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.


Springtime kick-off the right way

First days of spring knock on the door. Meteorologically only, of course – we need to wait a few more weeks for real spring to start. The trees grow new leaves and the daffodils bloomed, too. Dubrovnik was showered with heavy rain in the morning but already by early afternoon the wind changed direction, the air became crisper and the humidity went away. The remaining puddles of water mirrored the sun’s reflection and the city soon buzzed with life again.

All of a sudden, there seems to be something new going on in Dubrovnik. The long beauty sleep is finally finished, all the dreams people had for the Town are coming true. Even though the time of the mascarade is over, the main street and the old port still wear a disguise.

Just like with Game of Thrones, Star Wars or the Indian spectacle Fan, Dubrovnik is once more the perfect set for another long awaited blockbuster: Robin Hood: Origins. The preparations lasted longer than usual, the scaffolding and the decor for the film-shooting grew in shape slowly. This gradual development allowed the locals to use their imagination about how it might all look like on the big screen.

Set up of Nottingham on Stradun

Stradun becomes Nottingham

Film tourism - Dubrovnik

Robin Hood filming in Dubrovnik

Hollywood movie shooting in Dubrovnik

View to Robin Hood filming from our Domino Apartment

Now, the newspaper headlines and social networks are full of juicy titles and photos featuring the stars of Robin Hood: the Academy Award-winning Jamie Foxx and the very popular Jamie Dornan. The filming is undergoing day and night on different locations, parallel to the everyday town life. The film is set for release by end of March 2018 and Leonardo Di Caprio, another famous Oscar awarded actor, will be producing this atypical interpretation of a well-known classic. All the facts point to a major success; Dubrovnik is again honoured to play a significant role in the process.

Tourists are a rare sight to see, but not completely absent. There are enough connecting flights and accommodation options but the most important part is the weather. It is much better than in most European countries! There are some surprises from time to time, but the average winter temperature of 10°C/50°F and plenty of sun exposure vouch for a relaxing weekend getaway.

Snow in Dubrovnik in January 2017

Dubrovnik Winter Wonderland (photo by 2THESign)

What could attract you to visit Dubrovnik during low season is the fact that you can do it even on a tight budget – the basic prices are much lower than the very popular summer months. An added bonus that is definitely an important highlight: you do not need to elbow your way through the crowds and all the beauty of the city and its surroundings seem almost heightened by the quiet tones of the mild springtime sun.

The openness of the space around you and the simplicity of the locals’ lifestyle will enchant you. Everything seems to move at a slow pace, the mood is lighter, the smiles on peoples’ faces genuine. When you are not hunting for a glimpse of a famous Hollywood star or researching the museums for more stories about different habits, rituals and cultural heritage, you will be out and about.

If you are a food enthusiast, keep in mind that March is the perfect time to be in this region! The oyster season is celebrated in Ston town on St Joseph day, March 19th. The oysters from Ston are unique in the world, small in size but full of flavour; a true delicacy enjoyed only in Croatia.



Oyster Festival in Ston


Those first-hand impressions of faraway places stick with you forever and spark the curiosity to find out some more. So, for this spring keep Dubrovnik in mind.