[It's getting late, everybody wants to go to bed, I need to get out of this room, and as tomorrow might be quite busy as we pack and ferry over to Brac, I'll have to post this unfinished and unpolished (since when are my posts ever polished?) and leave it, destined to be never finished, never polished, never even frackin' spell-checked...]
Cafe latte in the heat, under the wide restaurant umbrellas. D and I are reading as Izzy and Vic sketch the layering stone of the buildings in the palace grounds where builders have capped the previous age's rubble with contemporary habitation, so that on the top levels there are wooden shutters drying and cracking, the paint splitting, some are open (people are living there) and some closed (are people living there?). But all my thoughts are in the book I am reading - I've already told how I prefer to read with things happening around me - I need activities to generate white noise, I need people to ignore - it is a book on Picasso's Demoiselle's d'Avignon as it happens and D is unwinding with The Wind-up Girl. But I sense comfort and holiday from the patterns of the whicker chair under my arse; whicker and torpitude, what the hell it with that?
I can ignore the chattering groups of elderly tourists following an elevated numbered flag, broad Croatian accents (I once would have said Yugoslavian accent), I can disregard some shouting, laughing, posturing and the shatter of dropped glass where an excess of alcohol at a table over square has fueled the some forceful emotions and opinions, while the camera click and the clock chimes the half-hour. It's bloody hot as well, did I mention, though weather.com says only 27 (30% chance of rain) , it feels so much more, white glared from white stone, the air's stillness, sapping energy, greenhouse effect under the umbrella says Vic. And out of a blue sky a drop or two of rain falls, huh? Out of this clear sky? Maybe (must be) some clouds we can't see, beyond the buildings, some drops borne by a wind that we can't feel.
We'd like to move, now, make plans for the afternoons sunbathing on top of the corner tower, we cannot keep sitting here without purchasing something else, but lethargy is king in the summer palace of the Emperor Diocletian.
Textures of the stone. I must brush my hand agains the walls as I pass along the narrow deep alleys, the oncoming crowds are bottlenecking our way, and so we wander instead into the tour of the palace basement, cool, stone room to stone room, where those blocks that had been hewn from porous tuffa are pitted with decay, crumbling, and water seeps down, dripping, pooling, degrading the foundations even more, flushing away the mortar, and the walls in so danger of collapse so that we cannot enter the room with the ancient olive press, or we shouldn't but I push back the steel barrier and we pass in for a brief, up close examination - ah, that is a stone trough to catch the olive oil and not a solid block of granite.
Back up in the palace grounds we move on from square to square - though square is not the worth for these multi-sided, niched, many-alleyed open spaces - to the church tower, to the circular hole of the collapsed domed of the vestibule, and the clocks ring the hour. Under my hand I find bricks of soft stone that are flaking and dropping edges and corners, then the pebbled surface of granite and shiny smooth marbled columns shipped across the Mediterranean from Egypt. As the others climb the spiral staircase in the church-tower, I sit my arse on a slippery, arse-smoothed granite sepulcher, its inscription chiseled in AD MCCCCV.
On the lower walls of most houses the aged limestone blocks remain firm and my fingers slide across their solid surfaces. I feel their strength and resilience against the passage of time, feel them stippled with the fine cuts of the laborers chisel (or is it a band-saw?). They are still firm, strong, and shiny from nearly two thousand years of of the sweeping hands of passers-by.
Over the large blocks of the original walls are the next layer and its reclaimed arches (some bridge apartment to apartment and are flowing over with planter boxes), are some old bricks with new mortar, on the next layer up, newer limestone again. New old shutters on new old windows. And some of the layers are lateral - wide old Roman era stones still stand as the right side of the wall, but smaller limestone bricks make up the middle portion of the house and thin red bricks, rendered with crumbling stucco extend to the left. It's a hodge-podge, a melange, it's living and growing, reforming anew from the vestiges and remnants of the old, sorry, from the ancient to the merely old, and on top goes a satellite dish for the international sports channels.
We are staying on the Eastern walls of the palace of Diocletian, the empire's divider, the first of the Eastern emperors, the most enthusiastic Christian persecutor (welcome to the Balkans). We are just near the south-east corner tower, in an nice apartment on the fourth floor - I recommend it even though it is a walk-up. We step along our path to the tower and lie on lounge chairs, lean over the edge and watch people on the promenade, watch out for the flocks of swallows that come out towards evening and chase the small flies (the swallows do, not us). The top of the tower has been gone for hundreds of years, maybe a thousand years or more but hey, the view is still nice.
Tourists, tourists, they flock too. They throng and photograph and stand like slowly melting statues as they examine maps, slack-jawed, and reposition their glasses. Just like anywhere, just like everywhere, they tour like tourists. But us, we... ah fuck it, we tour like jaded, dizzy bus-hoppers as well, we stop for the photo-op, we wear our sun-hats and carry our day-packs (or man-bags), we eat at the hip places where only those millions of tourists in the know eat, we pass our hands along the stone and catch all sorts of e-coli and staph-A, we stare amazed at the resilience of stone and ponder our own ephemerality (as those that have any sensitivity should do), we participate in the walking that wears down, we half-read the history we are supposed learn, half-see the sights we are supposed to observe, we look on to the next place before we have finished in the pizza restaurants of the current. In the end we give up pretending to be anything else and we revel in our belonging to this flock of ducks wading in the waters of history .
So we scratch our initials in the millennia old tower ('My name is Ozymandius, King of Kings') and move on to the next blip on our itinerary...