When we explore a place that is much older than our cities here in the United States most people play tourist by going to wonderful landmarks, and visiting them certainly can provide tremendous insight into the society that developed in that city. I prefer also to get off the beaten track and see how the real modern residents live.
Although our oldest cities here in the U.S. are approaching 400 years old, it is hard to remember that because so little of the original cities still exist. St. Augustine, Florida has its fort; Boston its Freedom Trail and some landmarks like Faneuil Hall, the Old North Church, and Paul Revere’s house; Santa Fe’s central market still is in active use. But generally, all these cities have modernized and look new except for the landmarks.
When you travel to the Old World you enter an environment where you see ancient buildings or modern re-creations. Most cities have building codes to enforce a look within certain areas.
So as I wandered down the ancient narrow streets in Paris and Dubrovnik and suddenly saw people at work doing jobs that people all over the world do, I had to remind myself that these cities were NOT museums but living modern cities as well.
Each morning in Dubrovnik, before that day’s cruise ships disembark their thousands of passengers, the streets get swept and washed.
We noticed water spilling from pipes set in the curbs, providing cleaning for the street sweepers in Paris.
HIDDEN RESIDENCES BEHIND THE MAIN SIDEWALKS ALONG THE PLACES DES VOSGES IN PARIS
Metal gates provide a glimpse of courtyards tucked behind the front buildings on the Place. Grand staircases lead up to the higher floors where apartments are located above the shops and restaurants on the ground level.
And in the park in the center of the Place, a man and his two sons play with a soccer ball. It is, after all, their playground.
DELIVERIES IN THE OLD CITY OF DUBROVNIK
Surrounded by a wall with only a few points of access from the modern city, the Old City of Dubrovnik has existed for over 1000 years. Although it suffered massive destruction in the 1600s with an earthquake and again in the early 1990s during the Homeland War, the Old City is a skilled and careful re-creation of the ancient historical town.Streets are very narrow and generally motorized vehicles are not seen by most visitors.
Supplies are stacked in the narrow alleys near the shops and restaurants, and the vehicles disappear. By the time the tourists appear, the piles have disappeared as well.
While brands of foods are different, and regional food choices may also present things unfamiliar to our table, the selection was wide and prices were comparable to home.
I had my first overseas haircut in 1982 when I was in Europe on business for six months and asked a friend in France where I could get a trim. I had a tremendous haircut by a guy trained by Vidal Sassoon in London about 12 years ago. And on my trip to Croatia a few years ago, I went with my friend Carol to her hairdresser’s salon. While I was getting a superb cut by Ivo, across the salon a wedding party from Great Britain were also getting beautified in preparation for their fairy tale wedding.
The view from the salon of the new harbor was panoramic.
We saw the groom later that afternoon, all spiffed up in his Scottish tartan. Apparently the Old City of Dubrovnik has become a major wedding destination. The bride had told me in the salon that the cost to fly everyone there and have the ceremony and wonderful reception was less than the cost would have been at home in Great Britain.
An hour later, as we ate at a wonderful restaurant overlooking the Old Harbor, the bride and groom appeared with their photographer and videographer and posed with the Old City in the background. The local swimmers enjoyed the show.