In my last few posts, I’ve been laying it on a little thick singing the glories of Dubrovnik. Yes, it’s a wonderful place. But even wonderful places have their dark side. And I’ve been doing this work long enough that I get cranky sometimes. Here are a few things on this visit that stuck in my craw.
Many years ago, there was a hot new restaurant in Dubrovnik. Everyone loved it — including me. So I recommended it in our Rick Steves Eastern Europe guidebook. Less than one year later, I heard that it had gone steeply downhill, a victim of its own success (a sadly common tale in Dubrovnik). And, after having a bad meal there myself, I took it right back out of the book for the next edition. Today, more than seven years since it appeared in the book, the restauranteur still has the gall to post this blurb from my original write-up on their poster. I have fantasies of scrawling “NO LONGER RECOMMENDED!” across the Rick Steves logo. Do you think I’d be within my rights to attack it with a Sharpie?
Poor Đivo. He’s an ambitious young archaeology scholar who got a plum job: showing visitors around a slick new museum about the old medieval foundry tucked at the foot of Dubrovnik’s walls. But…nobody comes. It’s tucked way up at the top of town, impossible to find, literally underneath Dubrovnik’s basketball court. And the city doesn’t promote it at all. In fact, due to a mistranslation, the only English leaflet about the site identifies it not as a “Foundry” but as a “Forgery.” (I wish I were kidding.) Đivo — who sits on the corner out front hoping to snag passersby to tour the museum — has been keeping track of visitors. And, with about 1.5 million people coming to Dubrovnik this year, so far he’s sold a grand total of…812 tickets. (He’s hoping to hit a thousand.) For every person who shows up wanting to tour the museum, there are ten who stumble in here looking for bathrooms or the access to the walls. If you’re in town and want to make Đivo’s life a little bit better — and learn some genuinely interesting facts about medieval metallurgy — just hike up to the very top corner of town, directly below the tallest Minčeta Tower. Then walk across the sports court to the poorly marked door. When you get there, tell him Cameron sent you.
This photography shop — I imagine no longer making much money selling disposable cameras — has come up with a clever new spin on their business, which plays perfectly into our increasingly narcissistic age. While I hear a lot of grumbling about the “selfie stick” fad from other travelers, I haven’t had any negative run-ins with them myself…yet.
The reality of living in a traffic-free city is that routine deliveries are a pain. Every so often, you see little carts like this one parting the sea of tourists as it makes its way slowly up the main drag. Sturdy young men load up hand trucks with deliveries and huff them up several flights of steep stairs. Apparently this was particularly challenging for the Game of Thrones crew, who had to physically carry up each and every lighting rig, piece of camera equipment, costume, prop, and bowl of green M&Ms for Peter Dinklage. (OK, that last one was a joke.)
Dubrovnik is selling out. There are now five — count ’em five! — “Pirate Candy” shops in the historic Old Town. Big barrels overflowing with overpriced bulk candy are strategically located through town — like Hansel and Gretel breadcrumbs — designed to wear down the parents of sugar-starved children. The scuttlebutt is that it’s a chain based in Prague (of course it is) that has now spread like a virus to another one of Europe’s most beautiful (and most overrun) cities. Many locals mentioned this specific development as a bridge too far in the commercialization of their hometown. Boycott Pirate Candy!
Am I being overly negative? You bet. But don’t worry. Tomorrow I’ll look on the sunny side of Dubrovnik.