Posts Tagged ‘croatia’

watching football in croatia

Posted 01 Oct 2007 — by Jonathan
Category Drawings, Travel

cavtat by hand

Posted 19 Sep 2007 — by Jonathan
Category Drawings, Travel

cavtat remembered

Posted 13 Sep 2007 — by Jonathan
Category Observations, Travel

I’ve just realised, now that I’m back in England and distanced from lovely Croatia, that, despite writing a glut of pretentious or smart-aleccy posts about my trip away, I never really got round to describing Cavtat, so I’ll attempt to do so now, although you’ll almost certainly glean more from the accompanying photos than from my prose.

Cavtat, twelve miles south of Dubrovnik, is just about the most southerly town in Croatia, situated right down on the narrow strip of coast which hugs the neighbouring countries of Bosnia-Hercegovina and Montenegro. It’s a very beautiful town, situated on a strikingly beautiful wooded peninsula with a beautiful bay on either side, cool clear water in each case studded with passive white boats. Both bays operate as harbours, but the main one, which sits in front of a small and impossibly ornate terracotta town, is lined with trees on one side and a picturesque promenade on the other, which is populated with charming bars and restaurants, and a couple of attractive waterfront Churches. This larger harbour, which buzzes with activity each time one of the little boats arrives taking tourists to or from Dubrovnik, just up the coast, is also currently home to several enormous, gleaming yauchts, each scarcely smaller than the town’s two big hotels, which, admittedly, are fairly monstrous in a functional 1970s style.

For beauty – not that sitting in a quayside bar sipping beer is not to be encouraged – the visitor is best off leaving the promenade and climbing up the narrow lanes into Old Cavtat, which is less tourist resort and more the very picture of Medditeranean beauty – cobbled streets lined with pine trees and blossoming flowers lead up to a green precipice overlooking the Adriatic, upon the top of which is perched a mausoleum, heavily scented and shockingly solitary, even if it is only a couple of hundred metres from the town centre. Clambering down, the peninsula is circled by a sun-drenched path, skirting the sea, which is accessed not by sandy beaches but from the rare stone bathing platforms that extend into the water alongside huge and jagged rocks. Despite the lack of conventional beaches, the water is incredibly clear and still, if not quite as warm as the more Southerly resorts in the Meditteranean. And perhaps most impressively, at least during the week I was there, the sunsets over the harbours are quite beautiful.

Combined with lots of fresh fish and the fact that Dubrovnik is just around the corner, it’s little wonder that Cavtat is blossoming as a tourist destinaton. I’m not sure that I would go there in preference to the nicer resorts of Italy or Greece, but it’s a lovely place and, frankly, when work are paying, a pretty fine place for a business trip, too. I’d probably recommend seeking out a villa rather than the rather depressing hotels, but that aside, if you get the chance, go.

goalposts in croatia

Posted 10 Sep 2007 — by Jonathan
Category Photos, Travel

beer and football

Posted 08 Sep 2007 — by Jonathan
Category Observations, Travel

I had a pleasant evening tonight, sat in the bars of Cavtat, having a beer and watching the football on the bar TV. It’s odd watching an England match in a public place where no-one cheers if they score. Of course, they don’t ordinarily score, but they did tonight, three times. Goodness.

Some young Croatians came and sat next to me at one point, and did that thing that young people on mainland Europe do occasionally, which unnerves me profoundly. They don’t drink. Worse, they drink fruit juice or coffee. Breakfast drinks.

Despite this, they joke and laugh and give away every outward sign of enjoying themselves. They even seem comfortable with members of the opposite sex, sober. This isn’t England, I think. And these aren’t children – they’re nineteen, twenty, perhaps even older. I feel like an alien. These kids are zombies. I mean, I’ve seen Christians doing this, back home, but this lot look like ordinary people. I console myself by wondering if they are Christians in disguise.

Spooked, I order another beer.

dancing with partners

Posted 08 Sep 2007 — by Jonathan
Category Observations, Travel

When you go on holiday, especially on your own, I think there’s always a part of you which hopes that you will make friends with someone, perhaps even have a passionate holiday romance. I am not in the market for the latter and have spotted quite early on that my hotel – and the town of Cavtat in general – aided by the time of year and attendant weather, is not a magnet for young people and in any case, most people here are Italian, German or Eastern European. And for the most part about five or ten years older than me. I’ve also been at work most days, and getting reasonably early nights as a consequence. Pah.

So although I’m not really on the lookout for friends, it’s nevertheless hard to extinguish the idea that I might bump into someone I’ll get along with. And so – or perhaps co-incidentally, I find myself scanning the faces of my dining companions, say, or fellow guests. In this way certain faces become familiar, and I quickly find that I keep running into one particular group of travellers, who are also staying in my hotel. The two men of their party are very unexceptional. Perhaps 40,42, with sensible, brown, neatly trimmed hair, slim builds and spectacles, they strike me as two mild-mannered Falkirk town supporters on a much-needed work jolly – an impression compounded by the fact that the first time, in passing, I hear them speak, they sound Scottish.

They are sitting adjacent to me on the hotel veranda where they and their two companions – and I – are making the best of the hotel buffet. I notice them because the two women they are dining with are appreciably younger, blonde and dressed up. I notice them rise and walk into the restaurant, leaving the two men outside, and it is now that I swear I hear – or rather, imagine I hear – one say to the other, “are they actually eating anything?”.

This sentence seems to make a lot of sense as although the two girls’ plates remain laden with food, they return a moment or two later with a plate of dessert each – cakes and watermelon – which they demolish with a hitherto unseen enthusiasm, leaving their main courses untouched.

The girls – here you can probably see why they really caught my attention – are in their early twenties, quite provactively dressed, and in the case of the shorter of the two (and to a lesser extent her friend) very pretty indeed. I wonder what they are doing with such drab men and consider, partly because I at this point think the men British when these girls are plainly Eastern European – that on some level the factor which might have brought these two couples together is financial.

That’s not to say that I immediately concluded, oh! they’re prostitutes, but it seemed more than likely that they were a couple of local girls enjoying the attention and hospitality of a pair of hopeful – and comparitively wealthy – British tourists. That’s interesting, I thought, and not much more than that.

Oddly, the next time I saw them, the mystery… well, it didn’t deepen nor necessarily become more explicable. But I was surprised to conclude as I stood next to them at the hotel bar, that the Scottish accents – and probably the use of a language which I could understand – was an act of projection on my part. Although I couldn’t place the language, they were clearly from Eastern Europe, after all.

Of course, none of that really alters the incongruity of their relationship, for the more I saw them the less alike they seemed, the men plain and serious and the girls heavily perfumed and carefully styled. Or I’m being unforgivably judgemental, I suppose.

Except that their body language continues to interest me. From what I can see, they talk chiefly to each other – that is, the man to the man and the woman to the woman. The men seem businesslike, aloof and curiously unconcernd with their partners. If that one overheard phrase was indeed imagined, it remains strangely apt. It’s possibly to detect some level of pride in their postures, but also a kind of judgemental air, as if they are constantly assessing the worth of their investment.

The women, in contrast, are secretive, always in consultation, and frequently exchanging bored looks. They clearly come as a pair. When the two men do pay attention to them, their attitude is plainly proprietorial. But perhaps, I think, this is simply the way that men are with women.

In the end I feel slightly uneasy in myself taking interest, wondering why these people are together – it is, of course, none of my business, and I worry that I’m projecting some notion of bartering, ascribing value on the girls, which they doubtless would resent. Perhaps I do them all a gross injustice. But I do know, and I can tell whenever I look at them all together, that however they all got here, they are not in love.

local flavour

Posted 05 Sep 2007 — by Jonathan
Category Observations, Travel

I don’t mind making mistakes so long as they are, if not universal, commonly made ones. Who of us, after all, has not supped a pint of Cypriot-brewed lager on an orange skied coast and exclaimed “this beer is fucking gorgeous. It’s Cypriot beer for me from now on”.

Exactly, all of us.

Sitting in bars on a similarly idyllic range Croation beaches and harbours, I’ve knocked back plenty of Lasko this week, and enjoyed it hugely, hugging the thick pint glass to myself in the afternoon sun. I had a long day today, however, and thought to myself, ‘I’ll just grab a couple of beers from the supermarket and drink them in front of BBC World in my room’. So I bought 2 cans of Lasko Pivo, branded ‘Zlatorog’, the beer which I think I’ve been drinking with abandon all week in the cheerful Adriatic sun.

God Almighty!

It took about six reluctant sips and a good deal of sniffing to work out what exactly this particular Croation beer brought to mind. Taste? Good old fashioned vinegar. Smell? Much more interesting – I eventually pegged it, incredibly accurately, as soy sauce. Unbelievably, unforgivably bad. Wow. Straight down the sink.

Will I drink more of it by the harbour during my lunch break tomorrow? I wouldn’t bet against it.

i hate wasps

Posted 04 Sep 2007 — by Jonathan
Category Daft, Observations, Travel

I have done a deal with the wasps of Croatia. When I eat, I pull out one morsel of food, a slice of tomato, perhaps, and lay it at the furthest end of the table. Upon this the wasp may feed to its heart content, as long as it leaves me alone. The wasp with whom I struck this deal was fair and just and kept his side of the bargain. Good.

Later wasps are either unaware of this pact, or paying no heed. Little fuckers.

climbing upwards

Posted 04 Sep 2007 — by Jonathan
Category Observations, Travel

If you travel to a Mediteranean paradise, a beautiful village perched on the Adriatic, and spend your time sat content in restaurants and beach bars, tapping your foot into the pool, here is what you will discover, here is what you will come to know: some things, a little, not much.

For two days this is pretty much all I do, whenever I have free time. I grab a cold beer and drink it in the dead breeze, laughing along with my book. I feel a kind of welcome relaxation which is the peacefulness of doing and thinking nothing.

A bit later, I wander the streets of Cavtat looking, in vain, for a shop which will sell me a pencil (I neglected to pack one). On a whim I turn up a stone side street and start clambering away from the line of restaurants and bars along the harbour. I climb upwards slowly, examining the stone floor and walls, the wrought-iron gates and doorways, the terracotta tiles neatly stacked in their rows. I pass a turned over boat, with its cracked blue livery and encroaching moss, and a wasteground which is brick-strewn and uneven between two sets of goal posts which are limp and near collapsed.

And as I climb higher I experience a very real and satisfying sense of peace which is carried on the greater breeze bringing the scent of pine needles and the sound of insects and perhaps scampering lizards. Eventually I am climbed high enough to see the bay and observe that the harbour and the hotels, the beach bars and the shops selling souvenirs are no more than the outward facing frontpiece of the town, the skin stretched across the forehead or the smile. The churches reach upwards and find new elevated grandeur. An inaudible but nevertheless tangible hubbub seems to emenate from every house, whispering of real lives, school and roof repairs. The tree stumps and stones and broken bricks team up to knock me suddenly for six.

Up I climb until at last I reach a church, elevated way above the town, and an ornate and quiet cemetary. The plastic bouquets break the monotony of the colours; terracotta, green and grey. I stand watching the sea, truly happy, drawing air in. This is what you discover and what you come to know, I think, when you go a bit further.

I look down at my feet and see something which looks like a carved acorn, only bigger, and stoop to pick it up, turning it over in my hand. I look up at the trees and realise after a moment that it is a pine cone which has dropped too early, still green, still unfolded.

I hold it for a monent as if it were a prize, then pick my way back down the steep path, past cacti which are hot and splayed open like starfish. In a tree someone has hacked a gash into the trunk with a knife, exposing a fist of rough-hewn, papery strands of bark, which make me think of my notebook and writing some of this down. I press the premature fallen pinecone, stiff and cool, into the hole which the blade has cut, and leave it sitting there, perfectly, as I descend, reaching into my backpack for some water, my notebook, and my pen.

Turning a corner, the sight of a fat guy pissing against a tree only slightly impedes upon my reverie.

international sex guide

Posted 04 Sep 2007 — by Jonathan
Category Observations, Travel

I’m not really a veteran of internet cafés. Because I never used them when I first used to use the internet, I never got used to the idea and have always subsequently viewed them as rather curious, borderline mucky little dens, where foreign students send homesick missives or requests for cash, or men look up the local brothels. This is doubtless unfair, and I’m pleased that the several internet cafés in central Cavtat offer me a valuable way of getting online, seeing as the wireless broadband at the conference I’m attending is, rather typically, not working.

However, when I logged on, just now, obscured behind a raffia screen and immersed in the sounds of Bon Jovi and Mr Mister (courtesy of the café stereo), I clicked on the google search function in the toolbar and it automatically unfolded to reveal the previous incumbent’s searches – all of which were titled things like ‘internationalsexguide.com’, or ‘croatian strip clubs’.

So perhaps I was right after all.

first impressions

Posted 03 Sep 2007 — by Jonathan
Category Observations, Travel

My first impressions of Croatia are too vague for a coherent post, I think. Flying in along the coast last night the first thing to note was the country’s surprising hilliness. Although the cobalt blue sea hugs low, picturesque villages, a matter of feet behind the terrain climbs up into curved, ragged hills. The ground is also greener than I had imagined, tall fir trees combine with palms to clothe the land around the coast. Flying over Dubrovnik itself reveals a beautiful, terracotta patchwork. I look forward to exploring it later in the week.

In the meantime I am in Cavtat, ten kilometres south. My hotel is comfortable but fairly monstrous, an ugly block perched on the seafront. But the view is wonderful – a deep looking sea, outcrops of land around the bay which pinch in like a lobster’s claw. The town of Cavtat is beautiful and relatively unspoilt, save for a pair of enormous boats parked ostentatiously in the tiny harbour. Last night I walked in and watched a Dalmatian chorus group, their low, clear murmur making the hairs stand up on the back of my neck, mingling with the sound of water lapping at the harbour.

Today, alas, I go to work.