KENOVA? An essential Dubrovnik ritual decoded

One of the harder things to pick up on when just passing through a region is to sound like the natives. Everyone knows how appreciated (and funny) it is when you try to use their language, dictionary in hand, trying to decipher the correct pronunciation. But no dictionary will ever help you with the subtle differences that you sometimes notice when moving from one part of a country to the other.

Dubrovnik introduces a great experience language-wise. In general, the sound of Croatian spoken here is beautifully rounded, slow and melodic. It is also intriguing that most people, both men and women, have deep, low voices which sometimes makes it difficult to tell words apart. Still, nowhere else are entire words used like here, mixed up with authentic expressions found only in this region.

One warning is necessary, though, when in search of the Dubrovnik patois: most of the staff that works here over the summer season is from a completely different part of Croatia – if you ask them what Kenova stands for, you might just get a blank stare and a wave to the colleague that hopefully holds an answer.


It is that more confusing because a good number of places bear an original Dubrovnik word for a name: Pantarul (fork), Moskar (hand fan), Kopun (rooster), Preša (haste), Đardin (garden), Makarul (type of pasta), Lucin Kantun (Lucy’s corner), Orsan/Arsenal (shipyard), Tavulin (table), Buža (hole), Poklisar (ambassador), Portun (entrance), Karaka/Argosy (Dubrovnik galleons) and so on…

Dubrovnik traditional boat Karaka

A Dubrovnik-type galleon called Karaka in the Old Town Port, next to the arches of the Arsenal, shipyard – now a restaurant

Throughout history, languages like today’s Italian, Turkish and German influenced our language strongly – the ties with powers like the Venetian, Turkish or the Austro-Hungarian empire are illustrated in these examples; that is why so many words are recognisable to our main guests and are easier to learn than their Croatian equivalents. Funjestra (window), skalini (steps), marenda (brunch), fen (hairdryer), palačinke (pancakes), krevet/postelja (bed), pamuk (cotton) are just some of the words that have been integrated into the everyday spoken language of the Town.

Celenga Apartments by Pervanovo, Dubrovnik

Funjestra, Dubrovnik word for window – a view to the street and your neighbour’s kitchen (view from Celenga Apartments)

So what does Kenova mean? Kenova is as authentic as the city walls of Dubrovnik – it is the one frequently asked question you don’t really have to answer. It is shouted out instead of a Hello, whispered when you accidentally cross paths with someone in a narrow street. Obviously influenced by Italian as Italy is just on the other bank of the blue Adriatic sea – Kenova directly asks what is new in your life.

A regular conversation goes like this: « – Đe si, kenova? – E, a evo, ide pomalo.. / u preši sam nekoj, ne pitaj.. Kod tebe? – Dobro je! Adío! – Adío!» – This loosely translates to the following: – Where are you («Đe si» pronounced like Jessie, derived from «gdje» – where, used only in Dubrovnik), what’s new? – Oh, you know, it’s going… («pomalo» stands for another local philosophy of «taking things easy») / I’m in a bit of a hurry, don’t ask… How about you? – All good! Adio!/Bye! (Adio is also taken from Italian and, like Ciao, is used regularly.) – Adio!/Bye!

Kenova asks you to share your life’s events with fellow citizens. It is done out in the open, in form of a short break between errands you need to tend to, no fuss, just point and shoot. Those more intimate questions that ask how you are or how everyone is doing are reserved for relationships that are closer or for an occasion like a cup of coffee over the weekend.

You see, Dubrovnik people live in a tight-knit web. Grad, pronounced with a round “A”, like in broad, is a term used by the locals for Dubrovnik. Stari Grad is Old Town, so Grad is Town, City, Dubrovnik. And in this Town, everyone knows everyone. Kenova is the reason why. Some people are just naturally more curious than others and they perfected this art of casual catching up, Dubrovnik style.

For this reason, in particular, try to pay attention to the gestures and tone in which two locals participate in this little ritual – use your intuition and enjoy the theatre unfolding before you. You will be proud of how much you got to understand a language that you thought you barely spoke.


Wedding in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Happily Ever After starts in Dubrovnik

How weddings became The Thing to Do

Many people come to Dubrovnik to admire the best known UNESCO site in Croatia, many more to see the Game of Thrones filming locations, but what stands out as a trend now is to get married in this historical setting, paved with polished stone and breathtaking facades. How could one resist the allure of such a perfect stage? When flying in, the shimmering blue sea opens the scene to a city carved in the cliffs, surrounded by walls built centuries ago and filled with distinctive red rooftops.

Dubrovnik as seen from plane

Arrival in Dubrovnik

The bell towers of churches ornated in styles of renaissance and baroque announce the beginning of another love story. Every year, couples from around the world come to inhale this magical atmosphere and walk hand in hand down Stradun, the main promenade where no person is spared the attention. Picking a time to take photos of that special day has become a demanding task – Dubrovnik is always full of people! Nevertheless, when a Bride to Be starts walking towards a camera, everyone around smiles and lets her enjoy her glory. The fact is that those are going to be outstanding and unrivaled photos.

Weddings and honeymoons in Dubrovnik

Just married

Wedding planners, hotels and all the necessary arrangements can be found with ease. Organising such a joyous ceremony has become a matter of prestige and more and more people want to engage in making it as perfect as possible. The choice is yours, from a traditional wedding in one of many churches like the patron St Blaise’s and then a dinner on a lush hotel terrace or something more laid-back like a beach wedding. Why not consider sailing into the sunset, literally, on board a real 17th-century galleon replica, (maybe even with a pirate theme)? How about saying I DO on top of mount Srđ with a post-card view of the whole region? If you want a big celebration or just an intimate gathering of the people you hold most dear, Dubrovnik has the choice for you.

Wedding ceremony at the Kazbek hotel, Dubrovnik

Cheers to the Newly-Weds

Croatian Wedding Traditions

The locals favor their own traditions: most weddings take place Saturdays and then the bells are ringing all over town. The custom demands that the groom’s party comes to pick up the bride at her parents’ house with a lot of music and singing to set the mood. The road to the church and then to the dinner venue must never be repeated and every car honks the horn during the drive to chase away any bad spirits. You will often see the couple enter the church together and walk down the aisle accompanied by the best man and maid of honor. When exiting as newly-weds they are showered by the crowd with applause, flower petals, rice and more singing – sometimes even rain is considered welcome as it is a sign of a prosperous marriage.

Since the locals need to find a different location for their honeymoon and not many spots compare to Dubrovnik’s beauty, the choice is hard. It is almost enough to just take time off work and enjoy the romantic setting of the town where they fell in love in the first place like so many couples come to do.

Honeymoon at Hotel Kazbek, Dubrovnik

I DO in Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik has the ideal aura for all things romantic – weddings, honeymoons and special anniversaries. It is a small town full of charm, its hosts do their best to make you feel right at home. How not to think about coming back again on that significant date, relive a moment that is all about a perfect union? After all, your happiness is key to Have and to Hold – Dubrovnik will always give its finest for your adventure to be remembered as your most remarkable yet.


Dubrovnik, a perfect background for your wedding photos

Photographs courtesy of Ana, Sandra and Kristina