DUBROVNIK: Sensory overload (in a good way)

My first week in Dubrovnik can be summed up in just a few short words. It was an amazing, confusing, captivating, beautiful, breathtaking, overwhelming, stressful, thrilling whirlwind of an adventure.

Okay, so maybe that isn’t just a few words, but with so many incredible events packed into one week I found that a collection of adjectives was really the only appropriate way to describe the experience.

If anything, this week could be considered a learning experience.

It is hard to remember the last time such a large amount of information was thrust upon me at one time. From discovering how courses operate, to navigating the banking system, and to even attempting to understand the Croatian sense of humor, everyday life has found a way to surprise me a little bit more each time.

Many times this bombardment of information has lead to full sensory overload, and I have had to just step back and try to get my head to stop spinning for a moment. I’ve found that when this happens the best solution is to find the biggest scoop of stracciatella gelato around and just eat any and all feelings away.

These overwhelming moments eventually end up being quite rewarding. Although I still have a lot to learn, I can already feel myself immersing into the culture and making this gorgeous city feel more and more like home.

This week consisted of a number of events that were all beautiful and captivating in their own right. Walking atop the medieval walls, exploring the tiny winding alleyways of the old town, and taking a ferry across shocking blue waters to enjoy the countless swimming holes on Lokrum Island were certainly highlights of the week.

However, the event that probably impacted me the most was our trip to the top of the mountain overlooking Dubrovnik where the city’s ancient military fort has been turned into a war museum.

The views from this peak are absolutely jaw-dropping. To the west one can get an amazing view of the old town; to the north is a string of picturesque islands; and to the south mountain peaks of both Bosnia Herzegovina and Montenegro are visible in the distance. It may be one of the few places someone can capture three different countries in one picture.

Inside the museum we saw rare footage of Dubrovnik being bombed and destroyed by enemy forces. It is very difficult to describe the feeling of seeing the places you walk everyday be set a blaze by bombs and shredded by bullet fire.

Perhaps the most profound part of the trip was hearing our residence director’s account of her own experiences of the war. She was fourteen years old when the fighting broke out, and she remembers walking home from her freshman year of high school and running down the streets while hearing bullet shots firing down at her from Serbian forces outside the city.

It is chilling to hear such personal accounts of the war. Hearing her describe her crippling fear of walking to and from school everyday and the pain and inner turmoil she felt when she had to watch her brother and father leave for war is something I will never forget.

In history and political science classes we are able to examine war from an unbiased and calculating view, but seeing the faces of those that personally experienced the horrors of war gives one a new perspective of how devastating and tragic it truly is. Their stories are painful and heartbreaking, but I hope they are ones that stick with me forever.