What makes the perfect day? Sometimes you come across a place that you feel comes close to being perfect. . You have a picture of the perfect day in your mind. The sun shining down on the white stone buildings with their orange roofs. A fishpond. A jumble of medieval streets . Houses three or four stories high cutting out the sun and giving the place a Ghettoesque feeling . Is there such a word as Ghettoesque? I don't use it as an insult - it is just a feeling of closeness . A feeling of being hemmed in much as the Jews were in Venice. An old church with its doors locked. A panel with a carving of Pope John Paul II . A fishpond. A shedload of cafes and restaurants and the perfect cappucino and espresso. A fishpond. The pretty harbour , a few boats and a medieval square. An ice cream - a soft Italian gelato . Ok unlike Hvar there are no walls or castle but there are many Venetian palaces. Oh yes and a fishpond. In my utterings from my daily diary I have one that fits the bill perfectly - "Should a seeker not find
a companion who is better or equal, let them resolutely pursue a solitary course." Sitting in a beautiful setting with a coffee discussing lifes little mysteries - how we ended up here and fishpools you begin to realise how much you need someone to share it with.
So where in the world is Gabby the motorhome ? She is shoehorned into a small car park in the tiny town of Stari Grad. Called Faros by the Greeks it has a population of a little under 3 . The Neolithic tribes have been here as have the Romans. The Venetians and the Turks have all played a part in its history and development. We have paid 4 kunas to park for one hour and made a hard job of the parking by coming in the wrong way.
Let's get comparisons out of the way . Stari Grad harbour and waterfront with its shops and cafes was prettier and more interesting than its larger neighbour Hvar. We found a gelato shop with the perfect cherry gelato for me and banana for Glenn. The first gelato of the trip. Well worth the wait to buy one. There were quiet Venetian corners
with palaces . So what else was there - the fishpond . Pride and joy of the town was the Fortress Tvrdalj. Now put a mental picture of a fortress. Let me imagine what you are thinking. Forbidding. Closed in . A fortified construction . Possibly a moat or perimeter ditch. A place of safety . You can forget your mental picture of a fortress or a castle . It just wont cut the mustard. This is not a fortress in any way shape or form. It is a house. A bit like the Englishmans home is his castle. A mental fortress. A Poets retreat from the outside hustle and bustle of the world.
I love a good saying from wherever it comes from and today I got my fill. Fede e realta o quanto e bella - How beautiful faith and truth are. That was by the fishpond under the arcade. Remember that neither riches nor fame, beauty nor age can remove you from Death that takes all - on the southern side of the fishpond. A fishpond full of mullet swimming in a mixture of salty and fresh water. Safe in the knowledge they will
never be eaten.
On the east side of the fishpond "Nothing is hidden" On the west side "Alas the days flow by like waves and do not return". So where were these utterings being spoken. In the Fortress Tvrdalj. And who said them - the poet Petar Hektorovik born of a noble family and who lived from 1487 to 1572. He is seen as one of the fathers of Croatian literature. A sort of cross between Shakespeare and Chaucer with a bit of others thrown in for good measure. His fortress home which indeed like a fortress against the world for inside it was a haven of peace of quiet. We could not hear nor see the street in front of the house. He designed the house himself and used local labour over 40 years to build this little world for himself and his family . A world that revolved around the fishpond and garden . And what a fishpond it was.
The house is rustic and peacefully set . The fishpond cloistered and leading up to the garden which has a wild character to it. Long grass with roses rambling along pergolas. Mauve Ladies bonnets . All
Stari Grad church
A distinctive Croatian style of building
plants that Petar would have known and recognised. Orange trees smelling divine - bees humming as they worked in the blossoms. Philosophy was a great part of Petars life and it built it into this wonderful world he lived in. It wasn't a garden of great size nor was it a house of huge proportions. But what it was was a peaceful haven in a busy old world . A place to sit by the fishpond on the wall watching the fish. A place to smell the flowers in the garden. A place to watch the fields beyond blend into the garden. We did all of those . Moments to reflect and moments to think.
Sadly the house was closed but boasted a fire place with covering above it, a grindstone and a bread oven or so we were told . Copper vessels and cooking pans from the time of Petar. Old wine presses and a kitchen with a cellar. The idea was to show how the house looked when Petar lived there. Sadly we had to imagine the house and just make do with the garden and the fish pond. Make do sounds as if it were second rate . No such thing . The entry fee was paid back to us in full as we had the quiet and tranquil fishpond to ourselves.
Would we normally wax lyrical about a fishpond? Probably not but this one in this fortress of a home was extra special . It made our stay on Hvar extra special too. Sometimes you come upon the perfect place and it remains in your memory forever . In a cold British winter we will forever remember Petar and his fishpond.
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