First of all I’d better tell you that this entry has nothing at all to do with teaching. I was away last week for a holiday (well, it is that time of year). I had a few days and decided to drive round to Croatia, to the sea to relax. It’s about a four hour drive from Verona, but it’s lovely because it takes you into a completely different world. What was intereesting though is that I set off, just for a few days’ relaxation at the seaside, but sometimes we reach completely different destinations from the ones we are aiming for, so I have decided to share my thoughts here, after a day’s adventure.
I wrote these notes when I got back to Lovran, before hitting the local Internet cafe for a glass of white wine and a shot of social networking.
Today was a day of butterflies, birds ans scattered showers. I woke up after sleeping so well, to a dark sky. This cleared for just enough time for me to sample breakfast on the terrace with a silvery, shimmering sea in the background, and then the clouds came back, so I decided to go for an adventure. I’ve never been along the coastline beyond Rijeka before so I thought I’d drive round and over the bridge to Krk. I’m generally nervous about crossing unfamiliar cities, as what you think is the right direction often takes you to unexpected destinations, but, on reflection, I decided that it was an adventure, so that was ok too. In fact it was very straightforward and pleasant driving through the city, which gave me a glimpse of its architecture and the sharp contrast between the old and the newer.
When I rrached Krk I stopped and investigated a beach, swimming and having lunch in a park, whilst chatting. Everyone is so friendly here, or is it that I’m smiling because I’m on holiday… I don’t know. I ‘ll have to try it in Verona and see if it works. Occasionally I pretend I’m a tourist visiting Verona and it does have the effect of making you see the familiar from a different point of view.
I was goiong to drive back the way I’d come, but I kept seeing signposts for the ferry to Cres, and since that would actually be the more direct route home to Lovran, and another adventure too, that is what I did. Cres was awash with butterflies, everywhere, busily going about their business, and all kinds of birds too, ranging from very large seagulls ( although not so well fed as the ones in Brighton), to what looked more like eagles to me, in fact there was a nature reserve very close to Merag, where the ferry arrived on the island.
Crossing Cres took me back to my last visit in the eighties. It was a different season, winter, in fact, and a different era, I seem to remember taking literally forever to get to Opatija from Verona. A very different story from the efficient roads there are today. My last visit was also for a rather different reason. I was here for a funeral.
Velemir was not what you could call a close friend of mine but he was one of my circle. I liked his music and the first time I heard him play at ‘il Posto’ in Verona, he seemed to be bathed in that artistic aura that tends to set people aside until they become one with their art and as such can only be admired from afar. Then I got to know him a bit better when he began to play regularly with a close friend of mine, but we were never, by a long shot, what you would call friends, and yet, in spite of that, I was one of the people in Verona that he called the evening before he committed suicide, and I discovered today, that I am still affected by it. Velemir was the first person I had ever known, of my generation, who had done this and when we lowered his body into the earth and had to leave it there, I felt something that was little short of a sense of panic. We hadn’t been there to stop him taking his life and now we were going to leave him in the earth. It was a cool day, raining, I think, and it just seemed wrong. This is not something that I have thought about for years, you understand, and I had not expected to be thinking about it now but memory is a strange thing and the road on the island has not changed at all, which is probably what sent me plummeting back through the years.
Well, now I’m on the ferry heading to mainland Istria and the Austro-Hungarian elegance in decline of the Opatijan Riviera, melancholy, decadence and conformism all mixed up together in a heady mix. This evening is the 98th anniversary of the Hotel Bristol which is to be celebrated with cake on the terrace. This detail I feel, says a lot. I’ve given myself a mental shake, pushed away the sadness, and I’m heading back to the mainstream of life once again. Cake on the terrace! I can’t wait.