Wednesday 11 January 2017

Seasonal rhythms

From 5th November to 28th December is an outrageous gap of time to not make any blogpost entries. I've mentioned before that time in this place plays tricks on the unwary. For the outside observer it seems everything can happen, or nothing. 

In the grand scheme of seasonal rotation, my few weeks have seen a march towards an island going into private mode. The olive oil factory was the hub of activity for many familiar  faces. With the best impromptu home produced cheese and wine parties I've ever known. But now as many olives as possible have been picked and pressed. These wonderful trees have been pruned and the resultant wood chopped and stored away for what will turn out to be one of the coldest and snowiest Januarys in many years.

The harbour sees only brief activity as the rare ferries come and go. Fishing boats continue to work and nets inevitably need mending, whilst engines get fixed. There is also swearing as the harassed boss has to dive into the water to untangle propellers and detritus. But conversations and transactions seem to happen quicker. People dash back to their closed warm homes out of the biting wind. There is always the tiny bar on the harbour, which remains resolutely open. But although the usual gathered gentlemen continue their talking, it seems quieter and more perfunctory than before.

I've spent a few evenings in that bar happily celebrating some olive picking, and taking the odd dance lesson. I remain astonished at Croatians' ability to melt into a musical rhythm and dance the night away. As long as the gentleman is stern enough to lead, and his toes nimble enough to avoid my clodhopping, it's a lovely way to pass the time. I still can't believe that the sea dances to its own tune just outside, glowing orange in the sodium light. 

This was v late at night!
If the bar palls, they obviously have the choice to head into Dubrovnik's old town. Even if it does mean spending a night in a hostel. Everyone seems keen and happy to escape the island cold and quiet. From the 1st December the winter festival in Dubrovnik is a must-visit for everyone. Festive wooden stalls offer cooked wine, local rakija, large grilled sausages and mustard. There are other advent and Christmas bits and pieces too.

Finally the people reclaim their city. They make this tiny show city feel like a living breathing place. The red lights and silvery stars jump-start the warm local heart. People who have known one another for years meet and greet, with warmth to heat the entire Stradun. Though not as flashy as Split's Christmas Riva, you get a sense of what it was like before it came a mere theatrical backdrop for thousands enjoying a cruise. 

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