You can read the piece here.
In the last post of this series, I’m putting together some of my favourite photos of Dubrovnik.
From the walls, the church tops, spires and bells, are so much more accessible than when standing below the church steps, neck craned and eyes squinting. I count the tiles, the bells and the pigeons. And then I count clouds.
St. Blaise, the patron saint of Dubrovnik, takes his job very seriously. He stands above the cathedral, along the wall, at the entrance, above the water, looking out at sea. There’ll be no slacking off on his part. None at all.
She sits along the walls, on an open patch close to the Maritime museum. The thousand tourists don’t distract her from the intricate patterns she was creating. When asked if this is all her handiwork, she says yes. And her mother’s. And her aunt’s. And her sister’s. Then she goes back to work.
Shop windows are my weakness. Ok, one of them. But look how colourful they are. And shiny. And full of things you can buy. Pretty things. New things. Did I mention shiny things? I’m not allowed to spend too much time in front of them.
From a distance this is such a sweet picture. A group of senior citizens sitting on a bench along the water, exchanging stories. In my head, these are stories of the good old days and of youthful escapades. As I get closer, I hear the swear words, and catch the aggressive gesturing. I walk by really quick. The fight continues for a while.
Here’s the truth – the real reason we travel is for the food. The first thing we do is look up the best food stops around, and then we plan the rest of the day around our meals. Can there be any other way? I think not.
The pigeons are her friends. She runs in their midst, arms raised to her sides. She feeds them pieces of bread; pieces torn by her mother standing on the sidelines.
Outside the walls there’s a whole other world. Two actually. On one side is the city, the rest of the city, where regular people lead regular lives, go to work, go to school, fuel up their tanks, and clean their floors. On the other, is the sea, the Adriatic and everything it brings with it.
This is an anomaly in Croatia. The sea usually doesn’t play second fiddle to anything. The electric blue-green water, so clean that you can see the floor down below, past the fish and other sea creatures, takes it well though.
It entertains those who’ve had their share of the city within the walls without sulking. Sometimes it’s a giggling group with a hyperactive camera, at others the solo traveller with a paperback, or an exhausted local grabbing a bite (and some peace) on a bench.
It’s never too lonely though, not with the daily ferries, charters and fishing boats. When the people turn away, it entertains cats and spiders and sea creatures like crabs before they are caught and added to the pot. When it’s left alone, as it usually is at some point, it sings and hums, sometimes softly, at others it’s a roar.
The war is over, but it isn’t forgotten. Entering the old city from the Pile Gate, visitors pass the map detailing war damage. In the Franciscan monastery, exhibits share space with bullet holes and lodged shrapnel. The Sponza Palace has a war time photo exhibit, a memorial and a reminder of the brutalities of a war fought not too long ago.
Walking past photos of burning landmarks, the very landmarks I’ve spent the morning with, is eerie. I try to fight that dark, clamping heaviness as I walk past the soldier portraits. Some are just fresh faced boys of no more than nineteen. No one should have to be nineteen forever.
When night falls in Dubrovnik’s old town, the white stones bathe in gold. Under lamp posts, and in the shadows of flickering moths, they sit back and work away the stiffness of an over worked day.
The light hits all the right spots – the stained glass of the cathedral, the clock on the bell tower, letting the night cloak the many, many statues, including Orlando’s right in the middle, in a blanket of solitude. Not far away, the water hums quietly, hitting against the wall.
They serve the sea on a platter, in glass bowls, on pizza, between bread. They serve it along the waterfront, in tiny lanes and along the steps. The catch, it goes without saying, is fresh, caught between the dark night and dawn; maybe this explains the lurking cats around the town.
The ‘but’ comes before and after the meal. It starts with over eager waiters accosting passing visitors, waving menus, almost forcing them in, promising the best authentic Dalmatian meal. The trite posters along the wall may tell a different story.
Even when the food is great, and the service not so bad, the bruise comes with the hefty bill. What goes by as a meal in Dubrovnik could get you three elsewhere in the country. The one good thing is that you’re never in the mood for seconds; you don’t (further) overspend; you don’t (really) get fat.
I have the city to one side and the sea on another, but my eyes are locked on to this window. It opens out to the walkway on the wall, unwittingly inviting a stream of tourists in. I can’t imagine living with this kind of pressure, let alone drying out my laundry for the world to see.
Three rope strings hold half a wardrobe, white sheets and vests hide the intimates ever so slightly. Multicoloured clips stand in a crooked line, their uneven teeth clamped tightly over the cloth.
When the sea pushes a slight breeze inwards, the line sways and so do the clean clothes. Maybe it’s just in my head but I catch a whiff of aromatic detergent.
A butterfly of guilt flits about but I can’t move away before taking a picture. A few feet below me a black cat scurries over sprigs of lavender and past ancient stones, the very things that make this city special, and yet it is this seemingly mundane shot that I can’t tear away from.