CLAIRE MASON had dutifully crossed off the days until her escape to paradise but did the locals feel the same about their country?
We’d been excited about our break in Dubrovnik all year. It was all planned. Days exploring, nights kicking up our heels in the Old Town.
Our bums were on the scooter as soon as we checked into our hotel and we whizzed up and down ancient one way streets and along the coast. Dubrovnik is beautiful with rocky cliffs and the mirror-calm Adriatic reflecting eternity. Spell-bound, we crossed the Franjo Tudman Bridge (pictured above) and drove past some small towns, heading further up the coast.
My rear end had just started to feel numb when we saw a sign for “Slano”. We pulled over and were thrilled to see the Slano Tourist Office right where we parked.
Greeting the representative and explaining how delightful we found this town, we were met with a grim stare. Our polite enquiry of “could you direct us to any places of interest in the town?” was met with a stony: “No, there is nothing interesting here”.
Stunned, we said our goodbyes, and promptly found remnants of Illyrian settlements, baroque and renaissance buildings, an ancient church, a lovely beach and busy restaurant all in this dull place.
We set off that evening to a restaurant in the Old Town. Starving, I was delighted to see cheese listed as a starter on the menu. I knew that this area of Croatia had its own wine tradition and wondered if these were uniquely artisan Croatian cheeses. I asked the waiter if these were local cheeses. “No, you only get normal cheese in Dubrovnik,” was the surly response.
By now, we thought we were in a Monty Python sketch. Thankfully Dubrovnik is so beautiful, it sells itself, because the locals certainly weren’t doing it. Making our way down one of the narrow, stone streets, we popped into a pub. I wanted to sample a Croatian wine and my significant other wanted to test the Guinness outside of his native Ireland.
Ready to splash the cash, I asked the barman if he could pour me a glass of the best Croatian wine. “Sorry,” he said, “we don’t have any good wine”. * I ordered a bitter lemon instead and waited as Shane’s Guinness arrived … but without the head, sacred to any Irish Guinness drinker.
So Shane asked our barman to put a head on his beer. “We don’t do that in Dubrovnik,” he remarked, “and besides, the tax man is here.”
What did the tax man had to do with not getting a decent head on a pint? Who knows?
The Croats are a delight most of the time. The service in our hotel was faultless, they speak very good English and the town is the cleanest I’ve ever been to. But selling is not one of their strengths. So we intend to return to Dubrovnik to run “improve your selling skills” workshops. We expect to eat a lot of normal cheese while there!
*Not strictly true – we found a good red wine in the “Kunzum” (supermarket) the next day.