There is nothing large about this city except for Mount Srd at one end and the Adriatic at the other.
The miniscule daily market has small-time growers bringing maybe several dozen eggs, a bunch of roses and a few bottles of home-infused grappa to unload. Only a couple will fill the table with mounds of fresh fruits or veggies.
I buy a very small, recycled olive jar filled now with grappa. Not because I am especially fond of the stuff, but because there is a certain home spun beauty to it: the combination of herbs, a flower, a bay leaf swimming in this reused container. So much of what I find beautiful about life in these parts is like that: simple, artful, shared, understood.
grappa and figs
It has been decided that Saturday, the day the cruise ships come in, is the day to leave Dubrovnik during daylight hours. But on Friday, we still loiter.
We visit the market.
We visit the cathedral.
We visit the Sponza Palace.
We visit Rector’s Palace.
We visit the old synagogue, the only one in Europe that remained open during the entire Second World War.
And in one of these sites, we visit the room dedicated to the memory of the several hundred who died during the ‘91-‘92 siege of Dubrovnik.
And so it is no surprise that in the afternoon, I want time out.
I want to climb the mountain that shelters Dubrovnik. Sure, I remember the warnings about landmines. But I also read the poignant accounts of mothers scaling the summit daily to pray for their sons whose lives were lost on these hills. And I hear there is a path. And if you stick to the path, you are safe.
I twist daughters’ arms and we set off.
It takes no time at all for me to get lost. One path becomes a dead end. Another leads to a seemingly deserted house with chained dogs growling the minute I come within 100 meters of them.
But if you know there is a path, you will find it. That is my new motto. Indeed, it takes only half a dozen queries and we are on it again, heading up, up through the pine forests and then above the tree line, up, up, past thirteen crosses in memory of the war heroes…
…up up past blooming brush and flowers and rocky stones, until, looking down, we have the city, wrapped by its wall, the same wall that gave magnificent views before but now looks like a little thimble, nothing more. And the sea and the islands, from the quiet of a mountaintop.
looking sout, toward the walled city
looking north, toward the islands
And then it is but a roll and a stumble back to town.
Dinner is absolutely stellar. Mushrooms stuffed with seafood, covered with melted local cheese, prawns with polenta, prepared in the Dalmatian style and of course, ice cream filled crepes.
It is late and we head to the Franciscans. A quartet is playing to a handful of visitors. The Beethoven piece brings me to tears. By the time they finish with a Schubert and a Rossini, I am one wet noodle. Small markets, large mountains, the quiet of a summit, the clear notes of a flute, all pulling at your emotions, so that it becomes about your own life, reconsidered against the drama of this little town on the coast of the Adriatic.