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Published: August 15th 2010
Roofs in the old town
If you walk along the city wall in Dubrovnik you see the old town from above
Dubrovnik - a pearl at the Adriatic Sea tainted by tourism
We would like to start this blog entry by saying that Dubrovnik has a beautiful old town enclosed by a very well preserved city wall. But unfortunately many others have also realised that Dubrovnik is beautiful so on a normal summer day there are way too many tourists there. So many that it really killed the joy of being there and we weren't able to admire the wonderful buildings.
Sometimes we complain that there are tourists at the places we visit. We understand if people think this is ironic or even stupid since we are tourists ourselves. We say we don't like the tourists but at the same time we are also tourists so we are part of the problem. Well, stupid and ironic it may be but still too many tourists can really kill a good tourist site.
Having said this, we still liked Dubrovnik. We spent the morning in the old town being slightly disappointed because the only thing we could see was tourists and restaurants. At lunchtime we gave up and we took a ferry to an island named Lokrum. We went to Lokrum
A fortress just outside Dubrovnic Old Town
to swim and relax for a couple of hours. When we in the afternoon returned to Dubrovnik the old town was quite a different place compared with what it was when we left. There were a lot fewer tourists there and all of a sudden we could enjoy the place much more. We ended the evening with a walk along the city wall. The entrance fee for walking along the wall was high but it was worth it. It was breathtaking to see the old town from above.
There are other ways to see the old town from above. Dubrovnik old town is located on a flat peninsula but much of the rest of the town is located on the slopes of a steep hill behind the old town. From this hill there are places where it is possible to get a view over the old town. We stayed in a guesthouse on this hill and the walk from there down to the old town and back again was pretty good exercise.
In 1991 Croatia declared itself independent in 1991. This was not popular with the leaders in Serbia who started a war against Croatia. During this war
From the seaside
Dubrovnik with its city wall as seen from the seaside
Serbian forces held Dubrovnik in a siege and bombarded Dubrovnik's old town. The bombings killed more than 100 civilians in Dubrovnik and caused severe damage to the old town. According to a sign in the old town at least 9 buildings in the old town burnt down completely and several hundred other kinds of damages from the bombings such as direkt hits on roofs, direkt hits on the cobbled streets, damages on facades by flying shrapnel and so on, were recorded. After the war the old town was repaired and we could not see any trace of the bombings today. There were a few ruins in the old town but from what we know they might have been there already before 1991.
On a wall in Dubrovnik we found a sign saying "Skål Club of Dubrovnik". We found that sign to be a bit funny because in Swedish the word "Skål" means "Cheers". The word also has one or two other meanings but none of those would make much sense as the name of a club. We took a photo of the sign just because we thought it was fun. Now we have added that photo on the blog
Wait a second
There are pidgeons sitting on the fountain and they are drinking (and s***ting) and you are taking drinking water from it?
and we don't want to leave it at just being a funny photo. So we have made some research on the Internet and come up with a few interesting things.
First we decided to take a look at the letter "Å", because it looks totally out of place on a sign in Dubrovnik. "Å" is a letter we have in the alphabet in the Scandianavian languages. Oh yes, it is
a letter, not
an umlaut. We first thought that the letter "Å" was unique for northern Europe but it turns out we were slightly wrong. According to Wikipedia "Å"
is used in a few langages outside Scandiania too namely North Frisian (minority language in Germany), Walloon (minority language in France and Belgium), Chamorro (official language on Guam and Northern Mariana Islands in the Pacific Ocean), some dialects and variations of the German language and in the language Istro-Romanian.
Here is when it starts to get interesting Istro-Romanian is spoken by roughly 1000 people in the district of Istria in Croatia. But Istria is in the northwest of Croatia, near the border to Slovenia, and Dubrovnic is in the southwest of Croatia in Dalmatia. So it turned out that
Detail of a pillar
Detail of a pillar of Rector's Palace
Istro-Romanian was probably a dead end. Though we found it to be very interesting that the letter "Å" in fact is used in one language in Croatia, even if it turned out to be in another part of the country. Not to mention how intereting it was to find out that the letter is also used in a language on Guam of all places in the world. We did not expect that!
So we went back to the research on what kind of society "Skål" might be. We googled "Skål" and "Club" and found the homepage of a society named Skål or Skål International
. According to their homepage the society "... is a professional organisation of tourism leaders around the world, promoting global tourism and friendship".
The homepage also say that the society started in Paris in 1932 "by travel managers, following an educational tour of Scandinavia". Here we have the clue to the word that we thought looked so out of place sitting on a sign in Dubrovnik. These travel managers were travelling in Scandinavia and probably had a few drinks while being there. When they toasted the Scandinavians they met said "Cheers" in their own language, which
Detail of a pillar
Detail of a pillar of Rector's Palace
is "Skål", and the French did the same. Ake has been know to say "Gan Bei", "Cheers" in Mandarin, when he has toasted during parties in China so he knows that this is probably what has happened. When they returned to Paris they decided to start a society. When they needed a name for the society they took the word "Skål", maybe to remind them of the trip to Scandinavia or maybe because it sounds funny or maybe because they wanted Swedish citizens visiting Dubrovnik 78 years later to google their name or something.
So the conclusion is, "Skål" is a society for travel managers and they have taken their name from the word for "Cheers" in Swedish, Norwegian and Danish.
If you look at a map over Croatia you will find that Dubrovnik is on a piece of land separated from the rest of Croatia. If you for example are in Split in Croatia and travel south along the coast to Dubrovnik you have to enter Bosnia and Herzegovina and then return back to Croatia before you reach Dubrovnik. In what other countries can you find that kind of situation, that you must have a passport to
An arch in the dominican monastery
travel from one part of the country to the next? We can only think of two. Kaliningrad is separated from the rest of Russia (Poland and Lithuania are in between) and Alaska is separated from the rest of United States (Canada is in between). Can you think of any other? Well, we actually know of one more place that is like that - the border between Belgium and Netherlands in the town(s?) Baarle-Nassau
. But that border is so complicated that we couldn't explain it even if we wanted to.
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