Thursday, April 8, 2010
'Paradise on earth' George Bernard Shaw
More visitors. Grandparents this time. Great excitement. We've been doing a Balkan tour, Monte Negro then into Croatia. Beautiful. Here's a taste.
Dubrovnik was called 'paradise on earth' by Shaw & 'The pearl of the Adriatic' by Lord Byron. The old city is entirely curtained by thick fortified walls which you can walk along the tops of (2km round). Inside, the city is bursting with churches, museums, monuments, the '3rd oldest' pharmacy in Europe in a Franciscan monastery, (selling potions & poultices since 1391) & polished cobbled streets, & uneven staircases. The water beyond is azure blue & sparkles with islands dotted across it.
This lovely city was bombed in 1991 by the Yugoslav army. No strategic point to it, sheer bloody mindedness. 200 military, sailors, police & 100 civilians were killed defending their walled city. It carried on being attacked for over a year. UNESCO & international aid funded the reconstruction & it has been done beautifully. When you look down on the terracotta clay tiled roofs, you fully comprehend the extent of the damage. So many are new, bright & clean. Tragically, it is probably the best it has ever looked, with such sympathetic restoration. Too high a price to pay. We remembered how shocked the international community was by this mindless act.
We also went to Kotor, in Monte Negro, another fortified, walled city on southern Europe's deepest fjord. Yes there are fjords even in the south. This city had walls built all the way up the mountain enclosing the fortifications at the top, a church half way up, as well as the labyrinth of streets down below. I love the way they have lit it at night.
I thought all the hillside terracing in Albania was quite a feat but these walls were something else.
Having grown up on an island, I love the novelty of simply getting into the car & driving over the border into another country, even if the Albanian border guards do seem to devise a new document requirement especially for us every time we attempt a crossing. Albania has borders with Greece, (& more than a passing resemblance to the Greek attitude to paying taxes too....),Macedonia, Monte Negro & Kosovo. And you can get a ferry over to Italy too. We've only driven into Monte Negro & Macedonia so far. But it's nice knowing when the going gets tough we can just jump in the car & drive somewhere a bit more civilised.