Tuesday, 16 October 2007

STEPH Split 15/10/07

Split is beautiful. I am speaking of the old city. Down by the water it is mountain still, even with the ferries and the people wandering around the esplanade. We are told that in summer Split turns up the volume, that it’s crowded and humming. From a pilgrim’s perspective, it’s great to not have to compete for food and shelter; yet I can’t help but wonder if Split absorbs all that energy into her old walls and is mountain still in the summer, just the same.

Today was a productive day, a getting things done ready for the road tomorrow day.

Tomorrow morning, before we leave, we’re hiring a guide to delve us into the city’s cache of stories, which means we’ll discover why the great bronze wizard-like statue has a very shiny big toe . . . actually we know why his toe shines – people line up to touch it . . . why they line up is one of Split’s great mysteries.

I can finally see why people say Croatia is beautiful. Sibenik was just rude. Zadar was fabulously old and keep to itself. Split is a mother’s arms; a healthy woman with a sparkle in her eyes.

Yet behind the old city, there is a drab hubbub with, it seems to me, more than its share of old men sitting on grubby stairways drinking from paper bags and bent over old women scouring rubbish dumpsters. But that’s just a stranger’s perspective. Don’t mind me.

I am learning to accept the deadpan faces of the Croatians, for I am discovering that if I rest awhile in their company they will warm to the stranger, however imperceptibly; although having a radar for aggression I can be startled by their anger. Where the Italians were exuberant and loud and passionate in their speech, even appearing to argue among themselves, the Croatians have an edge that is without joy.

There is a huge exception and that is the old men who spent their youth and middle years as immigrants to countries such as my own and America. These men have lights in their eyes and songs, sad or otherwise, still living in their hearts.

What does puzzle me is why they say Croatia when their name for themselves is Hrvatska?

And so we prepare to leave Split for Istanbul. It is as if a whole new phase of the journey has begun . . . as if we are now ready, finally, to begin.

I walk south with pilgrim’s purpose, revealed out there in the mountains on the way to Split, as we rested on the steps of a small shrine on a crossroad. It is a private matter; yet it is a wonderful feeling to be walking with more than seek-nothing nobility.

We will be walking along Adriatica’s eastern shore, the seas calling my spirit west to the other shore, the one that looks to the rising sun. It’s as if I wait for her tide to carry me away; she is beautiful here and I sense her power . . . yet she is not my home.

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