Thursday, November 1, 2007

Wet stair-y place.

Who needs a stairmaster when you got these?

It’s a good thing that I practiced climbing all those bell towers. Dubrovnik is a city full of stairs. My villa where I am staying is perched on top of a mountainside among other similar-looking villas and there is a maze of stairs crisscrossing through them. It is all downhill going into the Old Town. Going back to the villa is not an inviting option.

It was pouring rain when I got here and when it tapered off, I walked down the stairs, streams of water coming down with me, and wandered around the old town of Dubrovnik. The city is next to the sea, completely enclosed in a very old fortress. Inside the fortress walls is a little white place, buildings and streets made of marble and limestone the same color as The White House. My first mission was finding something to eat and I wandered into a pizza place and sat alone until a couple from Australia waved me over and we had a nice meal together. They were doing some traveling of their own, hoping to settle in Scotland and work for a while, which they say is pretty common thing for Australians nowadays.

By the time we finished, the city was wet and dark, and so I decided to walk around some more and then see a concert by the Dubrovnik String Quartet in the very old St Saviour Church. The church was very small, the acoustics amazing and the foursome played by flickering candlelight, creating an enchanting vibe.

I headed back to the villa where I promptly got myself lost, where the rain promptly decided to fall even harder. Every staircase looked the same, every villa looked the same. Some streets were marked, some were not. I could not find any of the streets where I was on my now-soggy map. Making wrong turns meant that I had to walk up and down hundreds of stairs. It was a better workout than going to the gym. When I finally found the villa, after 40 minutes of stair-climbing, I was soaked and frustrated. I flipped on the television and stared at amazement at the blatant porn that was on regular tv.

The next day, I was looking forward to a full day, but I ran into a problem: It's called All Saint's Day, which is a big holiday here, which means that lots of things were closed. I wanted to walk on the castle walls. Closed. I wanted to see this exhibit on war photography. Closed. I took the chance and walked to the Museum of Modern Art to find it open where I saw a fascinating exhibit of the great photographers of the 20th century. My favorite was the pictures of New York from the 1950's by Henri Cartier-Bresson, where I was able to pick out the vintage Times Square and Park Avenue with glee. My sister would like the dog images by Elliot Erwitt. My favorite being a tall, somber dog sitting in a parked car, looking very much like he is driving the vehicle.

I sat in a café and read and listened to an old man talk to himself. I don't know what he was saying, but it sounded loud. And soon enough it was just me and him in the café. I took that as a sign to leave.

I went to the Memorial Room of the Defenders of Dubrovnik, which commemorates the young people who died in the war against the Serbs in the early 1990's. The room was filled with photographers of about 200 men who had lost their lives in the resistance. It is hard to believe that the place where I am now was under siege less than 20 years ago. They showed footage of the war, the posh and beautiful streets where I walked the past two days littered with debris, statues and parts of the fortress broken, buildings completely destroyed by fire. They have done a great job restoring everything, so now you can't tell that anything happened here, but after seeing that, I walked through the town with a new perspective.

This place, filled with long tight alley ways, a million stairs, the impending walls would be a frightening place to be in war. I imagined people running through the streets, hiding in the nooks and crannies. The city was held hostage for over a year, and the residents lived here with limited water, electricity, food, and yet it somehow survived. I thought about Milos, the friendly owner of my villa, who told me when I first arrived that he has lived here all his life and he told me many reasons why it is a great place to live. I am sure that when a city goes through something like a war and makes it, you can't help but feel a sense of pride about the place where you live.

White city at night.

The Old Town.

Fortress by sea.

Lots of these guys here.

1 comment:

kosmicgirl said...

Ahhh... Bella Croatia...
Gorgeous pics!!!