Croatia. Trsteno: The Adriatic Sea at Its Most Pristine
Music: Doomed, Bring Me The Horizon
Movie: Game of Thrones, of course!
Book: Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe, Norman Davies
Hotass has finally asked me out. Gee! Take your time and hurry up! All the signals, innuendoes, body language and blunt reality right in his eyes. The guy still took his time. As usual, time is always limited on a cruise ship, regardless of whether you are cruising or working.
The port of call today is Dubrovnik. As soon as I finish my tour dispatching duties, I jump on the bus Hotass is escorting since he so nicely invited me to go with him. The destination: Trsteno. A little fishing village on the Adriatic Coast, north of the vibrant, shiny city of Dubrovnik.
Hotass has saved the last row and grabs my hand as soon as I take the seat next to him. Immediately I tell him that I was patiently waiting for my hundredth birthday, why the sudden change of mind?
His laughter is contagious. The Americans at the back of the bus are paying more attention to us than to the tour guide who has already delved into today’s destination facts.
Croatia had seen five years of gruesome war in my (young) lifetime. The signs of destruction still show everywhere—bombed stone walls, houses too full of holes to skin, derelict villages deserted years ago when the locals were either assassinated or displaced with refugee status.
A short car ride will expose the still visible horrors some people endured just because they were caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. All the while, the rest of the world carried on living ordinarily.
Amazingly though, the country has recovered quickly and caught up with the times. Today, Croatia is the best (still!) hidden touristic pearl. It is not yet suffocated by mass travelling and a new type of destruction plaguing the planet: the tourism industry. I know, Sapiens is our worst enemy!
The murky blue waters of the Adriatic Sea are abundant with tiny green islands. The coastal road is similar to southern Italy’s Amalfi Coast, but its feel is different. It could be because of the recent struggle these places had known, a strain that shows every step of the way.
We’re both listening to Susanna, the tour guide, and watch through the window eager to absorb everything this little corner of a troubled world has to offer. And, boy, it has! I get the feeling this is how the Earth looked at the beginning. Pristine. Underpopulated. Unpolluted.
I haven’t been on this tour until now, and I had no idea that there was free time at the Trsteno Arboretum. Cupid has his ways! I couldn’t have arranged for anything better for our first date, nor could Hotass!
His name is not Hotass, of course. It is only a nickname he acquired one afternoon. As always, he was willing to escort a tour I dispatched with my colleague and friend Kinga.
The lounge where the passengers gather before leaving the ship had a small stage lined at the edge with emergency lights.
My beau sat on that edge for a while. When he got up and touched his trousers, he said that his ass was on fire.
Kinga, witty and on the beam as always, quickly granted him with the Hotass nickname which henceforth stuck.
Back to Trsteno, it is just the two of us walking the gardens. I don’t have a clue where everybody else is, and I couldn’t care less. We can thank them that they were too lazy to walk up here. The magnificent gardens that witnessed over five centuries of history are ours to explore and enjoy.
We both wonder how the war caused minimal damage to this beautiful place while munching on figs picked from an old gnarly tree. We can’t have enough of this green paradise suspended over the infinite blue sprinkled with even more green. And we won’t stop kissing on the terrace where Olena will have her lavish table set for Sansa Stark years later.
I shouldn’t even have to write a lot about Trsteno. The series that made it famous had probably sent the tourists here in droves.
Nor should I say more about my thing with Hotass. We had a great time for the remainder of his stay on board. As all good things have an end, ours found us. However, it’s nice to look back and remember the fondness, the laughter, the banter, and the heat.
Before he disembarked at the end of his contract, he drew my caricature. I was sitting on a sofa right in front of him; still, I could see him shutting his eyes tight before each stroke of the pen. I know he cared! I was in his mind. He did not need to look at me to see me!
Witty and extremely observant Kinga teased him about this, I have the moment on video! I saw that video aeons after Kinga recorded it. I didn’t even know I had it. I must thank my lovely friend!
What is important is that life granted me with good times that overshadowed the bad ones. At least, this is how I perceive it now, after almost having seen the end of the thin thread the fates are pulling.
I don’t have to shut my eyes to remember! It’s all there in a box called ‘life’, together with many other moments. Important is that I got my date, we visited this fabulous place and many more others, and now I can connect them with something delightful that happened in my life.
With hindsight, more important things happened during that first date. One of them was not knowingly walking the same grounds years later the Game of Thrones cast and crew will walk to make the most-watched series in the history of television.
Hotass and I can say we were there first! He snapped a picture of me perched on the terrace’s stone frame long before Sansa had lemon cake with wicked Olena! The place was bare though, just the two of us, no lavish table whatsoever!