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Croatia Travelogue, part 1


The Croatia islands in May are a well-kept secret, apparently known only to the Japanese and the occasional boatload of pasty North European OAPs. Cruiseships deposit their loads for the day filling the old town to the bursting with cameras and sun visors and orthopaedic sandals - but in between it seems very peaceful and quiet and empty. Just scores of cats draping themselves on stone steps, old wood shutters and freshly hung washing swaying in the breeze.


The start of each tourist season is bursting with local excitement and goodwill (which is replaced by stout irritation by the end of August)and the whole island is pleasant and welcoming. What is neither pleasant nor welcoming are the prices of everything. These range from merely steep in the local supermarkets to the absolutely exorbitant in the restaurants. The water was as bracing as the price of fish, 18 degrees Celsius instead of the 24 we have come to expect in summer. The Brits and Scots who are reading this are probably thinking "a whole 18C? That's tropical!" but I prefer my refreshment in the balmier ranges and swam only once. On the other hand, my son the walrus became something of a local attraction due to his habit of fearlessly casting himself into the sea every day , leaving me shore-bound to screech warnings about sea urchins and icy tides. 


In the absence of a cockerel Helena crows us all awake when the dawn sweeps in, and Z and I drink coffee on the balcony while attempting to prevent our children from destroying themselves, each other or the plants on the not at all childsafe rooftop of our house. After the gauntlet of breakfast and dressing we all go out for an early morning walk, then back home by 10:30 for assorted naps and quiet play and reading and the cooking and the eating of lunch.


The weather was clement, hot but not scalding and each dawn and sunset seemed more beautiful than the last. And because my lovely daughter seems to spring open like a buttercup at the first hint of sunlight I have seen a number of dawns. Normally I would find this turn of events somewhat traumatic,but I like the early mornings here. Sitting on cool stone before the heat of the day sets in, watching the dawn break out over the sea in a riot of colour, a slender little tortoiseshell cat winding around my legs like a comma.


Z's mother's family has lived in Korcula for 370 years. They built the house we are staying in. Z has spent his childhood summers here and knows the town and the island so well it's like having your own 24/7 tourist guide.


Korcula city was built with curving narrow streets like the bones of a fish skeleton in order to maximise the free-flow of cooling wind and my spatial confusion. Despite the fact that the town is tiny and walkable I manage to spend a week having no idea how to get from one bit to the other without Z's helpful guidance. The only thing I have no trouble finding is the internet caffe, because that comes with helpful arrow sings. Shame that the whims and sleeping schedules of my children do not allow much computer time.


The light and the clean lines of bright sea and white stone make it difficult to take a bad photograph, and I can't get enough of snapping pictures. A man might call this behaviour 'obsessive' if he wanted to be snorted at derisively by the people who remember him playing Flight Simulator until the small hours for weeks on end.  Being here feels like being home - only with better weather and sunnier dispositions. Separation from the Adriatic coast makes me forget how much I love it here, and then we return and the wind fills the room with the scent of sunwarm stone and pine and sea and I feel like Dorothy in Oz - bursting into a multicoloured world.


On the coastlines we live by the dictates of the sun and sea. The light is extraordinary - it floods in from everywhere and makes me feel like my life in London has been just a long stretch of twilight. When I first clocked the fact that we would need to leave the house at 2am to make our flight, and that once we landed in Split we would have a 6 hour wait before we could board the ferry to the island, I seriously began to question our sanity in undertaking this journey with two small children. Getting there had its low moments to be sure - starting from dropping Matei's suitcase on my toe at the airport, to sunburned shoulder before we even got to the island - and wrestling small children is hard when tiredness makes you as cranky as they are. It was exhausting and brave and possibly foolish - all this yes, but it was worth it, even if just for the light. For the exile's sense of coming home.



( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 2nd, 2011 10:05 am (UTC)
What a stunning place! Lovely to read about it all.
Jun. 18th, 2011 03:51 pm (UTC)
Thank you! One day when the journey is less strenuous, I will kidnap you and take you there.
Jun. 2nd, 2011 11:30 am (UTC)
Wow, looks and sounds absolutely beautiful :)
Jun. 18th, 2011 03:52 pm (UTC)
It was lovely. Totally worth the torturous trek.
Jun. 2nd, 2011 11:31 am (UTC)
It looks absolutely gorgeous. Also, hello! I miss your posts! x
Jun. 18th, 2011 03:52 pm (UTC)
Hello! I've been enjoying your dispatches from Sudan as much as sporadic internicity has allowed.
Jun. 2nd, 2011 11:49 am (UTC)
How beautiful and visually restful. I feel like I've just popped on hols for my lunchbreak. :-)
Jun. 18th, 2011 03:53 pm (UTC)
Thank you. :)
Jun. 2nd, 2011 07:19 pm (UTC)
You always, always write so beautifully. Honestly, I want to go live there now. I'm getting pretty desperate to visit the older bits of Corfu which are similar, with the sea, the light and the beautiful old buildings. Somewhere with no nightclubs but lots of cafes and small bars to play music into the evening and eat olives :)
Jun. 18th, 2011 03:54 pm (UTC)
Croatian islands are genuinely lovely and mostly nightclub free. If not for the steep prices of proscuitto and olives, they would be perfect.
Jun. 3rd, 2011 11:56 pm (UTC)
It is so gorgeous there. I want to visit.
Jun. 18th, 2011 03:56 pm (UTC)
It is absolutely lovely. Consider yourself invited if circumstances permit. :)
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )


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