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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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

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.

Dubrovnik style Easter eggs

Easter in Dubrovnik – values that live on

“No, don’t break it…it’s beautiful,” I gasped in amazement at the scene in front of me. Easter in Dubrovnik is a time of traditions, a time of family and a time of fresh beginnings. It feels like a new chapter, a page has been turned, and yet the culture of the past is respected. Value is the key word. It is also a great time to visit Dubrovnik; it really feels like you are at the start of something special.

Easter isn’t really just a day, although Easter Sunday is the height of the celebrations, there is a week of events to experience. Which is how I came to be feeling sorry for an egg? One of the many traditions of Easter in Dubrovnik is painted eggs. Now I am not talking about whitewashed eggs in one colour, no far from it, these are tiny masterpieces. Incredibly decorated eggs with pictures, scenes and even messages displayed on them, pure miniature works of art.

Children at school, grandparents at home and even companies produce their own hand-decorated eggs. Some carry messages like, “Bless you this Easter,” and all of them are glorious. After so much time and effort has been put into painting them they are broken, egg on egg in a kind of conker competition. However if you are lucky enough to be in Dubrovnik for the Easter period then it is your job to save a few, what a perfect and unique souvenir. I have a few tucked away.

Easter at the Kazbek, Dubrovnik

Easter atmosphere at Boutique Hotel Kazbek

You have to try some of the delicacies at Easter time, such as the special cake that is made, Pinca, we love it. And don’t be surprised if you see palm decorations everywhere, on Palm Sunday it is traditional to take plaited palm leaves to church. But it isn’t only in church that you’ll see these plaited palm leaves, every home and shop will proudly have palm decorations on show.

Often tourists will ask about the special celebrations and traditions in Dubrovnik for Easter, they are fascinated that these customs are still alive and kicking. The idea of just giving out chocolate Easter eggs still hasn’t invaded Dubrovnik’s culture. And as the weather breaks, the sun stays longer in the blue sky and the nature can almost be heard awakening it is truly an inspirational time to visit Dubrovnik.

Discover the beauties and the values that make Dubrovnik a unique city to be in, and these very values are highlighted the most at Easter time. Make your own Easter memories in Dubrovnik…and save a few eggs as a memento.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Discover the beauties and the values that make Dubrovnik a unique city to be in

St. Blaise's Procession through Dubrovnik Old City

Feel the soul of Dubrovnik on the Day of Saint Blaise

Christmas, Easter, New Year…yes they are all important and rightly have their place on the Dubrovnik calendar. However, there is one day in Dubrovnik that puts all these in the shadow, the Day of St. Blaise. To start to explain the significance of St. Blaise for Dubrovnik and its citizens would…well let’s just say that you could fill a novel. Here is a brief story on why the people of Dubrovnik love their patron saint. You will often hear that St. Blaise, or St. Vlaho as he is locally known, is known as the protector of Dubrovnik, there is a reason behind that.

Dubrovnik by night, st. Blaise church

St. Blaise church in Dubrovnik Old City

The year was 971 and Venetian war galleons had dropped anchor near Dubrovnik and requested to stock up their ships with water and supplies. It looked harmless but was the cover for a cunning plan to capture the city. The Venetians used the opportunity to spy on the city’s defences for an upcoming attack. This is where the hero of the story, St. Blaise, enters. Realising the Venetians plan St. Blaise warned the priests of St. Stephens Church who rang their bells to alert the city of the attack. The plan, almost a Trojan Horse style plan, had failed, Dubrovnik was a still a free independent state. Since that time the day of St. Blaise, the 3rd of February, has been marked in Dubrovnik, to remember the saint who saved the city.

St. Blaise procession takes place through streets of Dubrovnik Old City, Croatia

St. Blaise Feast

To be in Dubrovnik for the Day of St. Blaise is indeed an honour. It is a time that Dubrovnik and its citizens treasure traditions and join together in a spirit of celebration. Banners, flags, sacral decorations and costumes fill the Old City, Dubrovnik pulls out all the stops when the Day of St. Blaise come around. It is a time that you can feel the true soul of the city. Once you have experienced on the Day of St. Blaise you will never look at Dubrovnik with the same eyes ever again. Traditional meals are served and whole families make the pilgrimage to the Stradun in the heart of the Old City dressed in their “Sunday best,” this is a time to show respect to Dubrovnik’s protector.

Although it is not a national state holiday it certainly is a holiday in Dubrovnik, and rightly so. It is truly a privilege to be in Dubrovnik on the 3rd of February, away from the summer sunshine, and yet bathed in a warm glow.

 

St. Blaise church, Dubrovnik Old City

Stained glass windows on St. Blaise church (photo source Flickr