Rather than ramble about my daily schedule of activities for my trip, I thought I’d try to give you an emotional understanding of my travels. Anyone can read a guidebook on Dubrovnik that tells you about things to see or places to eat. However,they can’t tell you what it felt like to see those sights or eat that food.
Easier said than done.
For the last two weeks I’ve been trying to think of a word that accurately verbalizes my experience thus far. When friends ask me “how is everything?!”, I’m somewhat stumped. How do I describe the feeling you get walking through the cobblestoned streets of Old Town? The winding alleyways that beckon to be explored? The panoramic views of that crystal-clear Adriatic water? Talking Croatian politics with the locals at my favorite caffe bar? Climbing to the top of a decrepit castle overlooking the beautifully rugged grey mountains surrounding the Bay of Kotor? How can I capture the essence of experience and communicate it to eager ears who are expecting grandiose stories of abroad debauchery and existential self-discovery?
These questions have been at the forefront of my mind, giving me a unique feeling of angst. Not an unwelcome angst, however. Instead, this angst has provided with a challenge: get out and learn this city and the feeling it gives me. Never waste a moment. Go out and walk the town instead of catching up on netflix. Make a new friend instead of checking the statuses of hundreds of old ones. Stay for one more beer instead of calling it an early night. The more I explore, the more I want to explore. The more I learn about this city and the surrounding area, the the more I realize I have no clue about this city and it’s surround area. The more I drink the thirstier I get.
So what word can somewhat accurately describe my experiences thus far?
Everything abut my trip so far has been surreal. This place can’t be real. The view from my rooftop terrace? No way. The medieval stone fortress that is Old Town? Get out of here. The cannon fire on St. Blaise Day? Stop that. The price of the sandwiches at the local Bakery? Now you’re really messing with me.
Somehow, Dubrovnik figured out how to fit everything you’d want out of a study abroad experience in one place, and it doesn’t feel real. Yet, it is, and I couldn’t be happier. So when asked “How is everything going?!” my only accurate response is “this place is surreal”.
Even though it’s only been two weeks, I feel like I’ve been living here for years. Dubrovnik will do that to you. Maybe it’s the long history of diplomacy that has created a welcoming culture. Maybe it’t the thousands of years of history that the walls have seen. Maybe its the people, eager to laugh at my pronunciation of ‘coffee’ in Croatian but appreciative that I made an effort. Maybe its the Wall, built tall and strong to protect what’s so precious on the inside. Whatever it is, I love it and want more. Never in a foreign land have I felt so at home. And yet, it’s only been two weeks. I can only imagine what this next three and half months will feel like. Only one way to find out, though.
Can you feel it?