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Englishman in Dubrovnik Englishman in Dubrovnik

Capital madness to start the New Year

By  Jan 07, 2017

It is said that what you do on the first of the year will be an indicator on what you will do for the rest of the year. If this is true then I am in for a year of rain, crowds of tourists and terrible internet connection, oh and a year of travel without sleep.

Yes, 2017 has arrived, and this festive period I spent in England with my family and friends, and on the 1st of January I was walking the streets of London, almost all day. My family now lives a good 5-hours train ride from the capital, so the journeys back to Dubrovnik now resemble a chapter of “Around the World in 80 Days.” However it also gives us an excuse to spend a day in the most cosmopolitan city in the world. - Let me take you by the hand, and lead you through the streets of London. I'll show you something, to make you change your mind, sang Ralph McTell.

Almost a million tourists, 860,000 to be precise, had descended on London for the New Year’s celebrations, the fireworks and the parties. In other words in one day London received the same amount of tourists that Dubrovnik received in 2016. Madness, total madness, the capital is under siege, every street looks like the Stradun on New Year’s Eve. And as my wife and I tried to stroll along at the pace we would stroll on Stradun we soon got trampled under the mass of foreign boots. “Excuse me,” – “Sorry” – or just “Mind the way,” filled our ears as we gently ambles from shop window to shop window, we were out of tempo with London and it showed.

There is no room for slow motion, here life is always in the fast lane, and it’s a drive-through, coffee-to-go way of existence. “Ah so you guys are from Dubrovnik,” answered a friendly waiter as we chatted whilst he took our order. “I have heard that they filmed Game of Thrones and Star Wars there,” he added. I took the opportunity to ask our waiter a dilemma that had been puzzling me, “Do you guys have Wi-Fi for customers.” He look at me as if I had asked him to sleep with his wife, “No, why do you ask,” he answered. This was a problem that had haunted me for the past ten days in England, the lack of internet connection. Believe it or not I hadn’t found one shop, café, bar, restaurant or tourist organization with Wi-Fi for customers to use. I am not talking about free Wi-Fi, I am talking about any kind of Wi-Fi! I was staying in a digital black hole! And from the answer this waiter had just given me it seems that the internet connection in the capital was just as terrible.

When I got back to the normality, or in other words on the runway at Cilipi, 198 emails arrived in a tidal wave. The other thing that hit me in London this time around was fear. This was something new for me, I have never really felt this before, and I have to say I didn’t like it. In certain moments I found myself looking twice at people, thinking about situations and remembering scenes from news reports, I had been infected with a fear of terrorism. It was an odd feeling. As we walked along the main shopping streets, dived into busy underground trains, ate in busy restaurants or just drank coffee I found myself checking out passers-by. London is a true international city; in fact it is pretty difficult to hear an English voice anymore. The waiters are from Poland, the shop assistants from India, the taxi drivers from the Caribbean, bus drivers from Africa, chefs from Italy…only the police officers use English as a first language. I hated myself for doing it but I found myself double checking the Arabs, the Muslims, the North Africans, just to make sure that they weren’t part of a terrorist plot. Never have I done this before, and yes I realize it is exactly what the terrorists want, they want our fear, our fear is their victory. So I forced myself to forget, to join in with the crowds, I pushed any trepidation to the back of my mind and went about my business as I normally would. “I think you will find it a problem to get free Wi-Fi in a bar or café here,” replied the waiter, as I returned to life in a digital black hole. He wasn’t wrong.

So as we pushed our way through the tourist mass in the pouring rain, yes it rained all day in London, I couldn’t help but think to myself, if this is a sign of what 2017 will bring me then it will be “raining tourists” in Dubrovnik all year.    

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