June 30, 2023

Lyrical Croatian Adventures

Impressions from a June trip to Croatia. Between poetic sceneries, the quiet humming of wind and waves, and streets overfilled with tourists.

It began simply as a family visit, to a country I saw as overrated among tourists – growing up in Poland I never stopped hearing about people’s holidays in Croatia. At the time the destination seemed quite attractive, but with the years my interest faded away, until a new motivation appeared – to walk the roads along which many of my husband’s childhood summers were scattered.

So we waved goodbye to Scotland to discover a new destination. I dreaded the hot temperatures that awaited but then I guessed that Simon’s love for this place had to be justified.

Poeticized landscapes

From the very first day on the riviera I fell under its spell. After a few hours of contemplating the glistening waterfront which kept hesitating between several shades on a blue-green palette, I suddenly made a connection that stayed with me for the rest of our trip. I remembered that the region surrounding me was where my favorite poet was first inspired in his art. Within that instant of realization, the entire place received a whole new meaning in my heart. It took me a while to grasp that those malachite fields of the sea Baczyński mused upon were stretching right in front of my eyes. And for years I had assumed he was singing lauds to Poland’s natural wonders…

Landscape of sea and cliffs

Krzysztof Kamil Baczyński is best known as a poet of the Polish resistance during the Second World War, the romantic symbol of artist and soldier… Yet while the fruits of his creativity bloomed most remarkably during wartime, they first burgeoned amidst the harmony of Dalmatian nature. In the summer of 1937, at the age of 16, he discovered these landscapes, met his first love, wrote his first verses and painted… An idyllic world so far from the horrors awaiting him just a few years later…

Perhaps he carried into the dark battles his memories of sea and mountains perfumed by the scent of lavender and oranges… The beauty incorporated into the apocalyptic visions permeating his work fits in perfectly when you think back to the spell of Dalmatian sunlight.

For the rest of the week the thought of Baczyński finding inspiration along these paths clung to me. Everything acquired a unique significance, my eyes received a fresh lens for interpreting their perceptions – as if my travelling was based on the advice of a good friend. I lost the impression of being a tourist chasing after sun and warmth. There was something deeper for which I cherished the area. I wished I could travel back in time to when the destination was not yet popular among Westerners.

View of seaside with trees

An unexepected connection

I was never convinced by the concept of a Slavic identity – these numerous nations vary so widely in their pecularities, that uniting them under a common label seems artificial. Techinically Poles would be part of this group, but we prefer to highlight our distinctive nationality rather than join into any panslavic group (mainly because we don’t feel like connecting in any way with the largest of Slavic nations?). However in the context of discovering Croatia, I felt that as Polish-Czech explorers we were regarded with a slightly more positive attitude from locals. Despite Croatians generally being friendly people, they seem to hold a certain implicit hierarchy of tourists. And belonging to a Slavic nation somehow adds bonus points.

It felt awkward to speak with locals in English – after all, our languages are similar. So we did our best to communicate with a blend of Polish-Czech-Croatian and other linguistic elements from random Slav. Unexpetedly, I found myself wishing a form of “interslav” existed – a language understable to all who know at least one Slavic language. Simply to avoid using English which is such an aritifical and roundabout way of understanding one another. While Czecho-Polish works perfectly, the same cannot be spontaneously applied onto any pair within our linguistic group. But with a bit of research and practice, an artificial synthetic language could be created. With the only risk that a language meant to be understood by all Slavs might end up being understood by none.

All this to say that Croatia proudly holds on to its national identity. I admire the weight they place on tradition because of how it reminds me of home. In fact, my husband once jokingly refered to Croatia as the Poland of the Balkans. However, their southern sunlight and weather lead to personality and friendliness blossoming into something quite different to what I know from home.

Village church

Finding peace amidst crowds

In line with my expectations, the atmosphere reminded me of the French Riviera - or rather a less over-priced, over-rated and over-crowded version of it. That goes mainly for the smaller towns… In Split, the tourist invasion is obvious at first sight - to the point that Dalmatia appears on the verge of being swallowed up, becoming another southern European getaway spot among many. If only people took the time to appreciate the uniqueness of every place they traveled to…

Mountainous landscape

Orchard and mountains

Yet all hope is not lost. Drive away from the loud riviera, get lost between the mountainous roads, and then quietude will return. While erring across mandarine orchards, the memory of crowds immediately vanishes.

Or even beside the sea, that uplifting peace can be captured.

Whispering waves deafen the heart. Pines mingle with sunrays to color reflections on the water surface… Every minute painting an unrepeatable palette… Malachite, sapphire, azure, emerald, ink-black…

Landscapes encircling you keep pointing to a higher and mightier force. Enormity that intimidates and reassures. Reminding you that you were created to be part of this greatness.

A spark of this infinite majesty is captured by the most skilled artists. For the most of us, all we can do is simply stare in awe at the wonders of Creation, absorbing the beauty to later lighten our darker moments. Just as I think Baczyński did.

Southern riviera landscape

Sea waves and mountains

comments powered by Disqus