a unique perspective on this crazy world

Posts tagged ‘history’

the stormy seas of independence…

By pure random chance, I happened to be in Croatia a few days before the Scots voted on independence.  You cannot, of course, time your vacation to Croatia to coincide with such an interesting time to be in a Balkan state.  There is no question the Balkans are a fascinating place – historically, culturally and geographically.  A visit is really rewarding.

It’s rare for me to see a random post on facebook that I really feel is worth sharing but I am going to link to this one as it is a witty representation of much I have observed of world politics.  Not all countries are represented and there is no Croatia imagery.  But the Canadian quote sums us up rather succinctly.  I am a huge fan of history and know far more about the facts and dynamics of my own country than most politicians, less alone most voters.


I understand the seduction of independence, flag waving and nation states.  But we would all be better served in the 21st century to be getting together and trying not to let the planet turn into Mad Max…

elaphite islands

elaphite islands

Anyway, to the travel experience!  One of the most unique aspects of Croatia is the abundance of islands to explore.  Many are tiny.  Some are not even inhabited.  It is a playground of fantasy for sailors.  I like boats but my sailing qualifications more or less end at a pretty good ability to tie knots thanks to my early years as a Brownie 😉

So, I thought I would sign up with Amico for a cruise of the Elaphite Islands.  It started pretty slow as apparently the ship is filled by numerous travel agencies so you start to wonder if you are going to leave the harbour…


They do ply you with homemade brandy before lunch… perhaps so you won’t realize nothing is happening? 😉  But eventually the trip gets underway and you bounce over the waves and reflect on the clear blue skies.

And – hopefully for you – that will continue for the remainder of the day.  Our cruise was a little different… at first the rain was benign and easy to ignore but it wasn’t long before the skies opened up and people had water running down their faces.  Being from a city where rain is a daily possibility, I was prepared.  I just put on my fleece and positioned myself under my travel umbrella.  Girl scouts are prepared 🙂

I was impressed by some young guy trying to frantically unfurl the canvas coverings that were meant to protect the ship in bad weather.  I think that should have been the job of the crew but customer service is still being developed in eastern Europe 😉

Apparently the gods did not totally hate us and we had a brief interval of sunshine when we reached our first island, Lopud.  The beach was deserted, the outdoor bar opposite the dock was closed and the monastery was under renovation so it’s obvious that, like most people from lovely climates, the Croatians are kind of wimps 🙂

I decided I would be adventurous and follow the signs to the mysterious art installation up the hill.  It was a great choice.  I saw a lot of the island, especially the flora, and the art installation offered a disrupting perspective that is what art is supposed to do!

It was called “Black Horizon”.  The customer service was eastern European style so had no idea what I was doing… but it looked like you went behind the curtain… it was totally black.  It was a former communist country so wasn’t sure about safety standards so crawled around the edge of the room so that I didn’t break my ankle or plunge into an unseen pit.  After a few minutes, the room did not seem absolutely pitch black and I could see a tiny strip of white light where there was a tiny break in the wall – the horizon!

experiencing art

experiencing art

I’m not sure the artist’s intentions but it was a really interesting visual and emotional experience, especially for someone living in a very safe western country where being thrust unexpectedly into a blackened room is unlikely to be an everyday event.

By the time I got back to the boat for lunch, the rain clouds were threatening again.  But it ended up being serendipity.  No one wanted to chance eating lunch on the roof of the boat so we took turns squeezing into the tables on the main deck, which resulted in random and unexpected pairings.  Most of my lunch time was spent with the guy who had battened down the hatches in the boat and his best friend.

It was pretty obvious as soon as they spoke that they were from Scotland.  Ryan’s dad was a fisherman so that was why he knew what to do on a boat when rain came calling (he is Scottish :)).  His friend Peter was more the suave ladies’ man.  Ryan was especially patriotic and very keen on the independence vote.  He had also worked in Norway so we became friends with a Norwegian guy since I had been to Norway only a couple of months ago.

My new friends convinced me I should just hang out at a pub with them for the next two islands.  On a sunnier day, I would likely recommend a different strategy.  But there is also something amazing about travel when you find a couple of people who can create the catalyst to turn an everyday event into a memory for the nursing home.

rocking the waves!

rocking the waves!

Making friends with Ryan and Peter totally changed the day.  It had been pleasant enough but a little boring as a solo traveller.  But we spent the trip back to Dubrovnik on the upper deck on really choppy seas.  The rain had stopped but the weather was angry.  What most people didn’t realize is that it’s better to be on the upper deck when the waves are high.

Ryan kept running the free (questionable and homemade) wine to the upper deck.  Peter had portable speakers so kept the tunes running.  A few people tried to dance but the waves made that more act of comedy than act of seduction.  But I ended up being part of an international impromptu party on a rocking (literally!) boat on the Adriatic Sea.

When we finally exited on our groggy sea legs, Ryan announced it had been one of the best days of his life.  I would have to concur 🙂


re-inventing your past ;)

I am pretty sure I have blood on my hands.  I am at least half Viking – and given the mayhem the Vikings allegedly caused in my other homelands, I may well be a little more…

I have now finished Colin Thubron’s excellent book, “Shadow of the Silk Road” and questions of ancestry, tribe and history are subjects he addresses over the course of many nation states, ethnic groups and shared versions of history (accurate or not).  Reinvention is not a modern concept.

We have always lived in half-truths, in perceptions, in mythology.  History is an imperfect science so we never know exactly what happened in the past – although it is getting a lot harder in the age of social media.

But, luckily for the Vikings, there were no selfies or embarrassing posts on Facebook of the pillage you were hoping to forget… so Vikings can do a little rearranging of history without anyone being able to know for sure if it is just wishful thinking.

My knowledge of ancient history is improving but it is still shaky so I keep an open mind when it comes to the Vikings.  No society is composed of only bad guys – and you need to understand the context in which people behave before you can even consider passing judgement of any kind.

norwegians like boats!

This is the right mindset in which to enter Trondheim (the next stop on Hurtigruten).  It used to be called Nidaros and was Norway’s first capital city.  It was a port of departure for Viking expeditions.  Apparently Leif Eriksson is Leiv Eiriksson in Norway, the dude who discovered Canada – Viking no matter what direction I turn 🙂

I take a little issue with the Hurtigruten info that says the first export of American goods to Europe took place in Trondheim in 1100 AD.  That stuff came from CANADA, dude 🙂  At the time, I think it just came from Newfoundland.  But not America…

The really big thing to see in Trondheim is the Cathedral.  I have

cathedral of many genres

cathedral of many genres

seen a lot of churches!  This is country 48… but I was impressed!  It is something new.  A little Viking, a little Gothic, a little Baroque… a piece of history, which is always more messy than people seem to remember.

you decide if he was really a saint...

you decide if he was really a saint…

It’s not too often a Viking becomes a saint and is the centrepiece of the market square.  It’s not clear if he was a great guy – or just a great politician.  But it does seem Vikings elected leaders so it’s nice to see some non-royal on display.  Someone who had to do something for that sainthood beyond just be born into the right family…




Tag Cloud