Dubrovnik Beyond Borders, Part II: What’s in a Name?

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May 3, 2018 – Following Dubrovnik’s move to Bosnia and Herzegovina in a peculiar case of accidental false advertising, the city of Mostar now pays a visit to the Adriatic

Remember this case of a slight mix-up that slipped through the cracks in a promo video dedicated to Croatia? The British luxury agency Alux accidentally – one can only hope it happened on accident – displayed a panorama of Mostar (Bosnia and Herzegovina) as the voiceover was singing praises to Dubrovnik. Funny and tragic in equal measure, the gaffe was kind of hard to explain, as the two cities don’t share much resemblance beyond their impressive fortifications. There’s Dubrovnik, wrapped in defensive walls and enveloped in the vast blue waters of the Adriatic; and then there’s Mostar, its iconic Old Bridge spanning over the river Neretva. They don’t exactly look interchangeable.

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And yet… maybe they are, more so than one would think. Not six months have passed, and we’ve been served with a second case of Mostar-Dubrovnik confusion. A colourful magnet bearing the best known image of Dubrovnik out there – the walls, the red tile roofs, the Arsenal and a handful of bright white boats bobbing in the bay – all of it crowned with MOSTAR, proudly displayed in the upper left corner. Oh boy. I can’t speak of the origin of this, as it appeared someplace on social media, but… just look at it:


God bless.

While it’s not easy to defend such a mistake by an agency that specialises in luxury content, the faulty souvenir doesn’t come as a surprise. Be it a magnet or a little plaque, the object is just one of the many examples of mass-produced souvenirs that often come with questionable features in their design. An honest mistake at the hand of an employee somewhere in a factory in China results with 100.000 images of misnamed Dubrovnik. You know how this ends in most cases? They get sold anyway. We can jokingly take offense or lament such gaffes all we want, but where the giant wheel of mass tourism is considered, things like these don’t matter at all.

People from faraway countries visit Croatia in growing numbers with each passing year, and they often do so by booking round trips. There’s us locals on one side, proud and enamoured of our historic gems on the coast – how could anyone confuse this-or-that city with one in a different country, when it’s so unique? – and there are tourists on the other. Tourists who often visit ten or more destinations in a week or two, captivating towns and villages which, in all honesty… can all look a bit alike to a foreign eye seeing them for the first time. I’m not saying this applies to every visitor nor am I pointing fingers, I’m just saying that I kinda get it.


Just to be clear, this is Dubrovnik. Credit: Gari.baldi / Commons 

I spent a summer working at a souvenir shop in Zagreb a couple of years ago, and I’ve come upon this phenomenon more times than I could count. Just look at this short memoir of mine to get a basic grasp of the collective tourist mindset – and I’m mostly referring to my favourite case, a certain group whose pater familias tried to convince me they had just visited Dubrovnik, a beautiful city in Montenegro. I did my best to educate without coming off as patronising, but to no avail. It’s in Montenegro. Am I implying he doesn’t know where he’s been and where he’s spent his money? The customer, ladies and gentlemen, is always right, and whatever sense of national pride you might have, you keep it locked in a box in such cases, apologise to it internally, and only let it run free when you’re faced with a visitor who actually knows what he’s talking about.

Another fact worth noting – that very souvenir shop in Zagreb was stocked up on magnets and other souvenirs featuring the likes of Dubrovnik, Split, and other coastal destinations in Croatia. Why? Because people would often flutter into the shop and ask whether we had anything related to the Adriatic. They’ve been to Split, they’d say, but they didn’t have time or spare change to get a couple of souvenirs, so they’d like to use the last chance before they head to the airport and back home. Wait… was it Split or was it something else? You know, that seaside city with fortresses?

Oh, that. We only have a hundred of those.

So that’s why I don’t even bother to judge anymore. I’d prefer all of our guests to be so impressed by the places they’ve seen that they can’t help but to leave with all the names and sights etched in their memory. And yet, I understand the Croatian coast can be a visual overload, especially for those who didn’t get to stick around one place for more than a day. What matters most is that you’ve had a nice time – and if that means someone’s fridge is now boasting a Dubrovnik-Mostar magnet, so be it. Can’t do much about it anyway. 


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