My Week In Istria, Croatia
I have just returned from a lovely week away with my girlfriend’s family in Istria, Croatia. While this blog is not a travel diary, I had some reflections to share and I also missed a weekly post while I was out there so I’m catching up.
In only 7 days, I developed a newfound appreciation for watermelon and tomatoes; a fondness for the sound of crickets chirping; a hatred of large winged beetles; the ability to mount a floating, inflatable unicorn; and lengthened patience after sitting for 5-6 hours at Pula’s rather small and barren airport.
The holiday was a mixture of downtime by the pool and afternoon visits to local towns including the extremely pretty Rovinj and Motovun. We stayed in a luxurious villa out in the sticks, in a small village called Svetvinčenat.
I enjoyed the trip precisely because it wasn’t the kind of holiday I would usually book for myself. My recent destinations have included Krakow, Budapest, Prague and Berlin. I’m drawn to the city break. The trouble with these kinds of trips is you often come back shattered from being on-the-go so much.
Our Easter visit to Auschwitz is a case in point.
Spending a week in a stunning villa, enjoying mostly sunshine, was a much-appreciated break. It probably took me a few days to chill out but by the end, I had embraced the change of pace and enjoyed sitting again with a book.
Without perhaps fully realising at the time, all thoughts of work, freelancing and blogging did fade away for a few days. I’ve come back feeling refreshed. Sometimes it takes a stark change of scenery to do the trick.
I would certainly recommend Istria and Croatia.
Collecting Travel Souvenirs
In my bookcase at home, I have two shelves dedicated to travel souvenirs.
This menagerie of mementoes dates back to an early childhood holiday to Tenerife, where I purchased a slingshot (obviously) and a model volcano. It includes a Roman infantry figure from Rome (wounded upon return in my case), a faux-fur ushanka (Soviet hat) from Russia and a book on the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 that I can’t say I have ever read. Among postcards and other treasures.
I look back at these items and recall fond memories. They are nice keepsakes. Only earlier this year in Krakow did I pick up a Wawel Dragon icon, my own mini Smok.
But they are also slightly inconvenient to store, and through the years, I have fallen into more than one tourist-tat-trap while spending leftover currency.
That’s why in Rovinj, Croatia, I decided to purchase something a little different. I could have bought a wooden duck in Wellington boots or a cat-shaped purse. Perhaps a Modric football shirt to memorialise England’s defeat to them in the World Cup Semi-Final.
In the cobbled side-streets of this coastal town, we came across an art gallery. The studio of an Austrian artist called C. B. Schneider. I had never heard of him. Walking past his window of stickmen drawings (potentially paintings, I am completely ignorant when it comes to art), this one caught my eye. I stopped to admire it, the others also liked the style and we moved on.
It wasn’t purchased until we returned to Rovinj two days later. I hunted out the gallery, to this time part with my kuna. Why did I want a stickman cartoon by an Austrian artist to be my sole keepsake from Croatia? Because I liked it.
While others might see the figure as roadkill, I immediately saw a day-dreaming individual in a reclined position, not unlike my relaxed posture on holiday. Not until getting it home did I even acknowledge the enigmatic shape, seemingly another head, poking out from the top of the canvas.
If I were to put my English Honours hat back on, I might strive to interpret its meaning. A religious viewer might see God, him or herself, looking down on creation. A deceased loved one keeping watch from heaven. Or perhaps the bloody heart in the figure’s chest is the clue and captures the moment of death with lifeless eyes. The head in the sky their transitioning soul.
I personally don’t think it means any of these things. I simply like the idea of a day-dreamer looking up for something more, to find something looking back at him.
The Start of an Art Collection
When I look back on this artwork in years to come, maybe I will still see the same. But I also know that I will recall this week in Croatia with fond memories. I will think of my first holiday away with my girlfriend.
I would like to make this the start of a future art collection. On my travels, I intend to look out for other pieces to accompany my stickman.
While some might resemble more typical travel souvenirs with recognisable landscapes and iconography, I am less concerned with the subject matter than merely liking them. I know it will be the experience itself that colours them as I look back in the years to come.