For the last four months, I have had the privilege to call the City of Dubrovnik my home. But just calling Dubrovnik ‘home’ would be doing it an injustice. It has been the catalyst for adventure, exploration, learning, triumph, failure, happiness, grievance, and love. It was a familiar friend, a distant stranger, a troublemaker, and a peace bringer. More than anything, this city was my home base for the greatest four months of my life. While there isn’t much I can do to repay it for what it has provided for me, the one thing I can do is try to scribe my thoughts on it and share it with others. So here goes nothing.
Every city has a ‘feel’ to it. Whether it’s the pride of its past, the unique architecture, or the people who walk the streets, the cleverly placed piles of stone, metal, and concrete have a way of personification that is unique unto it. Anyone who has stepped foot inside the ancient walls of Dubrovnik knows exactly what I’m talking about. You can’t explain what it is, but this city feels different from any other. Its more than just the aesthetics of its layout, more than just the unique natural beauty that houses it, more than just the resilient nature of its past. Above everything else, this is a city built for its people.
Go ahead, hop in a time machine and go back to any point in Dubrovnik’s history, no matter where you land, you’ll get that same feeling. This city was, through and through, built for its patrons. The walls were constructed high and strong to deter conquerors and protect its citizens. The alleyways, zigzagging intermittently up, down, and through the city, provide endless exploration and discovery. Travel back to the era of world empires; through clever diplomacy practices, the city of seven flags remained sovereign and free. Walk down a street scattered with boutiques and shops and smell the culinary excellence wafting from its nooks and crannies. Grab a beer at one of the many watering holes and indulge in conversations with the amazed tourist and the appreciative locals. Withstanding the testament of time, this city has stayed deeply rooted in the protection and well-being of the people who call it home.
While the walls are no longer used to keep out ambitious conquerors, instead they’re used to capture magnificent panoramic views of the city and the Adriatic. Fort Lovrijenac once stood guard day and night keeping a watchful eye on the horizon, now stands tall offering a peaceful spot for sightseers and Game of Thrones buffs alike to enjoy a sunny day. From its inception to present day, Dubrovnik sits at the foot of Mt. Srd looking, as my good friend Alex Costa put it, like a sandcastle constructed by God himself, built for the enjoyment and protection of its patrons.
This city is built for its people, and in return, the people gain strength, resilience, and pride from and for their city. Dubrovnikin’s (-ites? -ovs?, I’m not sure) are different unto mainland Croatians. They have a different culture, a different dialect, and a different history, and different pride than the rest of Croatia. This pride is based in its city; the winding alleyways, cobble-stoned streets, and tall walls that were built for them. The city of seven flags flies the Flag of St. Blaise the highest, the Patron saint who watches over its people. The people walk tall down the center of Stradun with their chest held high for they, are who this city is built for. And after 4 moths of living in Dubrovnik, I have had the pleasure to share in this pride.
Hvala, Dubrovnik, a piece of my heart will always reside somewhere in your walls. You have given me more than you will ever know.