The first time I laid my eyes on Dubrovnik was during wartime, in November of 1994. I was only four years old, and though that was one of the most devastating of times for the great City and I was only a child, there was something about it even then that made my soul feel complete.
A few summers ago, while I was living abroad, I was day-dreaming of its enchanting stone walls while staring through the window of our office. I couldn’t wait to make it to the sea, and that was the summer when something in me happened – a change of heart. I knew that eventually, I would want to come back home. I just didn’t know it would happen so quickly.
The year after that, there I was, already living the Croatian dream. One evening, while my good friend and I were sitting on the steps of one of Dubrovnik’s cult bars, the waiter came up to us to tell us that the young man sitting only a couple of meters away wanted to buy us drinks. After this quite typical (Croatian) gesture, my friend and I paid our thanks, made our orders, and were quickly acquainted with the two gentlemen.
After what seemed to be ages of talking about the Dubrovnik Summer Festival, facts and fiction about the city, pilgrimages, and our backgrounds, there was nothing left for me but to embrace the luck of being found in the care of locals who love their hometown and know it like the back of their hand.
Very quickly, I found out that the best time of day to sight-see in Dubrovnik is at night. It was past midnight and its worn-out stone streets were still somewhat warm from the sun that had set. Everything was close to silent, with buzzes of different music and voices emerging from corners that seemed somewhere far away.
Standing before the Church of Saint Blaise in all its architectural glory while waiting for the guys to grab some more drinks and head out to the dock, I acknowledged that so many before me had walked here – while it remained more or less the same.
What always seems most romantic and vulnerable about the old town of Dubrovnik is the way life is found in the midst of its small streets, stairways, and narrow paths, between courtyards, and before entrances. In those few days, I experienced it as a city made up of flamboyant characters who crossed my path and interacted with me very naturally. I felt as though I was taking part in the acts of a play. With every new scene, I was sure that this was the place where I needed to be.
My friend and I have always been foodies, and though we can spend days eating salad and cottage cheese in the attempt to stay slim, we wanted to top off our already very romantic stay with a dinner to remember. Our new friends almost unanimously suggested that we visit restaurant Kopun, with a mesmerizing view towards the Church of Saint Ignatius. Their fantastic local wine and seafood courses made our senses spin, to say the least!
The miniature island of Lokrum, only a short boat ride away, was one of the last places that were recommended. We laid ourselves on its rocky beaches to sunbathe for hours, after which we walked across the island, curious about its history and exotic vegetation.
So, why “the Paris of Croatia”? Simply because Dubrovnik is the one city in all of Croatia that has preserved its cultural heritage so proudly and consistently for centuries.
At the sight of its impressive walls, peculiar corners, and interesting persona, does this medieval town-once-republic ignite your imagination and stimulate your curiosity, too? Do its old stone walls and crooked staircases take you back to where it seems that you’ve always belonged?
With each new time I lay my eyes on Dubrovnik, there is something about it that makes my soul feel complete.