The Souvenir Shop Cleans Up: Aqua in Dubrovnik

Pencil Case and Sundries

On the rainiest of rainy days, the water cascades along Dubrovnik’s marble streets in rivers. It rolls down its steps and through its alleys in gushes, as though the hard white city can’t bear to absorb a single drop. Water pours off the terra cotta roof tiles. I roll my jeans up to my knees.

I had planned to visit an island or a ramshackle seaside town, but the weather nullifies my plans, makes them seem stupid and pointless. So I walk. I search for souvenirs.

Any European city will give you trinkets, and Dubrovnik is no exception. Shops along the Placa offer snow globes and postcards, scraps of fabric covered in traditional Croatian embroidery patterns for exorbitant prices—the equivalent of 20 Euros for something the size of a napkin. What you’ll also see, whether in Dubrovnik or any other place deemed a “destination,” are the orphan souvenirs, the items that have nothing to do with tradition or place. In one dark store, a woman stands guard over racks of hemp necklaces and colored candles that seem better suited to the parking lot of a Phish concert. In another, pictures of Jesus—whose image is, I suppose, more versatile. In another, giant ceramic roses.

And then, I am saved. The store crops up clean and white amidst the chaos of the other shops, its windows orderly and well styled. The store is called Aqua, and it’s made it its mission to create quality Croatian souvenirs. (Although their eyes, I’m sure, are on the entire Mediterranean.) Some will balk, I know, at the idea of something so calculated. Don’t travelers—real travelers—search for something a little more authentic to bring home?

Well, sure. If you fancy yourself something so important as a traveler. Most of the time, I don’t, and I like souvenirs that know what they are. Silver spoons engraved with skylines, logo-printed shot glasses and golf balls. Aqua is that concept, but beautifully executed. The entire line of souvenirs is done in shades of white, blue, and gray, to reflect Croatia’s relationship with the sea, and they offer several signature patterns, from grown-up nautical to an adorable, cartoony fish print.

There are bathrobes and beach towels, sure, but I flipped over the small goods. I assembled an entire pencil case in the fish pattern—complete with pencils, a sharpener, a ruler, a tiny roll of tape, and an eraser—for about the equivalent of 10 American dollars. It’s maybe the best thing I’ve ever brought home from anywhere; it’s lovely to look at, I’ll actually use it, and it doesn’t take up an alarming amount of space in my bag. On a rainy day in Dubrovnik, it seems, Aqua was just what I needed.

Go there:

Aqua Maritime stores can be found in seaside cities across Croatia, including Dubrovnik, Split, and Rovinj. The Dubrovnik location can be found at Placa 7, Stradun.

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One Response to “The Souvenir Shop Cleans Up: Aqua in Dubrovnik”

  1. zuva kolar Says:

    Hi Laura,
    I am Zuva from Aqua ,and I am so happy that I came across your blog! It took us some time..but it is never too late to thank you for your beautiful words about our little Aqua shops..When my husband and I founded Aqua we had exactly the same thoughts in our minds..
    As I am a designer of all those little things you loved it makes me even more proud..
    It is a great feeling knowing that you can make someone happy at least for a day…this is why we love what we do, even after ten years!
    I do not know on which part of the world you are at the moment but it doesn’t matter as Christmas is coming wherever you are and I know that you pencils have run out and your little Aqua notebooks are filled with your thoughts so it would be nice to find new ones under the Christmas tree…
    I will be so happy to send them to you!
    If you ever come to Croatia again, and you should ’cause you love it so much, you are more than welcome to visit us in Zagreb!
    With love,
    Zuva and Gordan Kolar

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