The legends of Mljet and Korčula

A week since joining the Touristar.tv Legends of Croatia tour, I have finally been defeated. No, I was not done in by the one of the many dragons, spurned lovers, or rampaging Turks I’ve heard about and seen re-enacted on this tour, but a more modern and stealthy enemy- a virus.

A week since joining the Touristar.tv Legends of Croatia tour, I have finally been defeated. No, I was not done in by the one of the many dragons, spurned lovers, or rampaging Turks I’ve heard about and seen re-enacted on this tour, but a more modern and stealthy enemy- a virus.

At some point during yesterday’s jaunt around the lovely Mljet Island, the queasiness began in the back seat. A lovely lunch by the sea and a midday rest failed to do the trick in battling my unforeseen enemy, but some cold tablets and a switch to the front seat did manage to improve my situation somewhat.  Riding the ferry to the mainland, I thought I had nipped this pesky invader in the bud.

Alas, it was not meant to be. I awoke this morning after a restless night of sleep to a sore throat, headache, and a rainstorm outside the window. The gods had spoken – take this day off. And here  I lay, laptop in bed and listening to intermittent rain and thunder outside my window, while my platoon fights the good fight and marches onward without me.

Adding to the frustration was the fact that I am missing the Wall of Stone – a massive fortification built hundreds of years ago to protect borders and the valuable salt trade that was the lifeblood of the region. Until this point I had only seen glimpses of the wall from a distance as we were driving this past week, but today was the day for a close-up look.  It will have to wait for another time – one more reason to return to Croatia!

I did find Mljet Island to be a beautiful place, with one-third of its woody acreage designated as national park. There we saw Odysseus’ Cave, where my lack of literary knowledge reared its ugly head. Having never read Homer’s ‘’Odyssey’’, this particular legend was all new to me. Basically, our man Odysseus washed ashore on an island bearing a strong resemblance to Mljet, met the nymph Calypso, and stayed bedazzled by her for seven years on the island. By then, the Gods figured playtime was over, and ordered Hermes to visit our lovely couple and tell them enough was enough.

Our re-enactment of the legend featured our first nymph/mermaid to actually go in the water (hurray), and Hermes played by a chubby local Englishman expat with cardboard wings on his head and a (thankfully) well-placed bed sheet wrapped around him. It was all in good fun, and later on I was joined at the lunch table by ‘’Hermes’’ and his adorable daughters, aged nine and seven. I learned their mother is Croatian, they speak both languages fluently, and they are experts at eating fish, heads and all. These girls are going to be just fine.

Also on Mljet we learned of the legend of St. Paul, who it is said crashed on these shores during his sail across the Adriatic, only to find a deserted island full of snakes. Apparently mongoose were introduced a few hundred years ago to combat the snakes, and since I didn’t come across any slithering beasts during my time on the Mljet, I’ll assume the plan worked.

The day before we visited another island, this time it was Korcula, famous for its walled city and as childhood home to Marco Polo. I had been to Korcula once before, but only in the city. This time I got to see the town of Smokvica and the legend of Old Jakov and the gift of the Fairy. Turns out a farmer stumbled across a beautiful girl lying in the sun, gave her some shade to protect her and was rewarded with two sacks as a gift. He was told not to open them until he got home, but of course he couldn’t wait and looked inside, only to find nothing. He brought them home to his wife, who found only a few gold coins. Moral of the story- listen to your fairies.

We also learned of the legend of the Man of Earth and Forests and the Sea Maid; another tale of lost love between man and mermaid. Again, this mermaid did not want to enter the water, but my fellow blogger Joanne, who never met a body of water she didn’t like, did take a swim. I suggested using Joanne as a stunt double for the mermaid, but to no avail.

As someone who comes from a newer country of over 300 million people, I always take notice when visiting a place that seems largely pristine. So many of the locations we have visited seem untouched by time. Shooting reenactments of these legends in the actual places where they occurred without seeing the detritus of modern man in the background  (i.e. large hotels, power lines, gas stations, Starbucks, etc.) has made me envious of those who live where they are reminded of history every day and the simple things in life one needs to live.

One of those simple things is food, and Croatia has not disappointed in that aspect. Being along a coast, these people know their way around seafood. If baggage allowances didn’t forbid it, I would take home my weight in octopus salad.

Then there is the wine. This is wine country, with certain varietals that are unique only to this region. One of them is a terrific white called Posip, which I have been enjoying quite often during this trip. We enjoyed a lovey lunch two days ago in the city of Korcula, where our sommelier talked us through a tasting a three different kinds of local wines. It’s a great way to have lunch, and a great way to fall asleep in the van after lunch.

Speaking of falling asleep, I think I feel my cold medicine kicking in. Time to shut my eyes. Final day tomorrow, heading to the amazing city of Dubrovnik! Virus be damned!