It’s fiercely hot. Cool sanctuary in the basilica appeals. With fourth century mosaic pavements and a palace built by Bishop Euphrasius in the sixth, endless wooden stairs ascend to a busy scene in a cool belfry. A dozen or more out-of-breath pilgrims are rewarded with spectacular panoramic views over Poreč and the comings and goings of tourist boats and water taxis, before easier descent, first to a hot lavender-scented lapidiary complete with happy bees and striped butterflies, and on to grateful moments in the church awed by the thought of millions here before us. Ancient of Days!
Cruising in the turquoise Adriatic, the shimmering of heat haze on the wide horizon, there’s similarity with pictures of paradise I loved in childhood. There’s a difference in the point of view though, for I’m still alive on earth to see these wonders, greeted in seven languages.
Actually, everyone looks fully, really alive – glowing, growing and happy. We sail past Vrsar into harbour in colourful Rovinj at noon. Angelus bells in the tower, spectacular fruit market, and stunning architecture in “Croatian Venice” sports family laundry lines, and seagull cries sound like someone told them a hilarious joke. Alive. Here. Now!
Coffee coloured stucco. Ancient
shutters bleached silver
dishevelled on rusty hinges
rendering their apparent
permanence miraculous. Battered
blue bicycle leant against the
wall no longer going places – adventurous
travel having given way years ago to sunlit
evenings making embroidered
shawls on the doorstep, geraniums
glowing like the buttercup effect
at the chin beneath deeply
wrinkled concentration. There’s a
small glass of something or other
beside a basket of chocolate
brown bread and olive oil
on the little outdoor table, and
needles in her orange pin cushion.
In tonight’s gentle evening
breeze this quiet sometime cyclist is
mistress of her universe
A friend wrote, just before we left for Croatia, “please greet the olive groves for me. I dream about them”. We do too. And on this warm first evening’s return the Adriatic is royal blue and turquoise, just feet away from the deep orange-red soil and the loud chorus of cicadas in the olive trees. Just a couple of hours in we’ve already enjoyed wonderful bread and olive oil, and the cherry strudel that is just one amongst so many good reasons for coming back here. The bells of the sixth century basilica are sounding just outside our window and many dozens of swallows are circling the spire. The Poreč Festival of Life is in full swing. There’s music in the ancient streets and peaceful strollers of all ages and many nationalities are delighted by Paddington Bear’s antics at a perfectly fabulous outdoor cinema. This is a vision of something good and right and wholesome. I’m immeasurably thankful for it.
Imagine a beautifully maintained boat ferrying you across a turquoise sea, on a warm early July morning, from a stunningly beautiful city that’s a UNESCO world heritage site, to a gorgeous little island named after St Nicholas, and swimming there under a deep blue sky. Sounds like Zen doesn’t it? Meditation.
I think I’ll swim tomorrow as well!