I grew up in Dubrovnik, a city that had always been involved in tourism. In my family, I had an aunt who worked for Dubrovnik Tourist Board in late 60′ (when the mass tourism started here) and she worked as a tour guide as well. I always looked up to her and I was so impressed with her knowledge of history and all other topics, she spoke different languages and travelled a lot. For me, that was exactly what I wanted to do in my life.
How did you make the transition to becoming a tour guide?
As the years went by I learned three foreign languages because I wanted to understand the lyrics of the songs I liked. Of course, I chose tourism related majors and after I graduated from the University of Dubrovnik it was time to find a job. So, I signed up to become a tour guide for one of the leading travel agencies in Croatia. After the interview, I got the job as a tour guide in English, French, and Spanish. Wow! I was so happy… no, I was ecstatic! God knows how many books and travel guides I read, I knew every single stone there is and I was so confident… or at least I thought I was.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Well, I am not just a guide but I’m also the owner of Unique Collection Ltd, family-owned DMC and the bus company, mother of three and have two dogs (puppies) so my day is hectic. I find guiding so relaxing, I can not relax that easily even when I book the appointment for a massage. No matter which issues I might have on my plate, when I see the group in front of me, looking at me eagerly waiting to learn about my hometown the feeling is just right!
I wake up really early, since we live in the countryside, and check my emails the first thing in the morning. If it is something urgent I reply right away, if not, then I reply in 5 minutes.
After I drop kids off at the kindergarten and school I go to my CrossFit training. It a must when you work as a tour guide to be in top condition because quite often you have to run around because the clients did not catch the right meeting place, someone forgot a hat on the bus or if you guide tours like I do – Game of Thrones or Dubrovnik City Walls tours that include over 1000 stairs you have to be able to walk and talk at the same time.
If I don’t have any tours on that day I go to the office and check all my social networks, reply to the emails, talk to suppliers…regular office stuff.
If I have the tours then I go to our meeting point, which is always the same, Pile Gate. Depending on which tour is on I collect the tickets or prepare Game of Thrones roadbook.
The day ends up late since in the evening I do my favorite tour ever – costumed walking tour called Hidden Secrets of Dubrovnik where we visit the cemetery and talk about less known stories.
Have you got a certain style of guiding, or do you just run with it on the day?
My concept of guiding is that I have to adjust to clients interests but to make the tour interesting to myself. That is why I love guiding Game of Thrones since that makes me feel as if I walk with a bunch of my friends chatting about our favorite TV show. And often, on bus tours at the end, I sing so instead of “dear guests, I would like to thank you…” I sing “And now, the end is near so I face the final curtain” – and the group sings along!
The best part of my job is getting to know so many people, from all over the world, to hear about their countries, customs, differences between Croatia and their country. I love it when with no advance notice I take them to breathtaking panoramic points so when they expect it the least they get blown away by the beauty of the city they just came to. I speak French, Spanish and English and due to that have clients from all over the world. After each group, I feel as if I travelled with them.
What’s the most memorable experience you’ve had on a tour or trip?
One thing I will definitely never forget was the first group ever. So, the day has come, my colleague from the logistic department called me and said, tomorrow the driver will pick you up at the bus station and you will pick up the group at the airport, no big deal, just a short transfer to hotel in Cavtat. Words “no big deal” hit me like a rocket. What does she mean it’s not a big deal, it is my first group? I woke up much earlier than I was supposed to, got dressed and left the apartment. On my way to the bus station, I honestly felt my heart beating in my throat, hands sweating, mouth completely dry and I wanted to cry. How the hell am I going to do this?
A plane landed, I stood in the doorway holding the sign when I saw the group coming straight towards me. I said “Bonjour, Bienvenue a Dubrovnik, l’Autocar blanc est la” – a piece of cake! I counted the passengers, tour leader gave me the sign they are all in and the driver told me to take a seat because he will now close the door. Panic attack incoming!!! As he closed the door I thought I was going to faint because that was it, the moment I looked forward to so much. The first time I took the microphone was so scary and I can still remember that feeling when I turned my head around and discovered that 49 pax are looking at me waiting for me to tell them something useful. I was petrified. So I said my first Bonjour and the group replied… I thought to myself – Ok, I survived this one, I can take another one. In the beginning, I felt as if I was taking the exam and I had 49 judges in front of me. I did it, I survived my first transfer from the airport to the hotel (luckily situated 5 min drive from the apt), told them all the info they might need during their stay in Dubrovnik. I felt as if I was on top of the world.
The thing I learned that day – don’t talk too much, money, water, buses, exchange offices and retails are MUST – everything else, I’ll tell them tomorrow
What I learned then – a smile can take you anywhere, no limits… And that is what the group said to me – the flight was awful, we got sick, but what kept us warm was your smile – so smile, even when the day is rotten
Every job has its ups and downs. Are there any aspects of your job that you don’t like or aren’t that keen on?
I believe all guides agree with the same thing – no matter what can occur on a tour – closed museum, traffic jam, a bad meal in the restaurant – as long as no accident happens everything is just fine.
Without giving away your secrets, tell us the types of things about your area/activity that only a guide would know.
Well, if I tell you that I would reveal my secrets, wouldn’t I?
For example, I could tell you where exactly your favorite actor from Game of Thrones passed out, or the very same spot where the Rector of Dubrovnik Republic fooled the great Duke of Venice…and of course where you can take the best selfie in Dubrovnik
In the 21st century when one can find all possible info on the Internet, when there is no place on this planet that the guidebook hasn’t been written I would still suggest to hire a local guide. The guide can give more info than any book, when to go / where to go, how to save some money, how to save the time, the best photo stops. Especially in the cities such as Dubrovnik, known as crowded places; there are so many articles saying to skip Dubrovnik on certain dates but if you contact the local guide they will advise with good suggestions how to visit Dubrovnik and not to feel the crowd. Local know-how is very important.
In your view, what makes a good tour guide?
A good guide is a one that guides with his heart. Even the language or to know by heart every single king/ queen/year or whatever is not that important as much as guiding with heart. One can easily spot if someone is just working as a guide or if one IS a guide. A guide is the one whose smile while talking about the town will remind you of a mother’s smile when they talk about their kids, whose passion will take you over and you will feel as if you are the part of the city, the one that truly admires whatever he is showing to you, the one that looks at the city while on a panoramic lookout and says I am so proud to teach you about this city!
And finally, have you got any tips for people who are interested in booking a guide like yourself, but aren’t too sure what to look for?
There are so many websites where guides promote their businesses and also most of us have our own websites and social network profiles so clients can learn a lot about us before the final decision. Trust the guides when they tell what might be a better option; if the place is worth visiting, advice the guide if there are any dietary restrictions or walking difficulties. And sometimes the lowest rate is not the best choice.