Every town has special people who become known for their traits and characteristics. Some are movers and shakers of high prestige. Others make their mark on their world in quieter ways. I want to tell you about a few of the special people I have come to know here in Dubrovnik.
As you walk down the Stradun on a warm day you might hear a man call out to you from his shop window, “Dobro Dan” (good day). What a way to start the day. It is Maro, our local barber. His small shop, where he has plied his trade for over 40 years, is much more than just a place to get a haircut or shave. It’s a gathering place for many of the men of the community. All the local residents of Stari Grad (old town) know him and everyone calls to him “Dobro Jutro” (good morning) or “Dobar Dan” (good day) or “Pozdrav” (regards).
One hot summer day I stopped in to get out of the blistering sun. As we chatted, I began to take note of the way Maro responded to people who called out to him. Usually he said “Po Malo” which literally translates to “by little.” However, its meaning is more like “take it easy,” a wise suggestion in the heat. It was only after I had been sitting there for a short time that I noticed a difference in the way he responded to the ladies. Maro was greeting ALL of the women with “Dobro Jutro Ljubav” (good morning love). After just a few had passed by the shop, I asked him if they were all his loves. He responded, “Of course, I love ALL the ladies.
The Stradun glows with its white stone pavement, washed down every morning by machines these days. Years ago it was scrubbed by hand in the wee hours of the morning, as many of us can still vividly recall. There are shops galore lining the promenade including several gelato stalls and a couple of good bookstores. Many, however, are tacky souvenir shops full of cheesy imitations of products from the past, made in bulk in a distant country where labor is inexpensive. These items catch the attention of the many tourists who come to visit and they find it easy to stroll the Stradun and pick up these imitations, not realizing that just a few steps away are some genuine gems. A few of Dubrovnik’s special people own these shops.
Although many of the local craftsmen no longer have stores on the Stradun, there is still a very special jewelry shop, Zlatarija Jurisic. Niksa, one of the last remaining goldsmiths in town, sits in the back room and plies his magic. His creativity is unsurpassed and his designs are unique, one of a kind. I am lucky enough to own a special pair of gold filigree earrings, indicative of our Konavle area. He still works with our very special Adriatic coral, making unique and imaginative pins, earrings and necklaces.
I soon learned that the way professionals do business here is very different from what we customarily experience in the U.S. One such is Branka, my attorney, who is handling the paperwork for my dual citizenship. Her office, just off the Stadun, is accessed by a winding stairway leading to a small antechamber with room for three chairs. No appointments are made; one just shows up and takes a seat. Everyone waits their turn, with each newcomer asking who was here last. The building was probably built sometime during the 1700s. The door is so low one must duck down deeply to enter and ceiling is not much higher. The old door handle must date back several centuries and there are many layers of paint on the walls and ceiling. I was told this room was originally used for a domestic who usually lived with her aristocratic family.
Branka’s large old desk is covered with client folders, piled at least 10 high. There are bookcases on every wall, all filled with more folders. The filling system looked totally chaotic to me but she picked up my file from a pile behind her, never hesitating one minute. I would venture to state she has her entire legal career in that small space and can put her hand on any file instantly. Branka does not waste a minute with small talk. She answers questions quickly and efficiently while chain smoking during the entire visit. This is quite unlike any lawyer office I’ve ever seen in the U.S.; no receptionists or wood paneled waiting room in some sky high glass building. You can, however, say that she does have the penthouse, since she is on the top floor of a two story 18th century building.