response is universal. I know what it’s like when you live in a city you tend to forget what’s around you. After living in London for years I never visited the Tower of London or St. Paul’s Cathedral or The London eye. You just take it for granted that it’s there and some time in the future you’ll see it. I have three favourite questions for locals here and they are when did you walk the city walls last time, when did you visit Rector’s Palace last and when was your last trip to Lokrum? The answer is normally preceded by a scratch of the head and a frowned brow as they dig deep in their memory. I guess people are the same wherever they live.
Stop throwing the bread then!
On a trip to the island of Mljet with my brother-in-law I had an interesting experience. It was his first trip to Dubrovnik and is not really an outward bound type. We were sitting on rocks on the seaside dragging our legs into the sea when small fish started flitting around our feet. In a flash he brought his legs out of the water with a scream, I thought he had cramp or something, until I heard him scream “watch out for the fish”. I guessed maybe he had seen a piranha or crocodile down there but when he pointed out a group of tiny fish about the size of my big toe I assured him that wouldn’t hurt him. In fact I said if I throw some more bread into the sea that more will come he blurted “stop throwing bread then” in a panic. It took a lot of coaxing and reassuring that the fish were more afraid of him and that they wouldn’t rip his foot off. After some time he was not only feeding the fish but he was trying to catch them, I guess knowledge is power. Mljet is one of my favourite places in this area and every chance I get to spend time there I grab with both hands. On a trip to the island with my parents we were travelling across the island when we decided to stop at a small restaurant for a meal. We sat down at a table and searched for the menu. When the waiter arrived he explained that there was no need for a menu as he had only two things on offer, fresh fish and spaghetti bolognese. We all agreed on the spaghetti and ordered a side salad to go with it. A few minutes later an elderly lady appeared with a plastic bowl in her hand and wandered past us into a small garden. We thought nothing of it and continued to enjoy the view and our cold drinks until we heard her shouting “four or five” from the garden. I looked over the wall and saw her standing in the middle of the vegetable garden holding a tomato in her hand. Realising that she had just picked the tomato and was asking us how many more we would like in our salad I smiled and replied five. The look on my parent’s faces was a picture as she shuffled back into the kitchen to prepare the salad. Where could you find fresher salad?
Another friend, whose wife is also from Dubrovnik, often visits us and has been trying desperately hard to learn the language. He has got to the point where he understands a lot but speaks very little. This can lead to embarrassing situations and one occurred on his last visit. An older uncle was explaining a heart-breaking story when a group of people drowned at sea during a bad storm. My friend listened closely to the story and could see that the uncle was still upset although the incident happened many years ago. In an attempt to comfort the uncle he tried to remember how to say “don’t worry” and ended up saying “nema veze”, which basically translates as “it doesn’t matter.” The uncle face dropped and he shouted “cold Englishman” at my friend and stormed out of the room. Well as Oscar Wilde famously quoted “Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes”, so I guess my friend will learn from his experience.