It’s nearing the end of the season here on the Croatian coast, but there’s none of the surly antagonism you might expect from the exhausted locals. On the contrary, they’re still all smiles and relaxed friendliness.
There are some towns you go to and you can tell that the locals hate tourists. Of course, they love the tourism industry – it keeps them employed – but they hate the complaining Brits, the loud Yanks, the photosnapping Japs, the aggressive Italians and the ubiquitous Aussies. Cos let me tell you something – Aussies are fucking everywhere.
You can’t turn down a stone alley, round a mediaeval corner or stumble into a dark restored church in this town without colliding with that accent, that unmistakable sound of home, that unrelenting reminder that Australians are to be found everywhere in conquering hordes.
I wonder, is this part of our plan to take over the world? We send out our ‘ambassadors’ – crowds of twenty-somethings with more opinions than dollars – to every corner of the world to browbeat people into agreeing with us: “This wine is okay, but I’ve been spoiled by Australian wines, even the average ones are great. I’m used to eating really fresh food, you know, we have really great produce. I miss Asian food, you know Australia makes the best Asian food on the planet, maybe even the whole world. Oh Australia has its problems, racism and stuff, but it’s the greatest country on earth.”
(It is, you know.)
We send them out in their loud and obnoxious multitudes, and at some predetermined point, like an episode of Dr Who, all those ambassadors will be activated by their iPhones and suddenly, without any provocation whatsoever, unleash their secret stash of redbacks and brown snakes and obliterate ever other useless person from every ridiculous nation. Cos who needs diversity when we have Australia?
But I digress.
In spite of all this, Dubrovnik people have been, without exception, really friendly and not even remotely pushy. “Would you like to see the menu?” asks a young woman quietly as we walk past. Not like Brussels, where they practically dive down your top button hole urging you into their restaurant. “We have a boat ride, maybe you’re interested?” So mild in comparison to the Vietnamese women who wave their hats in your face. “Oh, I’d love to give you the cheese platter, but I’m all out of bread. Perhaps something else?” So entirely unlike nervous waiters in China who can’t bear to tell you that something is not available, and instead bring out a completely different dish, hoping you won’t notice.
It could be that the people of Dubrovnik are so looking forward to having their city back, for a few brief, cold, relatively quiet months, that their relief comes through as affability. Maybe it’s the good food, the good wine and the interesting olive rakija. Perhaps they don’t yet realise Australia’s plan to take over the universe.
Whatever the reason, people of Dubrovnik, you’ve been lovely.