On a cold, windy rainy day, I decided to search Google images for photographs of Dubrovnik. There are literally thousands of pages with many fantastic photos posted. To my astonishment, very few had any specific captions other than Dubrovnik. This tells me that the majority of visitors to our breathtaking Pearl of the Adriatic spent time wandering around knowing nothing about what they were seeing.
One particular photo comes to mind of some ruins just below the city wall. Many tourists assumed it is war damage from the 1991 Homeland War. What a shame they did not know these ruins date back to the large earthquake of 1667. It clearly represents that most people have not researched the place they were visiting. They are tourists, not a traveler….there is a difference.
On another day of pouring rain, I read a travel forum that had posted several questions about whether to hire a private guide in Dubrovnik. It was interesting to read the responses given full of confidence from the same tourists who took the photos and had no idea what they were seeing. I had to wonder once again why people take travel advice from someone they do not know. How can you know if your travel style is the same as whoever is posting advice? It leads so many people who have never been to Dubrovnik claiming no need for a guide, do it yourself.
There is no question hiring a private guide will enhance the experience of touring a new destination. Travel has always been a learning experience for me, seeing the sites and getting a glimpse into the history of a new undiscovered area and learn about the culture. Of course, many guides are fixated on names and dates and can recite them accurately ad nauseum with little context given for learning. Finding a qualified guide takes research; what may work for one person may not be your best choice. Moreover, a travel forum is NOT your best resource for finding one. Why does anyone truly believe that posting a request for a good guide on a travel forum will result in locating someone who can give you a memorable experience? Many travel posters have spent only a few hours, or some a few days in town and they cannot know or understand what a local resident will be able to recommend.
The Dubrovnik city wall is the most visited site; second is the cable car. However just visiting these two sites and taking photos do not give you any insight into our history. How could you possibly know that the one of the restaurants below the city wall used to be a convent? Only a knowledgeable guide will share that the Sisters of the convent began as one of the first orphanages in Europe. Babies born to the unwed servants of the aristocracy had to given to the convent immediately after the birth. The young girls put their baby in to an opening in the wall, rang the bell and the Sisters took the infant with no questions or judgments. This gave the baby a chance of adoption by a loving and grateful family, yet many stayed at the convent only to become a novice to help the next generation.
Paying the guide seems to be a prevalent question and I often wonder about those who believe a fair price is far too high. A small private group of six guests will allow each person personal time with a guide. Some people think that a lower price will be the same tour, but I often see groups of 30 to 50 people herded around and wonder what is the quality their experience. If you are not comfortable with the price of a private tour with a qualified guide, then research and be prepared to do it on your own. It is an insult to ask for a discount, do you work for less? If you cannot afford a private guide at each of your stops, then budget in a few to learn about what you are seeing on this expensive vacation.
Also, remember, there is no such thing as a free lunch. If you cherish knowledge, either you need to pay, in your own time to do extensive research, or a few hours of an expert’s to share specific information to you that will enhance your understanding of this Pearl.