Monday, June 26, 2017

More about that Blogger-Reader Meet-Up: Visiting in Zagreb

Paul and Dottoressa standing behind a chain from the HMS Victory, the British warship commanded by Admiral Nelson in the Battle of Trafalgar. The chain has been at this site since 1878.
 As Lisa wrote a week ago Saturday, in her post about the visit she, Sue, Mel and me enjoyed a few days earlier, "There’s a way in which this online relationship-building slides you into friendship sideways, takes you past possible barriers – distance, life differences, whatever – to a place you can’t predict but must value." She was speaking about meeting other bloggers, primarily,about bloggers becoming  friends, but the same thing can happen -- more rarely, I think, but occasionally -- between a blogger and her readers.
Dottoress and I pose under the statue of Dora, the heroine of The Goldsmith 16th-century novel by Croatian author August Senoa

There's no question that a meet-up with a blog-reader (as opposed to meeting a fellow blogger) can be riskier. The exposure, the vulnerability, is clearly more one-sided, and, quite honestly, while I have met a couple of readers in the past (Hi Patricia in Ottawa! Lynn in Vancouver! Eleonore, in Hanover, but whom I met in Berlin!) and am open to meeting more in the future,  this is a more considered move than connecting In Real Life with someone who has shared many aspects of her (and yes, I'm sticking to the gendered pronoun, because so far I'm following women's blogs almost exclusively, for whatever reasons) life as openly as I've shared mine.

But Dottoressa, as most of you will know, is a very special kind of reader. In the years she has been commenting here, she has quickly become an integral part of this online community. Her voice is very clear, and she's often allowed us glimpses into her daily life, as well as into her personal history.
As I wrote a couple of weeks ago (with links to the original posts), she has also written guest posts for both Lisa (on personal fashion history) and me (on Croatian cuisine).

And behind the scenes, we've emailed from time to time. This began, I believe, over the guest post, but our correspondence expanded to sharing concerns over family health, to comparing notes on movies and books and plays and concerts, and to planning for a possible future gathering of my family somewhere on the Croatian coastline.  In other words -- in Lisa's words! -- we have "slid sideways into friendship."

Still, you might imagine that we were a teeny bit apprehensive as the train braked its way into Zagreb station and we emerged into the mid-morning heat, squinting into the bright sunshine as we looked around, oriented ourselves, and then spotted an attractive, tall, blond woman standing across the street, outside her car, waving at us. Yes. Yes, she had arranged to meet us at the train station, although we'd assured her we were perfectly capable of finding our way. Not only that, but she had a brilliant agenda worked out for us, a quick tour of the old town, with time for a short walk (pausing for photo ops at a few key sites, as above), a pause for my first (wonderful!) kava ça slagom (espresso with whipped cream), and then back in the car to drive to lunch.

And ah, the lunch. . . .
To begin with, we were warmly and efficiently welcomed into the charmingly decorated space of Bistro Fotiç, a cool, cosily dark respite from the hot sunshine. As we were being seated, Dottoressa warned us that we could not try to pick up the bill, as this meal was her treat, and before we could protest, she was ordering a lovely bottle of Prosecco to toast our friendship and our IRL meeting.

Honestly, the generous introduction to one of her favourite restaurants and the pleasure of her company would have been gift enough. For the friendship we were toasting -- Živjeli! -- might have been new in terms of meeting in person, but we had "slid sideways" into it so comfortably on this, and other, blogs, that the time passed easily as we discussed a wide variety of topics in the pleasant surroundings over wonderful food. As Dottoressa said at one point, it felt astonishingly as if we had known each other for years.

I had to take a photo of my appetizer, the most gorgeous plate of carpaccio (octopus and tuna) I've ever been presented with, the slices exquisitely thin, beautifully fresh, and (unless you abhor the thought of eating octopus, as I know some do) visually stunning.
 This lunch was our introduction to Croatian wines, about which Dottoressa is very knowledgeable. I hope some day we might find a greater selection of them at home, because we went on to try quite a few more bottles over our week in the country, and we were never disappointed. (We were also impressed by how often the server in relatively modest restaurants had abundant knowledge of their country's wines and were very considerate in sharing that knowledge.)
 Did we really all end up ordering the same main course? I think Pater might have had something slightly different, but I believe we did all have a base of sepia pasta, so good, and a dish we enjoyed many times, both in Venice and throughout Croatia.
 Actually, Dottoressa tried to order a restaurant specialty, grilled seabass with black quinoa, but it wasn't available the day we went. True confession: Pater and I went back for lunch on our own the next day, and there it was, on the fresh sheet. I couldn't resist, and I have to say, it's an exquisite pairing, brilliant with that lemon cream . . .
After lunch that first day, we were delivered to our accommodation and left to unpack and unwind for a quiet hour or two before our chauffeur, Dottoressa (and let me tell you, this woman is an unflappable, fearless, and very effective urban driver -- and from our observations, that's exactly what one needs to be to manage Zagreb's traffic!) picked us up for the evening's entertainment.

Can you believe that she had got us wonderful seats to a splendid, rousing performance of Beethoven's 9th, such a big work on so many levels, the culmination in the Ode to Joy, that subversive optimism penned in the face of that late-18th-century retrenchment of monarchical power after the flare of revolution, of potential liberation. Perhaps the Symphony's resonance in the current global political climate had a role in filling the big hall; perhaps citizens of Zagreb -- including a surprising percentage of young people -- are simply strong supporters of classical music, of the arts in general (certainly, the wealth of sculpture we enjoyed around the city suggests this might be the case).
What I know for sure is that Dottoressa arranged for us a first day in her city, in her country, that has earned it a special place in our travellers' hearts

I also know that we could have found our own way about the city, figurijng out its system of trams and buses (and we did, indeed, have free time for exploring, walking our usual urban kilometres). But oh, we appreciated getting a chauffeured tour of the city, followed by coffee (kava ça slagom for me) overlooking this artificial lake in the middle of Zagreb, watching the human and the avian swimmers enjoy the cool water as we got to know each other better.

And there was the most amazing meal that evening, at Dottoressa's home, where we met her son and her mother, both bright, interesting, and very pleasant people to spend an evening with. If you followed the series Dottoressa guest-posted for me on Culinary Croatia, you might be astounded to know that most of those dishes were somehow brought together in one belt-tightening feast, one course after another testifying to Croatia's delicious cuisine, a heritage of its long, blended history. And a testament to our host's skills in the kitchen!

After that dinner, we met twice more with Dottoressa -- once for the coffee-with-fashion-show that spica seems to constitute on a Saturday morning in Zagreb I've already told you about -- and then for one last coffee -- in what might be the swishiest place I've ever drunk coffee (look at this room! doesn't it just demand the word "swish"?!).
 Even though we were meeting in the morning, for coffee, Dottoressa didn't have to twist our arms too hard to accept the glasses of bubbly she thought were a fitting way for us to say our good-byes. Because really, having become good friends so quickly, I'm glad to learn that "Dovidenja" means "Until we meet again" as much as it does "good-bye." And I'll toast -- Živjeli! -- to that. . . .

Thanks again, Dottoressa. It was truly a pleasure meeting you in person and getting to see your beautiful city through your eyes, as it has been a pleasure for those of us in this blogging community to get to know you through your comments and your guest posts over the last few years. I hope that we might meet again someday, but meanwhile, I know the conversation will continue, right here. In fact, I think we'll read part of it today, in the space below. Comments, anyone?



30 comments:

  1. I am equally delighted by the story of your meeting and by the description of the food and drink :)

    Not much time for lengthy comments just now, but as always, reading and thinking (ha! I typed 'thanking' in error. I am doing that too...)

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    1. Glad you enjoyed! You would love Dottoressa, and Zagreb. . . .

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    2. I was in Croatia when studying in northeastern Italy (Udine)and loved it, but never made it to Zagreb. They'll have to get that car infestation sorted out; Slovenia seems more advanced in that respect.

      Inflicting this on you and la Duchesse: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/jun/28/two-kitchens-rome-sicily-book-extract-rachel-roddy-kitchen-in-rome#comment-101194792

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  2. Such an incredibly generous tour of the city, and celebration of a "sideways" friendship. This post gives me such a sense of Zagreb and its culture - food and music and clothes - I can't thank you enough Frances, for sharing. And hello again beautiful Dottoressa! Your comments make our blogosphere a far richer place. I will always cherish your guest posts on my blog and here, and send you again my great affection. xoxox.

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    1. You're very welcome, and I agree re Dottoressa's generosity, both in the blogosphere and IRL, in Zagreb

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  3. It seems as if Dottoressa has raised the bar for all future blogger/blog reader meet-ups world-wide! We hear so much about the pressures of social media, but much less about the joys. I like to think that we women of a certain age have ditched the annoying stuff and made a community for ourselves. Certainly that's what I find on Instagram. I hear from my children about people constantly posting photos of their 'perfect' physiques, but really, we're much happier with a photo of a cloud or a desperately untidy kitchen and a cheerful, supportive comment.

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    1. I must say that our experience of Dottoressa's generosity in Zagreb had significant influence on the way we've hosted visitors to our city in the weeks we've been back -- we're stepping up our game!

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  4. What a lovely "slide" into friendship, and a wonderful connection you two have made. Your post really gives us readers a taste (pun) of Zagreb, definitely going to add it to my list. Thanks for sharing!
    Suz from Vancouver

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    1. Do put Zagreb on your list, and coastal Croatia as well, if you can. You won't regret it!

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  5. What a lovely visit, Frances. And how generous a host! From what I've come to learn of Dottoressa from her comments on your blog and mine...I'm not surprised. And I'm noticing her white jeans!

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    1. Yes! She wore white pants a few times, very stylishly!

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  6. Isn't it just the best to have a native of the culture pave a little of the travel path for you? That sort of travel experience has been my favourite and the kind that leaves more of an imprint on the soul. Dottoressa certainly paved the way,as well as made sure you were well fed and watered, as they say.
    What a gorgeous country;what a splendid custom making so much of a coffee in a cafe with a friend (I do love that idea-much more civilized than coffee to go);what luck to have a fearless driver through the melee that is urban traffic AND a chef who made sure you remembered the meal. Wow, what a trip.
    Now a question for Dottoressa: how did you become so wonderfully accomplished at so many things?!
    Hhmmmmm..maybe Croatian guide of bespoke tours for foreign travellers? Another string to your bow!
    So happy to see and hear of your fantastic meeting. Like your style,Dottoressa-bubbles at meeting AND parting.
    PS Frances, what did you notice about clothing shop windows and styles? Thank you for the lovely post.
    A.in London

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    1. It really was a treat to have a local guide -- in fact, we wouldn't even have thought of going to Zagreb if not for the blog friendship we've struck up!
      Unfortunately, I spent very little time looking at shop windows, but I found the women -- of all ages -- very stylish. Really polished looks, often very simple but chicly so, elegant, even in the "street" looks, the edgier gear (I was similarly surprised in Ljubljana to see such a consistent attention to style). One thing I did notice was a surprising number of fabric stores, which we've almost completely lost here, although we still have the odd "big-box" store and a few hipster/artisan-ish ones. . .

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  7. Dottoressa does contribute so much to the world of blogger comments. Whether it be books, European style, or cultural information, she is so knowledgeable. I'm meeting a reader for coffee tomorrow but I don't know much about her other than she is interested in Oaxaca. Your food pictures are wonderful. I have developed a taste for octopus and I love quinoa and tuna.

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    1. Hope your reader meet-up went well -- having a common interest in Oaxaca is probably a very good starting point.

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  8. What an amazing, generous, creative, wonderful soul! A friendship to treasure.

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    1. Just so! (so nice bumping into you the other day, btw)

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  9. Thank you for another great post and for sharing your experience in Croatia with the generous and kind Dottoressa. It sounds like a repeat trip is in your future.

    slf

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    1. You're very welcome, slf -- I do hope we'll get back there.

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  10. Hi Frances, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your time in Zagreb with Dottoressa. How lucky were you and Pater to have such an intimate visit to the city via D. I must admit that I was aware of your hesitation when we met, and, as you explain it above, it's very understandable. However, I think we managed to eke out a good conversation :0) and it was a real pleasure to meet you, considering how long I have been reading your blog and how much I get out of it.

    I'll be meeting a kind of penpal myself in September - we are going to have dinner with the bookkeeper at the company in Germany that I do some freelance work for. Each time I send in an invoice we have a conversation by email, so after 4 years or so I thought it would be nice for us to meet. My only concern is whether or not her husband's English will be good enough to chat with my husband ... if not, I guess they'll just bond over the wine and beer! :0)

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    1. I remember our visit very happily, Patricia, and I do as if we've "known" each other for a long time -- you've been reading me almost since the blog's start, I think.
      What a good plan, to meet up with someone you've only corresponded with for work before but over such a long period. It will make your future correspondence more interesting, more significant, and perhaps more fun and easier. And it wouldn't be so awful if the men just have to stay silent and drink their beer! ;-)

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  11. Wow! I've opened Mater's blog and what a surprise!
    Thank you so much for such a kind,warm and wonderful description!
    Reading your blog (and some other as well) and having an open conversation,expressing and sharing our opinions with women from all over the world is amazing-I've learned a lot,it enriched my life and it is constant source of joy (and sometimes sorrow-depending of the theme-but joy and love get bigger when we share it and sorrow becomes smaller when we share it).
    And you were so kind to incorporate me,with all my language and grammar escapades :-)
    Reading the blog,answers,exchanging mails- it seemed to me that I know Frances and was feeling that I "slided"into friendship somewhere "in a blogosphere cloud"-(and meeting her -and Paul- IRL was ten times better). And from the first moment (or first coffee :-)) I was sure about it
    It was really a magical,surreal moment ,when they step out of the train,from the digital sphere,to the real one in front of the Zagreb rail station
    I hope that we'll see each other here or somewhere in Europe,I've had such a great time with you,enjoyed a lot and we have hardly scratched the surface in our conversations :-)
    Thank you again,I never expected such a great post about me (not fishing for the compliments)
    This time I will thank you ladies all together,for best compliments ever,that made me blush
    I'm far from perfect but I didn't fake anything ,my kitchen was untidy even during Franceses visit :-)
    A in London must be clairvoyant:I won actually the archery championship of former Yugoslavia as junior in 1973 :-)
    Love,Dottoressa

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    1. You are full of surprises! An archery champion on top of all your other skills and achievements!
      (Never noticed an untidy kitchen, although I saw a beautifully designed one that was piled with the dishes from so many delicious courses ;-)

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  12. Meeting Dottoressa through your blog as a guest poster and her comments on other blogs has given me a wee bit of insight into the person behind the words...which is what bloggers try to do...I am surprised that D does not have a blog herself. Thank you for sharing your time in Zagreb with us.

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    1. You're very welcome! I do wish she had a blog as well, but I can't imagine where she'd find the time. . .

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  13. When I read Lisa’s remark about „sliding into friendship sideways“, I was quite touched because it expressed exactly what I had felt after our meeting last year. When I began to search for new approaches to age&visibility&style several years ago (starting out with Advanced Style and moving on from blog to blog) I did not expect this to become so personal. Looking back now
    I am very grateful for all the things I have learned from you (about Canada, about literature and art, and, oh all those wonderful words and expressions I had never heard before!) and for the people I have had the privilege to meet through your blog, Dottoressa among them.

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    1. Yes, I felt the same way -- I speak sometimes of "my friend in Hanover" ;-)

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  14. This is a wonderful post, Frances. It had not occurred to me that there would be a different relationship among bloggers from the one among commenters, but now that I think about it, I see what you mean. My online relationships began on Twitter in 2009 when I created an account on that site as an experiment in familiarizing myself with a new technology. My initial purpose was not connection or friendship, but to my surprise I met people who have become enriching online and in-real-life friends. A number of people who I conversed with daily online, and whose blog I read if they had a blog, have visited me in San Francisco, sometimes multiple times. In 2013 one friend whose husband and son I'd previously met for cocktails in San Francisco when they were visiting from Manhattan, gave me her family's Monterey hotel room when they were unable to use it. It provided a significant respite for me during a difficult year, including a sublime sunny day at Nepenthe. In 2014, I traveled to Manhattan for the first time in years following the finalization of my protracted divorce, which was of course a sad, difficult time in my life. A wonderful friend hosted a cocktail party for me at her home and invited much of the New York and New Jersey contingent of what she refers to as the Twitter Class of 2009 to attend. On a stormy January evening a West Village loft full of people who'd braved the elements, some of whom I'd met already, some of whom I was meeting for the first time, arrived to enjoy an evening together. The afternoon of that event, two of the attendees took me out for Prosecco and tea. The next day, another attendee took me to MOMA for the Magritte show. Two days later I had dinner in their Village hood with the party host and the guest who'd previously given me her hotel room. Because she was coming into town for a photo shoot for her cookbook, I even had the pleasure of meeting a DC friend in a cafe for a brief visit. Since that trip, I have hosted some of those present that night, and others, in San Francisco and the Wine Country. The one thing I notice we say wonderingly to each other over and over is how remarkable it feels to meet someone for the first time and fall into what seems to be an ongoing conversation with a longtime friend. We genuinely feel we already know each other upon our first meeting. In 2006 I intended to begin writing a blog of my own. Events intervened that made the energy required to do so more energy that I had. Recently, I've been considering creating a blog because I find Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter less satisfying than I once did as a way to convey a broader set of my own feelings about the world. Social media makes the world smaller in a good way, but also in a way that can be frustrating when people I have come to love are far away. Your experience with Dottoressa is familiar to me because of my own experiences, particularly those that occurred during the earlier Twitter days when, despite its 140 characters limitations, we managed discussions with great intimacy and depth. (I was (in)famous for my multiple-part tweets.) When I consider social media and the friendships it creates, I have a theory that in a way we are freer with each other when we respond in a digital space that simultaneously feels intimate and at a remove. My own comments are not guarded, which sometimes bothers me, but I have considered this and think, "Oh well, this is you, go with it." Not too long after I began using Twitter, and began to find a tribe of like-minded, varied, admirable people, E. M. Forster's epigraph to Howard's End "Only connect" kept occurring to me. While in its usage in the novel, and as a reflection of Forster's own life, it's a complex phrase, I think it still applies. The joy in life is in its myriad connections to others that enrich both parties within the connection. Thank you for doing the writing work, as Lisa does, to present new ideas, give pause for thought, and allow response.

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    1. Thanks for this thoughtful and fascinating account of your experiences meeting friends made via social media. How wonderful! Generous humanity. . . . You and I met through Twitter -- I loved it when I first dove in, although it has saddened/disappointed me the last couple of years.
      I find that Forster's epigraph echoes often in me the same way, as much as I know that its use in the novel, and in the context of his life is, as you say, much more complex. Hard to imagine he wouldn't have allowed for this extension/expansion.
      And you're very welcome -- I appreciate that last sentence of yours more than you might know. . .

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  15. Sorry I'm a little late to the party! Lovely to see the pictures of you with Dottoressa, she definitely was a thoughtful and considerate host ...just as I imagined she would be from how she writes. It's wonderful when these connections we make via blogs can develop into real friendships and the actual opportunity to spend time together.
    Rosie

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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