You know you are in a well trodden tourist town when the female attendant in the public toilets speaks perfect English. Dubrovnik has shaken off any obvious signs of the war, and is back in the tourist business in a big way.
It deserves to be. This is a place of outstanding beauty, both in its architecture and location. It feels as if we have stepped back into the light. You can practically smell money in the air.
Later that day I chat to a stall holder, a Croatian woman who is still doing hand embroidered traditional designs. I am overjoyed to find the work at last. Embroidered items are on sale everywhere we have been, and it is all made in China, mostly by machine. There is some hand embroidery, but the designs are non-descript. Balkan embroidery is geometric, with distinctive colours related to region. The reverse must be precise, straight and orderly lines with no signs of where the cotton was changed. The hours of work involved in each piece can never be compensated at the prices a tourist will pay. Even I limit myself to buying a bookmark, I cannot risk loading up the suitcase. The stall holder tells me that life is hard, and she also is nostalgic for the old Yugoslavia.
“But Dubrovnik looks so well off,” I say. “The places we have seen already, it is obvious they are poor.”
She leans forward and drops her voice.
“Russian mafia,” she whispers.
So I guess she means that some are profiting from the new Dubrovnik at the expense of others.
We don’t want to do an organised tour, as a city walking tour is included in the island cruise we will do next. We settle for a long and leisurely walk around the city walls. Well, it is leisurely once you manage the steep climb to the top. First of all though, one has to pay the steep entrance fee, around eighteen dollars per head. I am comforted the next day when I hear the revenue goes towards a Dubrovnik reconstruction fund. According to the number of tourists doing the walk every day, and how much of Dubrovnik appears to be reconstructed, perhaps the city council might see their way clear to sending a donation to nearby Bosnia (in your dreams, Gwen).
Dubrovnik is a beautiful, beautiful city. The view from the city walls is amazing. The symmetry of the orange-tiled roofs creates a repetitive panorama that leads the eye down to the harbour and the sparkling blue waters of the Adriatic, green islands in the distance. No wonder people flock here. We spend some hours “up top” , before wandering down to a harbour side restaurant. Waddy and Bill each order a seafood risotto and it comes in a large sharing pot – almost a soup consistency – loaded with pipis, mussels and large prawns in the shell and lots of fat rice. They scrape out every last grain of it, soaking their bread in the tomato-based juice.
Thursday 27th June 2013, Garrulous Gwendoline, Dubrovnik