Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Croatian Chronicles: Church History

I'm too tired tonight to sit and upload photos. (If you've never had jetlag, you don't know what you're missing!)

The photo above is a view from inside the church. A bit of history, courtesy of The Lonely Planet guidebook, will make more sense of what you see:

The circular Church of St. Donat [is] one of the most outstanding monuments in Dalmatia. Dating from the beginning of the 9th century, it was named after Bishop Donat who allegedly had it built, following the style of early Byzantine architecture. The unusual circular ground plan is especially visible on the southern side because the southern annexe is missing. The church was built over the Roman forum, which was built between the 1st century BC and the 3rd century AD. A few architectural fragments are preserved and two complete pillars are built into the church. [You can see the pillars in the photos on the previous post.]

So, outside the church, there are Romans ruins all around. In this photo you can see how some reconstruction has been done with the stones on the left (at least that's what I gathered), and how excavations are continuing on the right.

It's all quite fascinating, perhaps more so because this is all just out there in the middle of the city, along with the souvenir stands (on far left of photo.) Certain treasures have been moved into a museum, but all of this other stuff is right there on the square for anyone to sit on, or as I observed with one woman, to spread your hand-embroidered linens on for tourists to peruse.

Tomorrow I'll try to add the rest of the interior photos from the church.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Croatian Chronicles: Sveti Donat

Even though I'm calling these chronicles, they aren't going to be in chronological order. I'm too eager to share these photos of the church I've already mentioned. I don't remember when I have felt so enchanted by an architectural space.

For tonight, I think I'll just post photos with minimal comments, and next time will add a bit of the history.

Perspective from the first floor, looking up:

On the first floor. All light is natural, coming in the windows:

And now going up to the second level:

Views on the second level:

I was caught singing (while no one else was in the church besides us.) The acoustics make it impossible not to sing there. It's as if the space is simply waiting for music to come and fill it:

I sang parts of "Lux Aeterna," Eternal Light, because the way the light and the curves shared the space, and have been doing so for at least ten centuries, it was easy to feel a connection that went somehow beyond time.

Tonight, however, I am limited to the restraints of time and will leave more photos for the next post.

And now you can see why we fell in love with Sveti Donat.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Croatian Chronicles: Arrival

Our first sight once we got off the plane and into the airport.

A funny thing is that no one actually uses the term "zracna luka" in conversation. They've always called an airport "aerodrom," but during the war an effort was made to "clean up" the language, so that words that were shared with the Serbian people were done away with, and more Croatian words encouraged. I remember when we lived there, they had a TV show each evening introducing these words and explaining how they had deeper roots in Croatian history, how they fit into the lexicon, etc. I remember people thinking it was kind of silly, although some changes really did take hold, and I have to remind myself when I'm there that certain things I learned while there are no longer said that way.

Still, no one says "zracna luka." Almost a decade and a half later, they still say "aerodrom."

If you don't know, "Hrvatska" is Croatian for "Croatia." Pronounced HER-vaht-skah (that 1st syllable as in his and her, with a shorter "r" sound).

It may seem like a stretch, but my theory is that the Italians, who at times owned parts of Croatia, simply could not pronounce "Hrvatska." Their own language is so musical and so phonetically simple, the sight of so many consonants probably blocks something in their brain so that they can't even hear it correctly! Most Italians don't even have the "h" sound in their repertoire, and they never have an "r" without a consonant following it to complete the syllable.

So when you hear "Croazia," the Italian name, pronounced (cro-AH-tsee-ah), you can imagine that it was their best effort to imitate the sound of a Croatian saying "Hrvatska." And then of course we Americans make it "Croatia" fit our own language, and all resemblance to the original is lost.

And that may be more than you wanted to know about the name of Croatia, but since it was on the sign, now you have it, and you can be one of the few cognoscenti.

Our friend Heso picked up us at the airport. As you can see, he is even taller than my better half, so it was easy to find him in the crowd.

I love the Zagreb airport because it is surrounded by trees and grass and flowers. Not like most airports.

The drive from Zagreb to Cakovec was made better by the fact that there is now a highway that goes all the way. The old road is lovely for viewing, but winds and curves through the hills so much that I nearly always got sick when driving in hot weather. I had to ask Heso to slow down at times, but we made it home in less than two hours.

As you might imagine, 16 hours after leaving our Memphis home, with no sleep (our seat was right in front of the jet engine, something we will try to avoid in the future!), we were glad to see our Cakovec home and especially to get into bed that night.

This bed was a wedding gift from a friend who, back in the old days, had it made by hand for about $100. Those old days are no more, as the economy has completely changed since the war ended and capitalism came in. Though times have changed, the bed is just as beautiful and comfortable as before, and we were thankful to be in it.

Coming up: our home in Cakovec, trip to Zadar, the town of Cakovec, friends and family, and more!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

We're back!

Sitting here at my desk, surrounded by familiar objects, doggies lying in the hallway, it's hard to believe that just ten days ago I was standing there at that church, surrounded by ancient stones, seagulls flying in the sky. (I'm in the lower left, with the backpack.)

We are back. Got in yesterday late afternoon. Feeling the jetlag and thankful for a day off tomorrow before returning to work.

The flight went well. En route I got to see The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I feel a sort of kinship with the Pevensies and Professor Kirk, in that I sometimes feel that I live two different lives in two different worlds. Just that it takes a bit longer going back and forth via airplane than it does via a magic wardrobe or magic rings (rings are from The Magician's Nephew, if you haven't read it.)

Even though I've spoken English for the past 24 hours, I find that my brain is running Croatian words and phrases through much of the time, and last night's dreams, and even the dreams from this afternoon's short nap, were all of people and places in Croatia.

The church in the photo is the one I wrote about earlier, Sveti Donat. When I asked a local where to find the best ice cream, in her Dalmatian accent she told us to go to "Donat." She didn't use the "sveti" (saint), and since Croatian doesn't use definite articles, my mind supplied one and thought she was referring to the round area on the map as "the doughnut."

Once I figured out that Sveti Donat was a church, I started thinking of it as "San Donato" (the Italian version) so that I could get the doughnut image out of my mind.

As you can see, the church has a round look, but that's where any resemblance to a doughnut ends. It is an amazing place.

I'll be posting more photos over the next few days, so please come back for a look at the other world I live in from time to time. The Chronicles of Croatia.

And now, off to bed....My body is still mostly living in the other world's time and is more than ready for some sleep! Laku noc'! (Good night!)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

We're here!

Actually I'm writing from Zadar, Croatia, where we've come on a three day trip just by ourselves, and it is so nice. Zadar is on the coast, used to belong to Venice, and still has a very Italian feel. The oldest university in Croatia is here. We have fallen in love with a 9th century church that has unusual architecture and absolutelz wonderful acoustics. (Try Googling Sveti Donat Zadar and maybe you can see it...)

Life at home in Čakovec is much the same as before. We are spoiled by the cooking of a mother who loves us very much and shows it via the kitchen! I fear we are both going to come back heavier.

By the way, keyboards are different here, so if things look funny, that's why.

And I'm paying for the time and will go now.

Friday, May 12, 2006

We're off!

In less than a half hour, we'll leave our house for the airport. If all goes well, in less than 24 hours we will arrive at the house in the photo. We'll go in the door to the right and have a wonderful meal prepared by the amazing woman you see; behind the door to the left are the stairs that go up to our home, and I imagine our beautiful hand-carved bed will be a very welcome sight!

If you don't hear from me in the next three weeks it's because of limited access to computers, followed by jetlag.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Pansy, Pensee'

Support me as I practice not being perfectionistic. Despite my earlier near-ranting about the disintegration of the English language, I'm not going to get up and look up the French word in the title. I understand that the French do have government officials looking after their language, so I'm not as worried about it. And I'm tired. If I've spelled it wrong or used the accent incorrectly, so be it.

But "pansy" is thought to come from the French word "pensee'" which means a "thought" or "remembrance." The piece I read envisioned some man or woman walking out in the French countryside, seeing the flower, reaching down to pick it up, and while looking at it being reminded of something or someone as sweet as the flower itself. And so they named it "thought" or "remembrance."

I do love pansies. And this year has been my favorite. My hubby picked out the color, and it has just been wonderful. Our pansies tend to get pretty "leggy," creating a lot of green as they reach for light in our shade-filled yard, which to me just makes the blooms themselves more precious.

This evening I found a new reason for loving flowers.

I went to Office Depot to get a pen. In the past year I found a pen I love. I have a whole box of them at work, but my pen at home had run out. So I stood there in the pen aisle, with hundreds if not thousands of pens in front of me, scanning the rows to find "my" pen.

Scanning, scanning, scanning.

Looking very carefully, squatting and squinting.

It wasn't there.

Now it's possible that Office Depot just happened to be out, but I suspect otherwise. As I stood there, I found my brand, the right color ink, the same engineering. But the case was different, the grip was not the same, and the design had been changed.

I think they "new and improved" my pen. I fear that I will never again be able to buy the pen I have come to love so much.

Everything is new and improved these days, have you noticed? You can't count on your cereal box to look the same way it did just a year ago, because they've updated the look. You can't find the shampoo that was just right for your hair, because another brand introduced, oh, shampoo that also increases your serotonin level, so now your brand thinks it has to do the same thing.

I get worn out shopping sometimes, just trying to find the product I used to buy, that was there last month, but no longer seems to exist.

I have a book at my office, The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook. The author gives the numbers in the introduction to support the fact that anxiety is a HUGE problem in America today. His theory as to why? Because our culture has gone through more change in the past 30 years than in did in the 300 years before that. (I may not have the numbers just right, but you get the point.)

I think he's right. People in our country not only have to deal with the changes technology has brought, and the mobility that capitalism and technology have engendered, and the family/community disconnection that accompanies it . . . . They can't even count on using the same pen for more than a year! Or finding the same blue jeans they have been wearing! We have to constantly make new decisions, before we have even had time to get used to the decisions we made a short while ago.

Anyway, I think that's one reason I love flowers. And I don't buy the latest hybrids. I like the old-fashioned ones. The ones my mother and grandmother grew. The ones that look the same as the ones I see in paintings done 200 years ago. The ones whose names I read in the Bible. I imagine that over time, they do evolve and change a bit, adjusting to new environments and climates. But basically they're the same.

No need to make them "new and improved." They're wonderful just the way they are.

That's my pensee' for today.