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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

Christmas in Dubrovnik

My New Year’s Resolution: Travel the World!

In 2017 I will definitely visit Dubrovnik!
«Dear Passport,

It is that time of year again. The weather is grey here and I miss the Sun. I think we should head down South together and give life to a whole different New Year’s experience!»

…if this is what you catch yourself thinking when taking a long commute to work or while looking out the window from your sofa, we have an invitation for you: Come to Dubrovnik!

One way you will know you are in a place where people like celebrating is the almost mandatory dress-up no matter the time of day. Hairdos are modern, stiletto heels high, the men elegant in blazers and fine coats. You would think everyone is attending a wedding somewhere but in fact, it is just a way to enhance the merry atmosphere. Newest trends in eyewear are demonstrated, too because: Yes, it is really sunny here, you do need them! Official statistic backs this up: both in 2015 and 2016 we have had rain-free Decembers. The other giveaway to the end that is near are the firecrackers blasting off everywhere as soon as it gets dark. It is a local way to ring out the old and ring in the new year.

Holidays in Dubrovnik

Sunny and bright holiday season in Dubrovnik

The huts in the Old Town are here to stay, this time spread more evenly in different locations. They offer handicrafts and bites from different Croatian regions but do try the drinks as well: a warming cup of baked fruit tea with a delicious scent of orange with cinnamon at Stradun or head further to Gundulić Square for the crafted beers from small and unknown Croatian breweries.

The youngest citizens have not been forgotten either – all the glowing, colourful statues are in place, smartphones are clicking photos endlessly. We have to admit, even grown-ups take selfies with the Bear. The amusement park in the port of Gruž is fun for the whole family too.

Christmas in Dubrovnik

A photo with Teddy the Franko is a must

The Tourist Board of Dubrovnik offers an overview of events here:
http://www.tzdubrovnik.hr/lang/en/calendar/0/index.html

Should you opt to greet the New 2017 outdoors like the bravest of them all, leave the dress-up for another occasion. You need to be warm and ready to dance, jump and shout your way into a better future. The fireworks from the old Belltower are half as spectacular as the Sydney ones, but what you really need is a loved one to watch the sparkly lights with and a kiss at a stroke of midnight, surrounded by cheery natives.
When all the partying is set aside, the most important part of the event becomes obvious: before the end of another successful year you count your blessings and share them with the World. You make room for all the good you will give and receive in the next, so reward yourself, take your passport and click to confirm your trip
we are expecting you!

Dubrovnik in Christmas spirit

Festive season in Dubrovnik

Wedding in Dubrovnik, Croatia
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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.

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Dubrovnik, a perfect background for your wedding photos

Photographs courtesy of Ana, Sandra and Kristina

Lokrum island near Dubrovnik

Lokrum – the green oasis of Dubrovnik

It is an island of legends, love and lush green vegetation. Located just a stone’s throw from the historic city walls of Dubrovnik the island of Lokrum has always had a strong position in the rise of the city. With hidden coves, covered walkways and untouched nature the island is THE place to escape the hustle and bustle of Dubrovnik through the summer months, go where the locals go.

Lokrum island near Dubrovnik

Lokrum – an island waiting to be explored

The earliest mention of Lokrum stretches back to 1023 when Benedictine monks became owners of the island; you can still see their influence today with the monastery in the centre of the island. In fact most of the manicured gardens you see on the island also come from the monks, they were certainly busy! Over the years the island has changed hands a fair few times, it has been a turbulent history. There is even a legend that King Richard the Lionheart landed on the island after being shipwrecked nearby.

Modern day Lokrum is an oasis of tranquillity, a green island in a sea of turquoise. Just a short ten-minute ferry ride from the Old City of Dubrovnik and you are a world away, a haven of peace. Our advice is to get a morning ferry and spend a whole day on the island; there are plenty of cafes and restaurants so you’ll be spoilt for choice.

Here are a few tips to make your Lokrum day go with a bang. If you are a family then one of the best places for children to swim is the so called “Dead Sea” which is a shallow lake-like area on the east of the island. If you fancy exploring a little then take a circular walk, start at the “Portoc” where the ferry lands and head west. A sunning pathway takes you through Mediterranean nature and fauna, the views back to the Old City are panoramic and unique. Just keep following the path, you can’t really get lost as after all you are on an island, and after 40 minutes you will get to the northern side where many beaches and attractions are located. And when on Lokrum you just have to dive into the crystal clear Adriatic. Search for a cove of your own, find the shade of a pine tree, roll out a towel, open a good book and unwind in the sunshine.

Peacocks on Lokrum

The peacocks are always happy to pose for photos

Time for lunch, wander off to the monastery where you’ll find a good restaurant or over to the playing fields and another great restaurant, and take a few photos of the peacocks along the way. The peacocks were introduced a few years ago and are protected on Lokrum, they are always happy to pose for photos. They aren’t the only protected species; the whole of the island was proclaimed a Special Forest Vegetation Reserve in 1976.

Lokrum is truly a summer joy, a sanctuary for a romantic day, a heaven for families and an island waiting to be explored.

Game of Thrones in Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik and the Game of Thrones – best friends forever

If you have ever been to Dubrovnik then it will be clear why Game of Thrones loves the city. The two are inseparable, a match made in heaven. Six years ago when the producers at HBO decided to film a historical fantasy series you would have been forgiven in thinking that they always had Dubrovnik on their minds. The truth was that they had never been to the city; Dubrovnik was not ever at the back of their minds. But a twist of fate, could well have been destiny brought the Game of Thrones cast and crew here.

“As soon as I walked through the city gates I thought I was walking into a dream, is was as if I had entered a living breathing scene from the series,” said one of the producers of the show to us on a visit here. He isn’t wrong. From that day, five seasons ago, Dubrovnik has been the capital of the seven kingdoms, Kings Landing. It has also been the capital of the world for the millions of fans of the popular series. Little did we know all those seasons ago what the Game of Thrones effect would be, we are truly best friends forever.

At King's Landing during GOT filming

Bronn (Jerome Flynn) and Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) – a scene from GOT filming in Dubrovnik

“Where did they film Game of Thrones,” if I had a Euro for every time I had been asked that question we would be sailing off into the sunset on a mega yacht. There are around twelve locations in and around the city, from the island of Lokrum, the Trsteno Arboretum and the historic walls themselves. Pick up a “GOT” map at the Dubrovnik Tourist Board and follow your nose. Yes, lots of computer generated graphics were used but the scenes where the Lannister family did their deeds are easily recognizable. These walls haven’t changed their look for hundreds of years; with a map you’ll soon be able to relive the action scenes in your imagination. There are many, many Game of Thrones tours in the city, some great, some a rip-off, but with a good map and an imagination you can pretty much do it all yourself.

Filming of a scene of Game of Thrones in Dubrovnik

Lena Heady as Cersei Lannister during filming of GOT in Dubrovnik

But if you are looking for the inside scoop then why not visit the city when they are actually filming the series. There is a chance of seeing Tyrion Lannister up close and personal. The cast and crew normally make their way to our city on the Adriatic at the end of summer, September and October are popular months for filming, so keep your ear to the ground and your eye online and you find the dates. After all when the Game of Thrones comes to town it is hard to keep it a secret.

King's Landing

“The Greatest City that Ever Was or Will Be!”

Lindjo folklore ensemble

Dance to the rhythm of Dubrovnik

With the cry into the night air, the first tunes from the Lijerica, the twist and twirl of the colourful dancers, this is Lindjo.

One of the absolute points on your “must do” list whilst in Dubrovnik is to attend a performance by the folklore ensemble Lindjo. With over fifty years of tradition the Lindjo ensemble is one of the columns of culture on which Dubrovnik is founded.

An explosion of song and dance and the Lindjo begins. The energy is overflowing, the passion incredible and the moves enthralling. The Lijerica plucks away its monotonous tone, the dance leader cries instructions to the circle of dancers, the harmony is outstanding.

Formed in 1965 the Lindjo dance ensemble performs traditional songs and dances from the Dubrovnik region. It is like watching history come to life. Dances passed down from generations, costumes created over hundreds of years and lyrics aimed to shock and amuse. History and traditions respected in a single dance.

The audience around me fall into silence, a silent awe, as the young dancers perform…”they are really unbelievable and so nice to see so many young people dancing,” I hear the English couple next to me.

Traditional dance of Dubrovnik

Dance to the rhythm​ of Dubrovnik

Through the summer months the Lindjo dancers are kept very busy. Apart from performing in the Dubrovnik Summer Festival they also dance three times a week in the Lazaretto complex. They also take this little piece of Dubrovnik on tour all over the world, great ambassadors for the city. They are accompanied by the traditional instrument, the Lijerica, a pear-shaped, three-stringed instrument which is played with a bow. It might look easy to get a tune from, but believe me it isn’t, far from it.

“And I can, thank God, raise my leg high in the air,” echoes out in the Dubrovnik evening sky, the dance leader has a firm grip on his troupe, his booming lyrics continue unabated.

In times when the authenticity of many world destinations is under question the Lindjo performers are without doubt as authentic as the City Walls themselves. To understand the society, the culture and the very spirit of Dubrovnik, the city that you have chosen to holiday in an evening with the Lindjo Folklore Ensemble is an evening that will create memories for a lifetime. This is the soul, the heartbeat of the city in a dance.

The crescendo of applause as the whole ensemble takes a bow is deafening, cries of “bravo” ring around, once again Lindjo has found a new group of fans.