My Fifth Anniversary

January 2013 is the beginning of a new year and also my anniversary.  Five years ago this month I made the jump across the pond to live my retirement years in Dubrovnik – my Shangri-La.    Time seemed to have passed rapidly and I began to reminisce.

Many people believed that my decision to retire in Croatia was made quickly and without thought.  Only a few very close friends heard me chatter about this move for a number of years.  My mother asked me what I would do after she passed, would I return to Hawaii.  I remember her smile when I kept telling her, not Hawaii but I am considering Dubrovnik.

Dubrovnik Panorama

It is mandatory for all foreign guests to apply for a residency visa if their stay would extend over the 90 tourist period.  My plan, based on the information at the time, was to apply in Dubrovnik after getting settled. I was mistaken.  At the same time as I was flying east over the Atlantic, the Croatian government changed the visa laws.  I can remember in detail the words of the woman at the police station rudely saying, “No, you cannot apply in Croatia any longer, you must go back to the USA and make application there”.

The worker at the police station advised me to apply for Croatian citizenship.  “Should take about six months” were words which would come to haunt me.  Yes, I now have my Croatian citizenship, but the six months turned into a very frustrating long and arduous five years.  By the way, it is not mandatory for me to renounce my US citizenship; I have dual citizenship and will soon have two passports – US and Croatian.  Interesting note:  My Dubrovnik lawyer doing the paperwork billed me 2,000 Kuna ($350), which was paid at the end of the entire process. Can you imagine an American attorney only charging that for five years of work?

Croatian citizenship document

Croatian citizenship document

Finding a permanent apartment for a long term rental was an enormous challenge.  Apartment owners prefer to rent their units only during high season and will not consider a year long lease.  Thus I grabbed the first dwelling which came my way.   It was a small studio on the top floor of a three story home above the old town which I flippantly referred to as the penthouse.  It was a small studio with a sea view from the minuscule terrace where I spent most of my time.  The old town was obscured by a neighbor’s overgrown tree and the traffic noise from the road below was to be my undoing.  The penthouse lasted a very difficult sleepless eight months. I loved the sea view but not the noise.

Terrace view

Terrace view

Onward to the garage apartment which came about by knowing someone who knew someone who wanted to rent her two bedrooms for a minimum of one year.  Located just below the new parking garage, it had a small yard and a kitchen with a real stove and refrigerator.  It was only after moving in I noticed several doors opened the wrong direction and had no heater/air conditioner unit.  The owner lived on the floor above and thankfully was only in town a few months during the year.  It was a very interesting year and the owner was a major pain in my butt.  After moving into the apartment, I was told nothing was to be hung on the stark white wall.  Too late, I had already put up my clock!  However my undoing came when the pain declared I could not wear my flip flops in the yard and my wind chimes must be removed as the noise disturbed her rest.  No problem, my year was over and was planning on visiting my family in California for the Christmas holidays that year.  Stored my stuff at a friend’s home, I jumped on a plane and spent three months with my California family.

Snow in the small yard

Snow in the small yard

Wait for the next installment, more fun and games to follow soon.  The adventure continues…

17 thoughts on “My Fifth Anniversary

    • The first few years were a often very difficult, but I muddled past the many obstacles thrown onto my path. It is only now after 5 years that I feel so much more comfortable treading the red tape of this country. Often I am the helpless Croatian American who needs help, other times I am an aggressive determined American who does not accept stupidity.

  1. I’m fascinated! You’re the only person I’ve come across who’s repatriated to Croatia, though I’m sure there are dozens. One day I hope to make my Portuguese home a reality but Dad’s 85 this year- not getting any easier to “up sticks”.

    • It is difficult when one has a elderly parent. I did wait until my mother passed, she was 100 plus 6 months. I knew it was finally my time, so I just did it with no hesitation. Your time will come…

    • Thank you Ina for reading about my trials of living here. I am so looking forward to meeting you this summer, so much about the locals I want to share. Your blog is my first read every day, stories which must be told which so many should read to understand the past 20 years. You are my hero!

  2. Congrats and happy Anniversary! Can’t wait for the next adventure. Happy New Year

  3. what a wonderful story….. can’t wait to read more of your original adventure to Dubrovnik and looking for a place to call home! happy new year, and happy blogging!

  4. Congratulations Caroline…I have been through a similar experience and can happily say my two sons now have dual citizenship, Australia and Croatia…but my own residency papers are taking a little longer…
    DOMOVNICA has a nice ring to it doesn’t it? Congratulations again..Robyn

  5. I discovered your blog last year and have enjoyed reading it. I visited Dubrovnik on vacation in 2010 and am glad I did!
    Happy New Year everyone!

  6. It’s amazing how well u have adapted to this beautiful country and I really wish I was in your shoes. My husband and myself were in croatia at this time last month and for us it was one of the most beautiful countries the world has . Your story is so beautiful and I feel like reading it again and again. I miss croatia especially Dubrovnik a lot.

  7. I just found you and I am interested in having you as a guide for my husband and me when we are in Dubrovnik . I have posted a couple of questions on CC ports board for you before I found your homepage. Then I had to find out how to contact you not through CC. We will arrive on the Seabourn Spirit on Oct. 17 th, 2013. We are to arrive at 8:00 am and depart at 11:00 pm that night. We are not interested in trying to walk the entire wall or do all the steps. We are in fair shape– I am 65 ( nearer to 66 by then) and he is (will be by then 79) we try to walk 3 miles every day and are planning to be lighter by then but we are no Olympic stars by any means! What would you suggest ? We have done private tours several times and know that they are not inexpensive but usually there has been another couple with whom we have split the cost. This year we are uncertain as to whether they will be coming on this trip so we will probably be on our own for all tour costs. Could you give me a ballpark figure for a suggested tour. We have never been to this area before and at our ages it will probably be the one and only time so we would like a good memory to take with us. We are not real knowledgeable history buffs or cultural types. We enjoy down to earth local flavor mixed with a little of “what you should see”. Please send me an email if you are interested in working with us. My email is Thanks!

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