The Walled City
The thick stone walls of the old city of Dubrovnik are a source of great pride. The man who drove me from the airport spoke at length about them. He then asked me, “You have no questions for your taxi driver?” I did indeed: “Hvala” is Croatian for thank you; the city has a population of fewer than 50,000. The old walls of the city have never been breached by an enemy. I was surprised to find the taxi had power windows, something I don’t remember being so ubiquitous from European vacations past. I was also surprised by the traffic we encountered outside Dubrovnik and remembered stories of a time when there was no traffic in LA.
For some reason the old city, the most crowded and obvious part of the small town, was difficult to find. I asked around, at the front desk, at the bus station, at a gas station after getting off the bus too early. I finally walked all the way to the bottom of the hill and saw where everyone was. Strangely, the locals didn’t really know what I meant by the old or walled city and gave me confusing directions. Also, most of the rest of the town looks pretty old, too, so I was further confused.
Traveling alone in a country where the language is foreign and aggressive subdued my mind–with little hope of understanding the language around me, I didn’t try so hard to listen. Things quieted. I was able to wander around this labyrinthine and ancient city unencumbered by the desires of others, thinking only at times, “I’m hungry,” or, “I wonder what’s up that staircase.” I felt my strongest relationship at the time was with the protagonist of the novel I was reading (Austerlitz). I learned to enjoy myself in ways specific to solitude. For example, when eating alone, something many people fear and avoid, I enjoyed taking especially large bites and mushing the food around in my mouth childishly, much to the amusement of my waiters.
Dubrovnik, 31 August – 3 September 2010