Friday, September 21, 2018

yugoslavia, 1980 . . . photos from the archives

(Originally drafted in 2015, languishing since in that condition)

When diplomatic giant Richard C. Holbrooke died in December, 2010, I was grief-stricken, as if I'd lost someone I personally knew. Actually, I didn't know many of the details of his life and his accomplishments, just his imposing personnage and his presence representing the U.S. in many diplomatic hot spots. In the discussions of his life following his death, I heard a review of his book, To End A War, his inside view of his role as the chief negotiator of the Dayton Peace Accords which brought an end to the war in Bosnia. It was as exciting and suspenseful and tragic as any Tom Clancy novel I've read.

The personal note was struck because Husband and I had motorcycled through Yugoslavia in 1980 including some of the towns involved in the Bosnian war which he wrote about. It had been sad in subsequent years to hear in the news of the destruction and death taking place in those ancient cities.

My big plan has been to write brief reviews or comments about the books I read (that's the other page in this blog) . . . not anything really heavy, just my take on them. Holbrook's book sent me rummaging through my old photo archives, looking for Yugoslavia pictures. (You may also note that despite having thought to do it over three years ago, you don't see any reviews here yet!)

I haven't always been the frequent flyer across the ocean that I've become. First Husband and I did the break-from-college thing in 1959 when we intended to bicycle through Europe. What we intended and how it worked out were very different things. But that's a whole other story.

Avid motorcyclists, not long before Second Husband and I got married in 1978, we met a guy who led motorcycle tours in Europe and that immediately sounded like the dream ride. I needed to go to work right after our marriage and warned prospective employers that I required a vacation in September, 1980.

We set out for Germany with three other motorcycling friends and joined a good-sized group of bikers in traveling in Germany, Yugoslavia, Italy and Austria. I rode behind the Husband on one motorcycle, since we couldn't afford to rent two. Our luggage was carried by van with a mechanic, and we traveled in small groups or just the two of us from stop to stop.

At home we rode full-dress motorcycles with windshields and fairings and aftermarket comfy seats. Our rental was a Yamaha, pretty much bare bones. We'd brought a clamp-on windshield with us, but the pegs for the passenger's feet were up so high that my knees nearly punched me under the arms and I had a perpetual case of cramping in the hips and thighs. Oh, and knees and feet. Nevertheless, it was a spectacular trip.

Those were the days of film cameras; photos were more frugally shot. I took pictures with a regular little film camera. Husband had a nice Canon SLR and took slides. The slides, much more numerous that the prints, are still in slide boxes, awaiting my running them through my digitizing device. A few of my scanned photos of Yugoslavia, sparse in number anyway, are what I've included here.

Predjamski Grad, Yugoslavia

"May he live in interesting times" is said to be an old Chinese curse. Quoted with a good dose of irony, we could say we live in interesting times. 1980 was an interesting time as well. Tito, the dictator, the communist, the partisan hero in the fight against the Nazis, was recently dead. Yugoslavia was cobbled together by Tito from a mosaic of peoples. Some background reading can be found in Rick Steves' Europe: Understanding Yugoslavia in a chapter by Cameron Hewitt about Planning Your Trip. My favorite description of Yugoslavia is, "As the old joke went, Yugoslavia had eight distinct peoples in six republics, with five languages, three religions (Orthodox, Catholic, and Muslim), and two alphabets (Roman and Cyrillic), but only one Yugoslav — Tito."

We didn't have the benefit of Rick Steves and entered the country oblivious to its complicated history. We had the first encounter with this authoritarian regime at the border crossing.  Guards bristled with guns. We worried that our paperwork wouldn't be accepted. There were signs, but nothing at all was readable, the Cyrillic letters perhaps, but definitely not a language with the same basis as English or French or Spanish. Husband was taking pictures surreptitiously. One of the guys from our tour had his camera taken and the film ripped out and thrown in a barrel of liquid.  

(My unexpanded notes from 2015 original draft: Language problem, film seized at the border, authoritarian, Tito recently dead, sense of differences in the people of different regions, rather than subliminal, scary gravel roads, coastal roads on sheer cliffs with pounding wind, beautiful coastline, somewhat like California's Rte 1 coastal area)

Chapel in Predjamski Grad

View from the hideout cave of the partisans
 at Predjamski Grad

Dining at Hotel Duilovo, Split, Me in blue windbreaker, 
Husband in plaid shirt, dining with fellow travelers

Train ride into Postojna Caves

Sunset view of harbor from
Hotel Astarea, Mlini, Dubrovnik

Boat ride to a fish picnic at an island off Dubrovnik

View off Dubrovnik

Seaside view of Dubrovnik

Monday, August 13, 2018

. . . It's Lavender & Vine . . .

re June 14, from notes created June 18, 2018

UPDATE: Daughter Melissa Black says this is her painting.
She needs to come figure out whose is whose in my "mail home" box.

This tour we're on is called Lavender and Vine. And this is kick-off day for a stroll through the lavender, to be followed by a taste from the vine. We pass through the small village of Vinsobres and up into the hills behind it for the lavender. We pause for a glimpse of Mt. Ventoux. The mountain itself takes in its own view of the South of France.

Many of our favorite lavender fields that had been shockingly crop-rotated into grain fields a few years ago have been returned to lavender. Bloom isn't at its peak yet, but beautiful nonetheless.

The sun is so bright that I can't see anything on my phone screen except my own reflection.  I wave it in the general direction of the target and click away. There is not much artful composition in that technique but often enough I get lucky. Here's what happens when I can't tell that I'm in selfie mode.

Displayed as taken

The fields are a patchwork of crops this year: lavender, grapes, little oaks that are intended to provide a home to truffles down the line. Or so we've heard. After reading a little about truffle growing, I'm a bit skeptical about the truffle story.

We traipse into the fields.  I don't stray very far from the car on this uneven terrain, due to a bad back and iffy balance. Although I had shots for the back to knock off pain just before the trip, they really don't do much for balance. I carry my super-glam paisley cane in one hand and a walking stick in the other to minimize tilting. No point in pushing it.

Brother-in-law roams at the edges the crop fields, too, taking pictures of Sister among the lavender.

I heard two different names for these yellow flowers;
I don't remember either.

I love this place.

Whoops! Did it again. 

The soles of our shoes accumulate shocking loads of sticky mud from recent rains, maybe half an inch thick, glued into the treads. We have to scrape and ream it out before we can get back in the cars. I find a flat white stone with some sharp corners that work well as a scraper. I stash it in the car for possible future use.

We've met the farmer's wife on previous trips. She sells oils and spices in a little shed off the barn.  (See here  for photos of our visit to her shed last year.)  

I've often wanted to buy one of her lovely bottles of olive oil, but then I contemplate the weight bottles would add to my already unliftable suitcase or the yuck of a bottle of oil breaking in there. I choose this tiny bottle with a fraction of an ounce of saffron threads. The teaspoon beside it is for comparison. Maybe I can make paella again, for the first time in a million or two years. Or let's say the 60s and 70s.

*          *          *

We return to Vinsobres for lunch. We are early for our reservation so stroll around the area for a bit. Here's the bell tower. This is the major intersection we pass through going to and from the lavender fields. We're having lunch on the terrasse below. From the intersection, one street goes up and three go down. They are each one way at a time. I haven't personally driven through here but there may be a traffic light. I like it. A lot. Little dreams of living here dance through my mind. Dreams. But there are no level places for walking.

My Bistrot Salad for lunch  

I order their Café Liégeois for dessert. Again. I'm ordering it everywhere it's served. It's very good here, but it doesn't have that signature shot of strong hot espresso poured over it. That means I might consider other desserts in the future.

The bistrot itself is across the street from the terrasse. It's become a regular stop on the tour for a meal or beverage.

                                                                   *          *          *


We go for our annual wine tasting at  Domaine Rouge-Bleu winery in Sainte-Cécile-les-Vignes this afternoon. I take no photos. My phone is on the charger back at the villa. (Sad face.) But we've visited every year.  It was founded by Jean-Marc and Kristin Espinasse -- she of the French-Word-A-Day blog. They sold the domaine a few years ago to Frenchman Thomas Bertrand and his Australian wife Caroline Jones. You would think I must have blogged about it before and can just link you to it.

Much like this post, previous descriptions are buried with other activities in the same blog. Because it is so sublimely beautiful here, I really must include photos. So I've lifted  previous shots that represent it any year, with the exception of our people today.

Mont Ventoux looks over us, too, in the grape fields. The closer rocky range is the Dentelles. There is wine at Rouge-Bleu named for them.

A slightly "closer" (zoomed) view of the Dentelles . . .

The testing table is set up on a small wooden terrasse under this big tree, and overlooks peaceful green grape fields. The house, which our backs are to, also has a bed and breakfast.

Thomas, describing the different wines . . .

Just because the garden flowers and the vines are beautiful  . . .

Kitty joins our tour of the wine cellar. She has the job of mouse-catching. Was she here with Kristin and Jean-Marc?

That turquoise blue is the swimming pool.

Back down in the cellar, each of the big concrete aging vats has one of these logo plaques on them. I can make out "Italy' in the lower line. Perhaps the vats came from Italy?

I don't drink wine, so I can't comment on the tasting, but a fair number of bottles are carried home by our group, and a few more may even have been delivered.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

. . . and underground art

 re June 13, lavender & vine ... I keep telling myself I don't get jet lag, but nodding off when trying to write tells me otherwise.

Wednesday is market day in St. Rémy. After market, we will go to Carrières de Lumières in Les Baux for a spectacular light display of Picasso's work on the giant walls of a limestone quarry

But first we head into market crowds in St. Rémy. We briefly browse market stalls and shops, but Melissa is drawn to a church for some meditation and prayer. I shadow her, because I don't want to lose her in the crowd and risk missing lunch at with our group at a crêpe restaurant near the entrance to the old city.

I'm amazed at her choice of the church. All these years that I've visited St. Rémy, I've assumed these tall steps and giant columns belong to a courthouse. Melissa takes me inside to a most beautiful church.

Collégiale Saint-Martin - Catholic

Melissa perusing market from steps of the church

Well, we do take a break for a Café Liègeois at my most favorite restaurant, La Fontaine, before we carry on. It is made in the kitchen and delivered casually by a server. When personally delivered by a waiter, he pours the hot espresso over the ice cream, at the table, as a little ceremony. It tastes better that way. I should remember to ask . . .

I have no pictures of the crêpes we consumed at the crêpes restaurant. We made reservations for seating outside in the patio along the entrance corridor when the weather was beautiful. Meanwhile, a mistral has come up and the wind rolls through the corridor like a gale. We cling to our plates and our crêpes and sit on our hats. With all our individual orders, no one is served at once. It's not a good photo op.

We've all been anticipating this afternoon's visit for a year, the show in lights, "Picasso and the Spanish Masters," at Les Carrières de Lumières,
an old limestone quarry converted into a giant multidimensional light and sound theatre. I've seen exhibitions of several artists here over the years -- a compulsory visit if you're in Provence.

Hundreds of images move across rough limestone walls, ceilings and floors as viewers themselves move through the giant space, pausing as long as each likes on a convenient perch to watch the images glide or dash past.

The advent of digital cameras has really changed our ability to capture some of the grandeur. Even in the early days of digitals, you'd be lucky getting two or three pictures that are clear enough to make much sense.

I don't focus on individual art works. Rather I click my camera as I wander through, so you can get an idea of the mammoth scale of the production. I have a lot of pictures here. (Not all, by any means.) You needn't pause, just flash through to get the effect.

I steady myself with my cane (and Daughter hovers by my other side in case I tilt that way) as we step into darkness and I ease forward gradually, feeling my way forward on the rough tilting floor to get out of the way of those behind me in line. It starts here. 

(Guille, do you recognize your pony tail?)

The Blank Screen
just so you can see it

This is where we came in

It's an interesting show, particularly for Picasso devotees, but I do believe that such uniformly angular art doesn't give the same experience as more flowing, varied styles and colors that other artists do.