On Thursday, the dentistry work is a tad more expensive than I thought (at over £400) but I am impressed when they make a 3D printout of my tooth to make a permanent crown. Presh, the Moretonhampstead dentist, had given me a rubbery mould of my teeth to take away with me, supposedly to enable the process of making a crown easier for a foreign dentist. When I presented this little package to the Croatian dentist, she practically sneered at it. All of the women at this dental practise looked like models (with perfect teeth of course)– so much so, I was prompted to ask if beauty was in the job description. (I got a little laugh in response, but I think I was being serious).
The result of their work looks and feels good. However, the dentist reiterates what I already know – that my teeth really aren’t in good shape. I am the epitomy of the English person with crooked and bad teeth L
I am glad to be resting as my left leg (soon after arrival) stiffened up and was difficult to bend. It’s been fine to walk on and cycle with, but very difficult to kneel on for a while. My leg now also ached like a toothache – OK if I sleep on my tummy, but if I lay on my side (as is my wont) it would throb. After a day’s rest it was much, much better. I decided to go for a Thai massage – which was bliss – and my leg improved yet more after my muscles were kneaded and pummelled and walked upon. I’d recommend “Touch of Thai” spa and massage – if you happen to be here in Dubrovnik – Noon, who runs the place, is very professional, really lovely woman – married to a Croatian man. The traditional massage itself is very like shiatsu – with the use of pressure and passive movements and stretches of limbs, rather than rubbing with oil. They offer an aromatherapy massage too, but I can’t comment on that one. The welcome includes a foot bath – a traditional obeisance for all guests, apparently.
I met Vesna at the lodgings – another solo traveller, but from North of Croatia, here in Dubrovnik combining a job application with a holiday. She and Ivana would converse together in the kitchen in Croatian in front of me (Vesna speaks fluent English, whereas Ivana’s is more basic) and their chatter would often end in uproarious laughter – deep, belly shaking, throaty chuckles which were very contagious. VEsna helped me see that Ivana was less scary, more anxious and translated a lot of her conversations for me. Ivana was the latest of four generations to live in this big old house. There were photographs of the family members on the kitchen wall – faded black and white, wearing dated costumes. Vesna reckoned Ivana’s mother had died in her room, because there was a bad atmosphere in there. (When I left, she promptly moved up to my room for the last few days of her stay – smaller, but with no unhappy associations).
The house was old fashioned, full of tat that held more sentimental value than monetary. Everything scrubbed to within an inch if its life but smelling faintly of cigarette smoke, despite the open windows and the whirring fans. There was a very eclectic mix of paintings on the wall – modern depictions of dragons rubbing shoulders with much older, faded pictures of, e.g., the Madonna. There were pots of real plants next to vases of fake and faded plastic flowers. I liked this odd mix more than the stylised anonymity of some hotels I’ve stayed in so far. There was a 2 foot high doll in the hall way, dressed in blue velvet and machine made lace with nylon hair on her ceramic head. Ivana told me that her daughter, Tanja, had been in a play in Zagreb when she was young – and the Ministery of Education had been so impressed with her performance she had been presented with the doll, dressed in the same costume as she had worn.
I arrange a day and a half sea kayaking around the Elephite Islands and in Zaton Bay. The full day was tiring – I found it hard to steer the kayak on the way back across the bay as my edging isn’t brilliant. But I jumped off a cliff into the sea! And met another solo traveller, Kathryn – an American who is travelling around this part of the world before moving to a new job in San Francisco. She was up for anything and young and beautiful (damn her). The best moments happened the next day – an afternoon exploring the coast line out from Zaton bay in a kayak with a rudder. Ah, the joys of a rudder – I’d never tried one before, but it makes steering a sea kayak a doddle. Besides this epiphany, I also saw a Croatian kingfisher up close and personal – and a small brown bat in a cave, ditto.
I first spotted the Kingfisher as a splash of turquoise on the cliff wall above a shallow cave and I went to investigate – eyesight being what it is, it might well have been an aluminium can glinting in the sun, or similar rubbish. However, this bit of turquoise lifted off as I drew closer and flew towards me – it came closer than 4 feet away, landing briefly on a rocky shelf in front of my nose, before pooping and flying off. I got a very good look at him and he was beautiful and definitely the closest I’ve EVER been to a kingfisher – made my day (but no time for a photograph, unfortunately, so you’ll just have to take my word for it). My camera is not waterproof so was packed away in a dry bag.
The little brown bat was hanging upside down in the very next cave along the coastline. A lot of his mates were hanging close by – which made me wonder what he’d done to get himself ostracised. The bat was bigger than a pipistrelle, brownish in colour with a very doggy looking little face. Again, I could get very close to him, to have a good luck, without him being bothered, or so it seemed.
Narrowly missed seeing my niece Freya (and her b/f) and Jack Webb (and his g/f). Freya had been and gone the week before my arrival. Jack- son of friends from Lustleigh and a contemporary of son Seth - didn’t hang around in Dubrovnik long enough to meet up, despite a few messages on FB trying to liase – not the least because they missed the main flight from the UK because of a train delay, they went straight to Korćula soon after arrival– the most populated of the many islands off Croatia’s mainland.
My last day at Ivana’s and I went out on the town with Vesna – we went to the beach and swum and watched the sunset – Vesna is a synchronised swimmer (amongst other talents) and swims like a fish. She said I swim like her mother - I think that means I like to keep my hair dry whilst doing a slow breast stroke!
Vesna, like Katja before her, felt inspired by my daily draws, to take up the paintbrush and have a daub herself – she has painted in the past.
Vesna is sad. She is stuck in a job she no longer enjoys and cannot get another because one needs contacts in Croatia (nepotism rules apparently). Her aging mother has lost her husband and other daughter and is depressed and reliant on Vesna who is “all she has left”. Vesna is mourning her sister herself, and wants to live closer to the sea and wants a new man and has dreams of travelling – so is frustrated. But I love her contagious laugh and I hope at least some of her dreams come true. I wonder if we’ll meet again? After finishing off food back at the lodgings, we stroll through Old Town and sit on a jetty poking out into the harbour watching the lights of the tall ships and boats sailing around Lokram island. Sad to say goodbye.