'THE LAST HOMELY HOUSE'
The 'Grand Hotel Petka' was opened in the port of Gruž in 1867, to the north of the peninsula of Lapad where two hills, Velika Petka and Mala Petka, dominate the skyline. Between 1958 and 1961 a new hotel of the same name was built to replace the original building in the painting which had been damaged by bombing at the end of Word War II. During the 'Homeland War' at the beginning of the 1990's, when Dubrovnik was under siege, it, like other hotels in the area, was used to give shelter to refugees from the conflict. In 1998 it underwent renovation, and is now known simply as the 'Hotel Petka'
A few years ago now, during a lull in the evening business of the restaurant at the Hotel Petka, one of the staff asked me (with a gesture that seemed to take in not just the restaurant, the hotel, or even Gruž, but the whole of Croatia) what was it that made me keep returning? A simple enough question, but to answer it I had to go back and remember the first time I came to Dubrovnik.
It was in October 1970, and it was a ship called the Liburnija which brought me to Dubrovnik on the last leg of a voyage around the classical sites of Greece and Turkey: the first of several visits I made to Croatia before the responsibilities of life intervened and set me on a completely different course.
It was the Liburnija, or rather my quest to find her again, which, in 2010, took us (‘I’ having become ‘we’ during the intervening 40 years) back to Dubrovnik, to the terrace of the Hotel Petka, and to the Liburnija herself moored at the quayside a couple of hundred yards away. And it was the Liburnija, and the prospect of travelling with her on albeit slow, but leisurely and relaxing journeys up and down the Croatian coast from Rijeka in the north to Dubrovnik in the south, which continued to bring us back each year afterwards.
However, sadly the Liburnija is no more and, with her passing, the coastal service from Rijeka to Dubrovnik is also no more.
So why return?
My answer now, as it was when the question was first asked, is: “You – the people”.
Which is why this note is our “Thank You” to Ana, Ante, Antun, Frano, Ivica, Kristijan, Nikša, Robert, Srđan, and everyone else at the Hotel Petka whose names I don’t know, or have forgotten. It is your warmth, hospitality and kindness which have meant that this year, as always, we have looked forward to our return, and which, for us, has made the Hotel Petka the last homely house west of the mountains and east of the sea …
'... a perfect house, whether you like food or sleep, or story-telling or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all. Merely to be there was a cure for weariness, fear, and sadness ...'.
[The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien]