The holiday season here starts Christmas Eve when Dubrovnik television station (which broadcasts the webcam of our Stradun) plays nonstop holidays songs. And so it came to be on Christmas Day I indulged in of my favorite pastimes, watching old movies. My favorite trip down memory lane. One of the best parts of these old movies are the costumes, many of which were designed by one of Hollywood’s creative geniuses, Edith Head.
Of course there were several holiday themed movies on my local station and I was thrilled that I could view, once again, White Christmas. This 1954 film stars Bing Crosby, Vera Ellen, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney. (For the younger generation, she was George’s aunt). Did you know that the title song White Christmas sung by Bing Crosby is the most popular song ever released, with over one hundred million versions sold to date? Munching on popcorn with Abby at my feet waiting for some to drop and a glass of red wine, my Christmas day was a joyful event. It certainly goes without saying that I probably have watched this movie so often that I can recite many lines, but it is so worth the experience to indulge in the memories of the clothing from that era. The costuming of the finale rates as one of my many favorites, a perfect ending to a special holiday movie.
Some might say that I indulged in a short nap, but I was only resting my eyes (really!) And my mind wandered back to that time. In the 50s I had finally became a teenager and the family made a trip to Europe. My parents and I spent five days crossing the Atlantic on the original Queen Elizabeth in early August, planning to visit family on the Dalmatian coast for the next three months. It was my parent’s first return to their birthplace since immigrating to the United States in 1927 and my very first trip to this land that beckoned me ever since. We landed in Cherbourg on the coast of France and took the train for a short overnight in Paris. A day of sightseeing in Paris included many wonderful places and it was also my first glimpse of the vespasienne (Parisian outdoor urinals). I also wondered why our hotel had a foot bath, which my parents could not quite explain to me.
Then we boarded the Simplon Orient Express train with a private room for the overnight to Venice. I did not know then that this train and its route was an important part of European history. Many, many years later I was privileged to make the trip from Venice to Paris on the same refurbished train. It was a very nostalgic experience as I gazed out at the wonders of the Italian and Swiss Alps, remembering the trip of my youth.
After another overnight trip on the Adriatic Cruise’s small transfer ship from Venice, my parents and I disembarked in Dubrovnik, our final destination. I have many strong memories of those three months: swimming in the azure Adriatic, visiting family, becoming fluent in Croatian. English was spoken by a very few in those days and it became apparent I could learn easily and quickly.
Back then Dubrovnik was a very small village and most of the residents knew that Americans were visiting. While strolling along the Peskarija (old port) we noticed a youngster following us. Father asked his name and age. “Ivo,” he replied and “I am nine years old.” That was the very first time I met Ivo…the rest is history.