Friday, 3 June 2016

The spirit of Split

Fascinating place this Croatian island of Šipan. I say fascinating but I think I mean incredible, and when you consider the amount of anticipation riding on this new location, I'm stunned. All those worries may have evaporated. The journey wasn't so difficult so much as long and I arrived quite tired in a quiet, twinkly delicately lit harbour. My village of Suđurađ; my home for 6 months.

I've been in sporadic email contact with my host Miho for a couple of years. I'd never really thought about him more than 'oh my god I'm sending a stack of cash to a stranger' and certainly never tried to imagine what he'd be like. Turns out he's a gentle giant of a man, a fisherman, farmer, olive grove owner and drinker of white wine. [Also red wine when I told him what I'd written]. And mint tea when he has a hangover. We meandered the 100m or so from the harbour up to my apartment, with him laughing at the weight of my smaller (quite heavy) rucksack. Only when he felt the weight (very heavy) of my huge rucksack did he decide I was worthy of farm work.
Now normally I'd have leisurely explored my new home, unpacked, and made it messily mine, whilst opening the wine and collapsing in a heap. I'm getting remarkably good at that in new places. However when he asked if I fancied a drink, it would have been rude to refuse. Grabbing my bag, and brushing my hair, and frantically wishing I could spray some deodorant on my sweaty self, we left. Thankfully we sat outside and he didn't get too close!
The old mill - for olives not flour - restaurant is a beautiful spot on the corner of the harbour and apparently a really good place to eat. I wouldn't know, but their lemon and herb infused rakija is spectacular. After a single bottle of beer - given I'd had a travelling diet of milka chocolate and a ham sandwich - it would have been responsible at 10.30 to stop drinking, go home and sleep. We had a shy conversation about Croatian music, olives, cooking, and to my horror I was told there is no bakery on the island. I imagined the flatmate rolling up her sleeves and getting floury for the whole island. By this point it was getting chilly so he offered me his coat, and even the other people getting merry nearby had just gone inside.
I popped to the ladies and I can confirm that the party was lively. He asked if I wanted something else to drink and that was that. We joined the guys at the bar; they were celebrating the return of one of them from a massive cruiser in the Caribbean. 2nd engineer apparently. The music had gone mainstream 80s and the lady (me) had music choice but given they'd been singing Croatian pop music all evening, I asked for that because it was hysterical and I even know some of the tunes.
People who know me can probably guess the Bacchanalian outcome. The guys decided that dancing on the bar was a good idea; then they stripped to their pants; the owner dug out another 10 litres of wine; the lights went off; round after round was drunk and the measures were becoming ridiculous. At some point around 2am homemade bread and cheese was shared around, and I need to go back there just to ensure it was as good as I remember.
I don't really recall getting home. I must have because there are some splendid sunrise pictures on my phone. I know I missed gate-crashing the local bakery. When I caught up with Miho later on for a soothing - sorry, excitedly squeaky - moped ride to Šipanska Luka for a cup of mint tea, he admitted that his head was very bad! So looks like the essence of Split has followed me to the island.

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