Over time, living in the very slow lane of Dalmatian life gave me a new perspective. My view of what was important changed once I left California and all the joys and hassles that were part of life there, definitely a “faster lane” no matter how uneventful a life may seem. This difference in my perception has become very clear these last few months.
More often I have begun to day dream about enjoying a glass of Dalmatian wine, savoring the frequent aroma of the umbrella like pine tree growing at the edge of the Posejdon café on Cavtat Riva (waterfront). I relax, waiting for the ultimate golden sunset, camera perched on the table. I revel, watching the young men practicing their water polo skills, a few meters from my position. I sigh, the sun slowly gliding down to the horizon, beginning to tickle the radiant blue of the Adriatic Sea. Pleasantly, often one of my neighbors would stop for a chat, listening to me babble about nothing important. My Croatian is far from totally fluent, but I can get by with assistance in pronunciation. My fractured conversation often makes the locals giggle at my accent, but they never criticize me in a demeaning way. I tease them, reminding them that I speak far better American than they. This always makes them react with a big grin and then they tease back, using a six syllable “American” word to my amazement.
My soul feels peace at the Sea but as I watched the catamaran transporting the body of our beloved Oliver sail from Split to Vela Luka, I sobbed tears of sadness. Sipping red wine, I felt embraced by his amazing repertoire of music, his smoldering voice singing the saga of a broken heart. A man of honor who loved his family and honored his country was sailing for the last time to be laid to rest on his beloved island of Korcula. There were several hundred small boats bidding the great man farewell, a true Dalmatian icon, escorting the Jadrolinije ship out of Split harbor. I know you probably do not know of him unless your heart is also in this land, no matter your heritage. He was a cultural leader, a multi-talented musician who touched the lives of those who have enjoyed his music. His songs were often about a simple Dalmatian day, a tragic love ballad or a magnificent story of Moi Galebe (my seagull).
My affair with the Adriatic Sea began many years ago and continues today to nourish my soul. She has always given me strength and often cleared a muddled mind easily and quickly. For the past five years my mornings began with the same ritual: I stood on the terrace and lovingly gazed towards my sea, feeling the gentle breezes and the flavor of salt in the air. A new day well begun, I could then begin brewing my freshly ground coffee beans in the French press.
The Adriatic is one of the cleanest bodies of water in the Mediterranean and is home to some of the best tasting fish. While I enjoy most of them my personal favorite is the Skarpina (scorpion fish). It is arguably an ugly fish but its taste is beyond an adequate description. With dinner in mind, it is time to wander over to the dock as the early morning fishing boats are putting out their catch. Standing with the several other early morning people, we point and pick out our choices. The waterfront slowly begins to awaken and local farmers are setting up the seasonal offerings in our tiny green market. I chose to buy my fruits and vegetables from the famers I know have clean organic practices. Then it’s time to wander home, trudging up the hill to prepare lunch for myself and Abby. Lunch is our main meal of the day, served at high noon at my home, and then, as most people here, it is time to lie down for a short repose.
Afterwards, I never know who I’ll see. Perhaps my dearest and loving friends, Niksa and his bride Suzana. Our bond began when he first read one of my tales of the Essence of Dubrovnik. This man has become my rock, my guardian angel who has never criticized me when I went off on a tangent. His silence is golden, his words make me a better human being. I can trust that the love this man shows is pure friendship.
Maybe I’ll hear from Christiane, whose name resonates her strength and compassion. She, like Niksa, is my other rock. No crap and tell it like it is, she knows how and when to tell me to stop and yet never demeans me. A very special and admirable woman who is part of my life. How fortunate for me that this guardian angel should be more than a sister to me.
Or perhaps I’ll have time with Vlaho, my verbal dueling partner, as he chauffeurs me into Dubrovnik. And his wife, Jelica, a beautiful woman, an excellent mother and the most generous giving friend one can ever dream about, is also part of my life.
Another day I have time to sit at Nava konaba, in the old town just across from Mali Brac, devouring a meal prepared by Nada. I dream of learning a small portion of her cooking acumen. Katija and Nana, mother and daughter team and owners of the restaurant are also dear friends.
Or the special place, owned by another friend who has since moved away. An outdoor, sea front family konaba draws me not only because of its amazing view but I am eagerly awaiting the enormous platter of lamb cooked under the bell. As the cover is lifted, the first aroma wafts over and crescendos. The upcoming meal of lamb and potatoes baked under coals for many hours is smelling fantastically and beaten only by the flavors as they are savored over all our taste buds. This is not a meal to rush.
And then, I can go home by water bus departing the old Dubrovnik harbor, skimming over the blue sea as we motor the forty-five minute voyage to Cavtat, my home. It’s fun to saunter down the Riva past the behemoth private yachts at dock during the summer months. A favorite stroll means walking the seaside pathway that rims the Rat peninsula to Rokotin, my special sea front konaba to enjoy the fresh octopus salad, sitting on the terraced verandas overlooking Tiha Bay. Exact translation for “tiha” is “quiet” and indeed it is the clinking sounds of knives and forks accentuating the sea softly caressing the rocks as the only sounds.
And then, a new sound: a sexy marriage of voices singing romantic love stories a Capella. From the first time I heard Vilo Moja, the musicianship took my breath away and it became my “go to” music when I needed solace. My Fairy, is a love song that is beyond a simple description. Is it a tragic love story or a romantic ballad to a loved one? I have yet to decide, listen and decide for yourself.
I wander roads past the numerous rosemary plants adoring many yards, I admire how many members of one family all residing in one home, living their individual lives just as easily as the part of one very closely knitted unit that demonstrates how important family life is. As a dear friend once commented, you have gotten inside my head. Yes Cavtat you now live permanently in my heart and I touch my hand to my heart when to let you know how much I love and miss you.