Wednesday 25 July 2012

Water and wine

Another meteorological day of variety. It's not a problem because the temperature is perfect for wandering around in and ducking into beautiful churches for shelter is no great hardship. When the sun comes out it's as if the rain didn't happen!

Today's magical mystery tour has been very relaxing. How wonderful to sit back and let other people do the work and just soak up the information.

Pelješac it turns out is the second largest peninsular in Croatia, with Istria in the north being the largest. It derives from the Greek and means 'grey stone' because the native limestone weathers to a light grey in the vicious winter Bora.

There are three regions to this stretch of land; the first is famous for it's oyster/mussels and salt beds. Salt has been produced here for hundreds of years and is the reason for the c15th 5km defensive 'mini wall of china'. The second region is the consists of newly established vineyards. More on those later. Finally at the far end is the touristy bit, where small boats ferry people across to the large island of Korčula.

Korčula the town feels Italian (tucking into polenta is perhaps the reason) and it's no surprise to learn it was part of the Venetian republic. No St Blaise here, only St Mark. It's proximity to Ragusa made it strategically important and almost a frontier place, with invasions occuring regularly.

The little town is build on a fishbone (Herringbone) pattern. This was for purely practical purposes; the straight streets are air conditioning, channeling a breeze on the one side and on the Bora side streets are slanted away from the 250km an hour winter winds. Clever.

Though tiny, there are nearly twenty churches, many belonging to brotherhoods, eg Stonemasons - who are a confraternity of some importance. The limestone of Dubrovnik came from here (I haven't checked this!). Each brotherhood has a house and church, with processions still taking place four times a year in period costumes.

Other items of interest in the town include a Pillar of Shame [flatmate, I'm looking at you] and a Tintoretto in the cathedral. And how can I not mention Marco Polo? Easily as it happens! He never lived here; though his family did, they moved to Venice around the time of his birth. No one knows where he was born, there are simply no archival records. But he is Venetian simply because Korčula was part of the republic at that time!

Anyway that's enough historical wittering, you'll be looking forward to the wine tasting, I'm sure. But not as much as me!