A couple of years ago when someone mentioned the term "winter in Dubrovnik", it would inevitably summon dark thoughts. Think boredom mixed with acute depression, as that's how some of the locals would think of those long three months.
Not anymore, though! It may be true that a lot of restaurants are closed and places to hang out are rather scarce, but this year we do see some (Christmas) light at the end of the tunnel. And that's mostly thanks to the annual Dubrovnik Winter Festival. A matter of controversial debate last year, it didn't really start off well this year either. What caused the most controversy are the small wooden cottages that line the main street Stradun. Some art historians, architects and other learned folks claimed that those are kitschy and a real mockery, not to mention the fact that cooking oil from all the sausages goes into the old sewer system, which is bad already as it is.
But hey, look at the bright side! People are flocking to the Old Town, which is becoming the cool place to come to. They're not just there to grab a quick bite, they sit, chat and have fun. Sure, a sausage or ten might be collateral damage to all of that, but we think it's worth it. The winter festival has indeed brought people back to the Old Town. There's live music, art exhibitions, and even the public transport is free after 5 p.m, a smart move from the mayor's side.
Some say the cottages do not belong to Dubrovnik, arguing they're not part of the city's identity. To those people we say - open your eyes! Dubrovnik has historically been an open-minded city, progressive in a sense that it adopted new trends and ideas, and the people more often than not reacted positively. Such is the case today. The cottages do look "northernish", but why would that necessarily be a bad thing? People like them, and that's all that matters.
The Old Town feels alive, from Pile gate, down the main street to Gundulić square, and there's a good buzz around the festival. Kids are happy, adults enjoy wine and cheese after a day's work and that's nice - a pleasant change from the boring winters we've had until now.