The warm Croatian wind blew in through the wooden shutters of my room to cue me of the suns ascent. It was time to start my day. I found a cafe and contemplated the day ahead over some stewed tomatoes, mushrooms, runny eggs and a large tear drop smear of delicate sheep cheese-‘cause that’s how I roll.
It was a day to explore my surroundings. Naturally, being an island girl, I found the nearest beach. The light pebbled sand received the turquoise sea that gently dampens its edge. In seconds, my shorts dropped to my ankles and were abandoned with my shoes.
That first dive, the first into any new waters, is like a first kiss. All senses are heightened and every aspect of the moment stamped into memory. My croatian kiss that will never be replicated.
By lunch, I was ravenous and found a restaurant close by. I ordered local anchovies that the waiter stated were “brought fresh from the old woman across the street”. Yes please. Marinated and served over a bed of arugula, salted with capers and green olives from the region and drizzled with olive oil. I was never fond of anchovies..until today. These were not the slimy offensive fish we cage into tin cans and whiz into our ceasar dressing back home-these were delectable small soldiers of the sea.
I spent the rest of the day walking through old town. Imagining a time when callused soles entwined in leather sandles ambled along the very stone beneath my feet.
I weaved through diverging ally’s, explored the palace and cathedral, then walked the massive uninterrupted walls that encircled the entire old town.
As breathtaking as it was, I found myself feeling like another ant in the swarm of tourists and somewhat disconnected from the essence of this city.
Then something miraculous happened. Once I stepped off course, the rain began to fall and in seconds the masses took cover. I kept walking through the square..almost entirely alone..letting the rain wash the salt off my skin and I began to smile in that way one does when you get your way. I was born near a rainforest..I openly and graciously receive it. Rain dropped from the tip of my nose and my smile grew. I then sat in a partially covered cafe-the waiter asked me if I would like to go inside. “I’m good thanks.” And while the church bells rang in chorus with the thunder, I ordered myself a glass of rose and enjoyed a private rendezvous with the old city. The waiter brought me a schnapps on the house, as though I won a prize of sorts. Indeed I did. For 20 minutes I had this town essentially to myself.
It was time for dinner. Earlier in the day when I inquired about places to eat, I was advised of an exquisite fine dining restaurant near the main square. When I went in person to make a reservation, I knew instinctually it was not the vibe I was looking for. Instead, I let my astute gastronomical radar guide me to an authentic Dalmatian experience.
I found a restaurant on the footsteps of an old cathedral, not far from the palace. Kopun. I always preferred the subordinate character. Under the green tent with the fans spinning modestly above me, and a musician casually playing guitar, I felt welcomed.
I started with an array of seafood delicacies-makral marinated in raisins and sweet wine with onion and olives; prawn pate; accompanied by the buttery subtle taste of tuna tartare-and pea sized dollops of sweet beet cream.
Next-squid ink pasta accented playfully with baby shrimp and peppers. When the texture and integrity of any pasta outshines the sauce, it is a special moment.
The busser took my plate and asked if I’d be interested in a dessert. “Oh no, my dear, I’m not done eating dinner yet“. He smiled curiously.
I forget sometimes that I’m eating alone, until my neighbouring patrons smile then look to the vacant side of the table then back to me with well intended compassionate judgement. Yes, yes, I’m here alone..and yes..I’m quite ok.
The manager chatted with me and shared her story of growing up in a small region on the coast near Korcula (where I’ll be staying next) before moving to Dubrovinik. She provided me with a list of places to eat and varieties of wine to test while on the island.“It seems you learned early on about food and wine.” She corrects me, “here everything is about food and wine.”
Toto we are home..
Next-‘capon’- castrated rooster-with barley. What makes this traditional? He explains that in the 16th century potato was a newer commodity; barley was the runner up and more commonly eaten.
The combination of the game and barley was like jumping in a bouncy castle of taste and texture.
The waiter gifted me with fig liqueur. It was a familiar sweet taste that I couldn’t put my finger on, but is essentially a mix of fig and grappa. And it was delicious.
I asked my server to bring me the most authentic dessert he had. He served me paradižot-a croatian version of tiramisu but with egg whites and vanilla. Crunchy almonds were scattered on top and complimented the creamy texture.
Full and undeniably satisfied, I slowly sauntered back to my flat with the music fading behind me.