Thursday, March 15, 2007

Now playing at the Theatre of Pompey, "The Liberators"

It was a day of sweaty palms and throat-clearing if you happened to be a particular Roman ruler in 44 BCE. Yes my friends, today is the famed Ides of March. This is lucky for me, as I had absolutely nothing to blog about today. Nothing at all to give me an excuse to fill you in on our sometimes hum-drum lives, and then I looked at the calendar. I realized I had a bill to pay, AND that it was a day of somewhat historical significance.

Weather here is spring-like, as it is all over most of this part of Europe right now. On Sunday we went to the coast and were treated to one of the last gasps of this year's burja (sp?). The burja is the chilly wind that blows out of the north, across the Adriatic, and up under your jacket.

It was a sunny afternoon, and we did eat lunch outside, but the wind made it noticeably cooler. After hanging out and having lunch in Piran we headed slightly south and then east, along the Slovene side of the Slovenia/Croatia border. Our destination was this little village of Krkavce. Krkavce is a medieval village, as are many of the hilltop villages in this area. Many of the buildings date from the 1600s, including this great place where we stopped to taste some olive oil. We passed quite a few farms that produce their own olive oil, but (don't ask me why) we only stopped at this one. It was not a huge operation, but they have been producing olive oil there since the mid 1600s. They do not necessarily have the original trees from the 1600s, since a killing freeze comes along every 30 years or so, but the building where the production is handled is original. The equipment, of course, is considerably more modern -- or at least I assume it is since it is all shiny stainless steel. The olive oil is produced by the family Carcauec, and it (the oil, not the family) has a nutty sort of a zing to the finish. It's very nice. And so was the family. They also shared some of their homemade sparkling wine, Malvazia, with us. It was also yummy. After buying a bottle of oil, we drove on to Krkavce, which was just a few kilometers away.

In Krkavce there is a baroque church which contains a baptismal font from (let me make sure I get the date exactly right here...) oh yes, sometime in the previous millenium. The font is sculpted from one solid piece of marble, and has the head of Medusa in the center, although I must say it's an extraordinarily flattering portrait of her since she looks rather like a folk-art depiction of the sun, and not at all like the serpent-headed monster we usually imagine.

We also visited a carving of a man; this carving is reputedly from the 1st or 2nd century. You would normally be impressed by its age (or not, you jaded bunch of stinkers), or at least I was. But this impact is somehow diminished by three things:
(1) The carving itself is pretty funny. It looks like a man wearing a feather headdress -- it looks very Mayan, and not at all like a depiction you would expect to find in this area. And it's funny looking.
(2) It's just standing out there on the side of a path. It's large, about 1 meter tall, but it's completely unprotected from the elements, theives, bird poop, dog urine, you name it.
(3) The small directional sign for the carving says "KAMEN". This means "ROCK" in Slovene. No special description, just "ROCK, 300 meters --->". They do everything except post an additonal sign to say, "but don't trouble yourself too much; after all, it's just a rock."

We were all thinking, if it really IS that old, it should be in a museum somewhere, right? It was puzzling.

You can read more about Krkavce here.

One thing that's not included on that webpage is the fact that there is a "living house" (sort of like a living museum) there. Oddly enough we didn't see another living soul during the time we were there, but there were LOTS of plants including massive trees of bay laurel and rosemary. There was also a cold, delicious natural spring, and some astonishingly large cacti. They must have been very old, too, but in a place that won't even acknowledge a carving from almost 1000 years ago, what would they have to say about a measly cactus? A dinosaur could have stubbed a toe on one of these very same plants, and there would just be a sign that said "CACTUS. 300 meters--->"

Well, that's all for now. I've got some prep to do before my next class, which is in two hours.

Hugs, - S

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Smarna Gora


Today was a nice sunny day, which was a welcome change after rain for most of the week. We went to the farm market in the morning and bought some veggies, fresh yogurt, and a chicken. In the afternoon we took Lucy to Smarna Gora. (there's actually a Sloevene character to be used in place of the "s", but the blog won't display Slovene fonts correctly. It's pronounced like "Shmarna Gora"). Anyway, it's a good steep hike (669 meters) up a trail comprised mainly of tree roots which form natural steps. At the top there is the obligatory small restaurant/bar/cafe and also an old (13th century) chapel. It's the reputed site of a pilgrimage by Mary, and also another saint whose name escapes me at the moment... This website will tell you more about it. You also see people somewhat more, err.... "motivated" (read "masochistic") than us RUNNING up and down the mountain. Apparently there is an annual race for this so presumably they were training. A video clip from one of the races is also available on this page.

click HERE to view the page about smarna gora