As regards weather, south Dalmatia comes without a warning: in the minds of us, inland people from Frozen-like locations such as Prague, a holiday destination by the sea is inevitably encrypted like warm and sunny. (Or at least warmer and sunnier than Prague or London at any given time.) It took me several years and dozens of bitter experiences before I understood the vicious truth about local weather. Here is what I learnt:
1) Weather is a serious theme of conversation among local people. It is by no means small talk. It requires certain knowledge (what kinds of winds do we distinguish?), experience (“I remember Stradun once completely flooded, now that I call rain!”) and a trained meteorological intuition to foretell the future (“In two and a half hours, the wind will switch from north to south. Big waves. Pull out your boat!”)
2) There are about a dozen major types of winds in Dalmatia, that the locals casually identify by glancing out of the window. Even after years of living here, it can get near impossible to distinguish between a garbin and apulenat. A newcomer in Dubrovnik will be fine with knowing the difference between bura (cold and dry wind) and jugo (warm and humid).
3) What to do, when there is bura: do your laundry! Outside, it will dry in no time.
4) What to do when there is jugo: don’t do your laundry. (It will never dry.) Don’t open your windows. Don’t shower (any new dry clothes will get sticky and stinky in about five seconds). Don’t blame yourself for feeling blue and helpless – that’s a well-known side effect of jugo: bad mood, despair, general dissatisfaction with life and yourself. The locals call it fjaka. The only cure invented so far is getting out and drinking Plavac mali wine until you observe that you are again positive (or at least careless) about things.
5) If you are flying to Dubrovnik, be prepared to land in Split (also a very nice place to see, only a 5 hour bus ride away, though). The wind can get so strong that flights have to be diverted. I remember my first time flying to Dubrovnik heavily off season: It was early March. Not only did I land in Split. I landed in Split that resembled Glasgow in an icicle storm.
6) When checking the weather forecast, ignore the stated temperatures. Look for the Real Feel temperature: the difference can sometimes be measured in tens of degrees.
7) When checking the forecast of wind intensity, always add two or three levels to get realistic. Example: whatever the local forecasters call a “povjetarac” (a breeze) requires wearing a hat and a wind-block layer for most of us, sensitive inland people. A “jaka bura”, that is, a strong northern wind, will blow away any possessions that are not cemented to ground or balcony. Damned wind-block will not block a thing any longer. Don’t feel pathetic to wear a thick plastic raincoat instead, although it’s bright and sunny. “Olujna bura” is basically a hurricane. Don’t leave the house (or pub, if the condition catches you unprepared in the middle of a drink).
8) When travelling by car, always check the road conditions: the two points that like to get closed down on the route between Dubrovnik and Zagreb are the Tudjman Bridge and the St. Rok tunnel. Also, fallen rocks on the road are not rare during rain and wind, so watch out.
9) As much as local people are over-tolerant about wind, they panic when it comes to rain. Rain a.k.a. “kiša” has no levels here. From a few drops to a downpour, everything is just rain and it is considered undesirable and dangerous. If there is just a little drizzle outside and you go outside, you are considered irresponsible and exotic. People will be deaf if you tell them that there is no such thing like bad weather, only bad clothes. Raincoats and wellies are regarded astronaut’s gear. Snow is an extra chapter causing public and political upheaval, and requiring crisis management.
10) Good news: this is not London, so wind and rain doesn’t go on forever. Following the long-term forecast is a good psychological trick to keep one going. Also, in the most desperate months (January to March), there is always something you can be looking forward to: the carnival, St. Joseph’s day and the oyster tasting, and – well – the summer.
Blanka Pavlovic a.k.a. the Adriatic Bride is a Czech writer. She studied law (Prague) and creative writing (Oxford). As a lawyer, she specialized in international human rights law, first working for the European Court of Human Rights, then for a peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. She wrote five books, among them Total Balkans, The Handbook of the Adriatic Bride or The Return of the Adriatic Bride. She now lives with her family between Dubrovnik and Donji Brgat. More information and English translations of her work are available through www.blankacechova.com.