Thursday, June 13, 2013

My Log 360 Spurred on by a kindly reader, I make another intrepid walk about Dubrovnik, and find fumes, noise and all the ailments of modern life

A kindly reader in Ottawa has written thanking me for “the lovely walkabout in Dubrovnik,” referring to my spectacular achievement of at last, after 17 years in operation,  finding out how to get my pictures on to my blog.  I, of course, have interpreted this as a show of massive public approval for my project, so I have, in face of this overwhelming evidence of public demand bowed to the immense pressure and today have undertaken another walk, to illustrate something more of the peculiar civic structure of this tiny, tourist-obsessed city.
So this exercise is dedicated to Helen Deachman, who set me out on this nightmare journey. And a nightmare it was, for, by just stepping outside the huge walls that encircle the old city (a rather small area) one is immediately plunged into every urban ailment to which modern life is prone.
Dubrovnik has this peculiarity in that people who live here keep telling you it is a city of hardly 1,000 souls, whereas anyone can see that the city, which sprawls over the neighbouring hills, has a population  variously estimated at between 50,000 and 75,000 people.
The locals deal with that by calling various parts of the city outside the walls by several names, as if each had nothing whatsoever to do with Dubrovnik. So, today, to illustrate this phenomenon, I have undertaken to walk through one of the gates in the walls to what is called locally Pile, (pronounced Peel-eh) an area where real life as it is known elsewhere begins, with its charming admixture of tourist touts, huge diesel-spouting buses, pizza-joints, and tourist hotels.  This is also the takeoff point for a stroll up the road to what is called locally Gruz, (pronounced Groozh) built around a large harbour, capable of handling the biggest ships into which most of the larger cruise ships of the present day moor to disgorge their thousands of tourist visitors, who then have to scramble into buses to be taken over the hill to the old town, recently described as the tourist jewel of Croatia (as it has long been described as the jewel of the Adriatic.)
Some ships, as seen in my last walk, anchor outside the old city, and disgorge their passengers in tenders, and I have found in recent days that one peculiarity of this system is that if a ship is staying put overnight, which some do, very often it will give vent to a burst of fireworks to keep its otherwise bored passengers amused (at least, I suppose that is the idea). This also has the effect of waking from our sleep those of us who have retired at a decent hour.
Okay, this morning I decided I had to begin my tour with a shot of a church that overhangs the street giving on to our house.  (I've since been told this is a cathedral and I cannot call it a church. Wow! That's a new one on me, although I do confess to not being up on ecclesiastical nomenclature, not even to a slight degree.)

 This is one of the many churches around which tourists are ushered by their guides. I have no idea why anyone should want to spend their holidays visiting churches but there is no accounting for taste, I guess. I have no idea, either, of the name of this particular church, or of any other of the dozens of churches around which flit their attending staff of monks or priests or whatever they are called, and (I use here a favorite saying of my favorite travel writer, Norman Lewis), “shuffling nuns.”  (I have to admit Lewis seemed to think of shuffling nuns as evidence of civiization, whereas I have a different view of them).

 On the way out to the Stradun, I took a small detour to our small local market, quite a thriving little market at the
height of summer, whose characteristic is that the merchants wrap it up at noon, and give way to the tables of restaurants run by the pub that borders the square. Another feature of this square is that just before noon pigeons gather in their hundreds, as if waiting for something. Soon what they are waiting for appears, a man carrying a bin of food that he throws out on to the stones around the restaurants. The pigeons show their intense competitiveness (which, as you know, is all the rage in the modern world), as they jump and squawk and peck at each other in their attempts to get a few seeds of grain, and in a matter of five minutes they have disposed of all of it, and then go about their business elsewhere, leaving the square to the diners.
Next, the Stradun. I tried a picture of this in my last effort but it was very poor, showed little of the glories of this impressive street, bounded as it is at either end, naturally, with churches, bishop’s palaces and such other impedimenta of such priest-bound societies (of which any readers I may have in Quebec must have bitter memories). 

This picture (above) is rather better than my last, athough relatively devoid of people. You will notice the delivery vans, the only sort of vehicles that are allowed within the walls of Dubrovnik, the old city. They travel circumspectly and I have never heard of one of them running over a single tourist, although I imagine their drivers must be tempted from time to time.

Access to Outer Dubrovnik, if I may coin a term, is through this rather narrow gate (right). Sometimes the traffic of tourists arriving in the city from this direction --- having come off ships  moored in the large harbour of Gruz – is so intense that it has to be moderated by guidance ropes. I am almost afraid to mention it, but up off the camera on the right of this picture is yet another church, palace or whatever they   call these ecclesiastical places.

At Pile, the pictures (below) speak for themselves: we are immediately in the full horror of the modern world, with buses disgorging their diesel fumes, two-stroke engines exploding in your ears and tourists, endless tourists, having emerged from the buses that have just arrived from Gruz, waiting around to find their guardian or guide, who should be somewhere holding up a number on a stick. Dubrovnik has many guides, speaking many languages, and the only mystery is how so many people from so many disparate cultures, have been persuaded that this is any way to spend a holiday.

 There is always a good admixture of Japanese tourists (below), who seem always to be well-dressed, slim, camera-laden, cheerful, and determined not to draw attention to themselves or create any trouble.

 Fighting one's way out of the tourist crush, one comes to the road (at right) leading off to Gruz, with the Hiton Hotel on the right.

 The road that leads up the hill towards Gruz is quite narrow, the footpath even narrower, and the danger of stepping momentarily into the roadway to let another pedestrian past is, I would judge, immense, because it is quite possible that just as you make that fatal step, some lunatic in a car behind you has decided to break the law by taking advantage of a momentary pause in oncoming traffic to  gun past a slower-moving vehicle, thereby coming close to mowing you down. Lights out.  

As one can see, behind the walls lining the road --- always behind the walls in Dubrovnik ---  there are splendid  vistas. Unfortunately, some of my attempts to take photograhs did not succeed, notably one I tried to take of an odd coffee shop whose seats are all made from disused baths. (The reason for this failure is that these pictures are taken by the cheapest camera money can buy, and when the sun is shining brightly as it was today, nothing shows on the monitor, nothing at all, and one can never even be sure that the camera is turned on. In this case it obviously had shut itself off.) Another taken alongside a very good restaurant-bar of my acquaintance also unfortunately did not come out, for it was intended to 

show at the end of the road a towering building which I believed (wrongly, as it turns out) to be the local headquarters of Rochester University --- yes the Rochester University from the United States. Apparently US universities are busy with their cultural imperialist mission all over eastern Europe, bringing  their specialized, US-angled knowledge to the local intelligensia, emerging, as they just are, from the horrors of their Communist brainwashing. Nothing like brainwashing: one’s attitude to it depends which side is doing it, and what you think of them.

Next (right) the brand-new headquarters of the University of Dubrovnik. Pristine new. I am not sure it has ever had any students, but it is ready to accept them when and if they come.

Further on, the road widens a bit and we get some rather spectacular glimpses out over the sea, across to a new, Turkish-owned hotel (the Turks seem to be into the hotel business here in a big way) that seems to have a safe swimming place delineated where one does not have to dive off rocks into dangerous depths --- as is  the custmary situation on those rock-piles that they call beaches in Dubrovnik. And (left) we look back along the typical Dubrovnik coastline towards the city we have just left behind.
Here, just before we plunge down to Gruz, we come across the place  where Dubrovnik lovers, being left behind as their paramour goes off to sea, establish their indissoluable bonds by putting up messages locked into place until the lover returns. (The messages have all disappeared, while the locks remain, as can be seen).
About this point, the footpath I was following disappeared and I had to negotiate my way carefully down the hill to Gruz, never mind taking pictures, rather, watching out for my life here (again), negotiating the heavy traffic, and the cars parked everywhere, even on the pavements, forcing pedestrians out into the road.

I had been to Gruz before, when the harbour was full of big ships. But today, no big ships were in evidence. And not only that, the beautiful markets, for fresh produce, and fish, have been moved away, denuding the wharf area of its major attraction.
However, I can show a few shots of some rather large yachts --- indeed, some of them are almost obscenely ostentatious, as is ot unusual among the rich of this world.

On my way wearily home, up and down the hill, once again on the narrow sidewalks provided, I paused at the top to take a couple of pictures that give some idea of the spectacular depth of the cliffs around this unusual town, 

Dubrovnik, regretting only that I failed to get a picture of the (far-off, other end of the harbour) Tudjman bridge, which will always stand in my memory as typical of Croatia in that it has been named after a man who raised, in one of his books, genocide as a perfectly acceptable act of political decision-making.

So that's it, folks. Hey, ma, look, no hands! I done it again!
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