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CROATIA-VENICE-AMSTERDAM… PART THREE: KORÇULA…

Renting our own Mercedes we drive toward our next destination… Korçula… further up the same coast highway as several days ago, quite beyond the road we’d taken to Mostar. This coastline is gently complex, being the hem of the sweepingly rumpled skirt of the mountainous rib

We had lunch at Ston, an ancient center for evaporating sea salt in 200 year old stone pans. Its walls are second only to China’s Great Wall for length & was constructed to protect that most valuable resource… salt was gold in those times.

 I discovered this broken bell curiously on a table as we strolled the streets… 
about which I’ve yet to imagine a story.

Ston’s wall begins its length of protection in the north at the base of the Pelješac Peninsula along which we traversed toward the ferry to Korçula. We found ourselves climbing through vineyards, some with retaining walls impressive in their own right…

We stopped fortuitously at a tasting room where I wish I had at least taken a photo of their unusual specialty of aging bottles under the sea, allowing limpets & barnacles to decorate the glass! Their finest is curiously tucked first into a clay amphorae to keep the light out… making an even more visually dramatic product looking like salvaged antiquities. I lifted these images from the web to give a hint:

We did take along several bottles of the good reds
made from the local varietal…“little blue”…
much more affordably priced than those encrusted with sea life.
We will choose a few more bottles of this reliable goodness with dinners in Korçula.

Waiting for the ferry at Orebić we observe how differently this one works to our tightly organized Washington State Ferry system.

We did not know the schedule, but of course we are on holiday & do not need to be anywhere at a specific time… we can only leave when the boat does. It arrives, unloads, then leaves again, without loading any cars! Some while later it returns, unloading mostly trucks filled with both large fuel tanks or smaller domestic gas cylinders. We presume the boat travels on a three point route,  not unlike those of our island’s connections between West Seattle & the Olympic Peninsula… with a separate leg for flammables…
Finally our several loosely defined lanes begin to move out of the parking lot with only a single man directing some puzzling form of organization “zippering” the cars into a single lane moving out onto the stone dock to the boat. Our system at home is precise as to getting the first arrivals first onto the sailing, but this boat proves to be large enough to get everyone on, with room to spare. None of the angst about overloading which fuels the constant fear for our commuters of being left behind on the dock. The real confusion came upon landing after the short 15 minute crossing, as cars & trucks crowded forward with seeming little organization toward the ramp, meeting a crowd, similarly waiting to board, like humans on foot at a gate, we loosely re-organized & quickly zippered up again driving into the raking late afternoon sun, onto a steeply curving road over a ridge before soon dropping down into a narrow street skirting another ancient walled city… with me celebrating Stephen’s capable driving!  
I was amused several times seeing this chain of stores 
with a name a bit too suggestive of the contemporary economic situation.
Kortula is a delightfully small ancient walled city,
With more luck than navigation we found our hotel’s parking… blocked by a small stanchion. I got out to walk up onto a terrace fronting the quay into the lobby of the lovely late nineteenth century hostelry to discover a woman with hair tightly braided down both sides from brow to nape at the desk… busily doing with one guest in person & talking to another on the phone with such efficiency that she soon ascertained my quest while taking the continuing phone conversation with us strode out to point an electronic key in the direction of our car to watch the barrier fold down allowing Stephen to park in a “Doris Day” spot immediately across from the entrance which was centered on a generous veranda with tables facing the water view. 
It was a simple, handsomely human-scaled facade dating to the late 1800s, with finely proportional arched windows on each of two stories, with dormer rooms atop. The hotel had been built right against, yet outside the ancient walls. I imagined it as a perfect setting for a sweetly romantic novel & film.
The woman took our passports for recording while we collected our luggage, but upon our return she was obviously quite distraught! She exclaimed that she did not have a room… the hotel was full! What she meant was that she had only the room booked for Stephen & Edward… my passport’s name seemed to require another. We explained the change of partners, bonding inside her obvious relief… with some twinkling understanding… or perhaps not. The plot for my imaginary film begins to thicken!] Yet her character blossomed… she truly was wanting to accommodate our situation! I know from my parent’s experience as inn keepers that small hostelries learn to accept & mostly appreciate such stories of traveling adventure…meet Anka.
She explained that the traditional sword dance, which Stephen had hoped to see, would not be performed while we were there… but that her son dances in it & her daughter performs the part of the princess! [good subplot or B-roll for my film, it would seem…] 
She gave us good advice & directions toward the dramatic main gate of the old city… instead of the rather closer, but less interesting side gate, which we would discover later on our own…

We strolled out to begin acquainting ourselves with what was to become probably my favorite walled town, being small & rather intimate… certainly compared to Dubrovnik.

We returned after that initial foray to our second floor suite of two rooms. The hotel has more than a century of simply renewed grace bringing it forward without losing much of its classic quayside charm. The old-fashioned key opened first into a rather close bedroom whose window was draped against a view of an uninteresting walkway fronting the city’s wall. 

But the lofty sitting room offered grand arched windows full of western light.  We opened the sashes first thing to appreciate the view of the city continuing around the bay we face… with a variety of boats sailing in & out of the portage.  Opening one of the bottles, we poured ourselves a lovely arrival into a novel movie dreaming in a stone fortress stage.

The second thing I had to do was to rearrange the furniture! An out-sized couch occupied one wall… facing the flat screen on the opposite wall. Two large armchairs flanked the mid-room… also squarely facing that screen. This was a theater for the presumption in every hotel room in the world that travelers want to watch television! Many do! But…

I dragged those chairs around to face the gift of 
such a generous dose of outdoor ambience…
Fun playing with the curtains catching the breezes. 
I love living this antique dream!
 The drama of wispy drapery was soon to be upstaged by a superlative sunset
Her recommendation was a fine place for dinner.  Adio Mare proved to be all she suggested even as we were disappointed we could not be seated up on the obviously popular outside terrace we glimpsed from the small square below.

We ate well while watching the kitchen activities tucked into ancient stone-walled spaces.

 We found much to see, keeping ourselves busily exploring the churches, along with the various exhibits & small collections tucked into the ancient stone walls…

The city’s museum was surprisingly rich in collections of objects used in the daily life of those centuries passed. This  happily informed & enhanced my dramatic fantasies of interacting with these stone walls: protective, resisting… ultimately also restricting.  Inviting thus this now.
I feel the gentility of being a tourist welcomed into
some sweet distillation of ancient time

Sewing machines
 to swords…
along with models of ships.
Domesticity supporting some rather rough & tumble swashbuckling.
Gloried-all-over by bells.
I’ve already posted about the bells of Croatia but here is the view from the tower in Korçula, resembling the windows in our room at the hotel,
…which would be just outside the lower left corner of the photo below.
This handsome basic map describes a
  quite compact & human-scaled & walk-able small city
The long rectangle hugging outside the walls on the left is our hotel
I found resonance in any number of geometries in these stones…
 these ancient Greek tablets write a tight counterpoise to the footprint…
What a sweet nut of history!
 
Last dinner looked out at the ferry which would on the morrow, 
remove us from this dream & return us to the mainland
More stone to come… on the way to Split!

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