Monday, June 11, 2018

Postcards from Ston, Croatia

 I haven't been pen-and-ink sketching in my written journal much this visit,  doing watercolour sketches in a separate journal instead (I'll post my latest watercolour tomorrow or Wednesday, flaws and all). But a few mornings ago, sitting with my tea on the rooftop terrace of this tiny rented cottage, surveying the red-rooved, stone houses of the village below me, all the tiles and window shutters outlined so sharply by the morning sun, I wanted the immediacy and simplicity of my Lamy nib gliding across the page. . . .

We've had three days here in a spot Pater found online. I was a bit skeptical of it, but the price was definitely right, and there were photos of a charming terrace and garden. The inside looked a bit spartan, but I can do spartan for a short time, and I want to encourage shared travel planning, so. . . .

And from the moment we met our gracious host by the little church and walked up the hill together, I knew we'd be okay.  (and when I say "hill," this is the last portion, after turning off the town's last lane -- this is why we travel carry-on only!!)

The interior of the place is, indeed, tiny, but I barely noticed once I'd seen the garden. . .  Here's a view of it as seen from the front door. . . .
And it's filled with some truly charming touches -- and integrates some wonderful architectural artifacts, surely salvaged from the damage this area suffered during 90s war and the '96 earthquake. I find it quite moving to see them repurposed in a garden. . .

The interior is well-organized -- the bed is small, in a bedroom that reminded me of mobile homes or boats, size-wise, but having that separate small room meant that I could tiptoe out in the morning, shut the door behind me, and let Paul sleep on while I had the rest of the place to myself for an hour or so. First, though, I could sit quietly in bed and look through the shutters at this view. . .

 And as I carried my tea out to that rooftop terrace, I could wander along and check out the dovecote just behind. . . .
 While I drank my tea, the pleasant chuntering of chickens from their small yard two terraces up. . .
 And there are pomegranate flowers forming fruit in a tree just below me!
 And this view. . . .

 We're packing up today, moving on to another apartment rental I "let" Pater choose. Before I get started on that packing, I'll just transcribe the written portion of those journal pages above. . . .

June 2010th, 2018
Writing from the terrace on the roof of our tiny studio cottage just above the old town of Ston (the long, ancient stone wall and fortifications envelop us from above.

Doves coo and warble from the dovecote on a higher terrace, and sometimes I can hear the chickens in their tiny yard another terrace behind that -- the rabbits just above make no sound at all.  I hear the coo-coo, coo-coo of a mourning dove somewhere further away. . . 

There's a thick jasmine hedge, so that's the most obvious fragrance, but there's another hedge of abelia -- so a layer of that light, powdery sweetness. Roses too, although I'm itching to deadhead them. Lime trees just below where I'm writing, but we've mostly missed the flowering which I'd guess must have smelled gorgeous There are tiny limes studding the tree already and I'm always charmed (and amazed) to be in the presence of citrus fruit growing on a tree -- seems rather a magical trick to me. So imagine how I feel about the pomegranate tree in this garden!

And on the bottom right of that sketch, I've scrawled (Rumble of red-tiled roofs (rooves?!) at Ston.

There you go, another batch of postcards

(oh, speaking of postcards, a very sweet moment at a restaurant in Mali Ston where our waiter gave us a (promotional) postcard of the restaurant when he brought the bill. When he came back to process the credit card a bit later, I was already writing on the back of the postcard, having decided to send it off to the granddaughter and grandson who didn't join us last week -- it's been weeks since I've seen them.

Well, this server saw me writing (with a fountain pen, yet!!) and was so pleased -- he's a bit younger than us, I think, but old enough to remember when written correspondence was the way to keep in touch, and he was delighted to extol the virtues of hand-written cards and letters in an age when, as he said, everyone just writes these fast e-mails.  We went back there again last night for dinner, and I told him it has been posted -- "So," he said, "It's on its way to Canada now. I'm very happy about that!"

To me, these small moments are everything, in travel. Everything.

Wish you were here,


  1. There is something about a sketch that captures a moment better than a photo, especially for the artist. Each pen stroke will take you back. On a trip to Jordan, I didn't take a camera. I bought photo books of places like Petra, with better shots than I could have gotten, and I sketched and wrote (though I don't hold a candle to you). No regrets. It put me much more in the moment.
    Your trip sounds lovely and I am enjoying accompanying you vicariously.

    1. What a good idea! I love this -- augmenting a purchased photo book with sketches and handwritten notes. Such a meaningful memento.

  2. What a lovely visit to the real world -- not a luxury or corporate hotel, but rooms where people have navigated life, different and the same as you.

    I envy your drawing and painting skills. Those are not my gifts.

    And respect for the word "chuntering" and how you used it. :)

    Roll on. :)

    Ann in Missouri

    1. There's definitely a time for luxury hotels, even the corporate ones, but it feels a different kind of luxury to borrow this slice of Real. . .
      I never thought I could draw or paint, not for 55+ years of my life. The gift, if I have any at all, is that I tried, and I had a friend who guided my efforts. . .
      Too few opportunities to use "chuntering" -- gotta work it when I can ;-)

  3. You are tweaking my memory again , even that old rusty wire fence is making me very nostalgic for past trips . Pomegranates ! - I can remember being so excited at seeing peanuts in the ground & sketching them . Wish I was there in that little place , what a find . Better than five star luxury for me & a friendly waiter nearby too . Perfect .
    Wendy in York

    1. I've never seen peanuts in the ground, but yep, that was me and the pomegranates (saw them on a tree for the first time in Italy a few years ago).
      You have an eye for detail -- you caught that wire fence!

  4. What a magical trip you have had! I feel as if I've been there with you, walking those old cobbled streets - and sharing it all with your family. Traveling in simplicity and charm. The best way to go.
    (I've been following this on IG as well)

  5. That certainly looks like a beautiful spot! I love those small quaint lodgings. Your sketching captures your travel experiences well. I have wanderlust now and am waiting to be free to plan a longer trip. Enjoy!

    1. Your teaching year is almost over -- you can begin to plan now, right?!

  6. Love every bit of this.

    Not a very eloquent comment, but, I'm feeling your sunshine <3.

  7. Love those red rooftops and your sketch...the terrace and garden look lovely. I particularly like the old stones in the architecture and planter bases...they come together to create such a rich patina.
    Safe travels to you both.

    1. Aren't they gorgeous together?! There's something about using materials OF the place that creates such an organic, pleasing beauty.

  8. Seeing your lovely travel pictures get me so nostalgic for the early years we spent living in Wetzlar, Germany ('77~'81). The red rooftops make me want to weep with yearning... Living on the top floor apartment having entire views of castles, hills, vales dales and...the beginning of my affair of the heart with Germany & Europe. Love everything about this post and your journal, thanks for letting us take a peek at it. Amelia

    1. I recognize that longing for a place that isn't quite ours but has its hooks in. . . I'm envious of those four years you had, but it must have left room for homesickness once you left. . .

  9. Wonderful post. Loved your rental, the garden, your journal sketches, your photos, and the exchange with the server regarding the importance of written correspondence. I agree with you that such interactions are what make travel worthwhile. Those are the moments that stay in my memory. This post made me happy. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Aw, you're very welcome, Katherine. Thanks for the kind words.

  10. Lovely! What an excellent find-bravo for Pater! Ston is a little ,under the radar, gem ( with the best oysters!).
    My kind of holidays,living like a locals........your sketching is beautiful
    I was in Dubrovnik in 1996. during earthquake (luckily-in that scenario- in a modern hotel,ful of reinforced concrete-fortunately better built than Weiwei's Straight)-we planned to drive to Ston that morning,but the roads were closed
    Looking forward to hear about your next adventures

    1. Those oysters are so good!! Miss them already. . .
      Wow! That's far too close for comfort, your nearness to that earthquake.
      I hadn't heard of Weiwei's Straight, but have just researched a bit to learn of it -- you're always teaching me something new.

  11. Thanks for allowing me to visit a place that I will be unlikely to see. Your pen and ink sketches are touching.


  12. This post is just wonderful! The warmth emanates through the words.


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