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Easter in Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia, on the Adriatic coast is a lovely old city. It's buildings of local limestone give the town a light, clean appearance. Indeed, rock is everywhere as this is a land of mountains. They sweep down to the blue sea which I could hear dashing against more rocks below my window in the Excelsior Hotel.
Everywhere are terraced farms and the flowers of spring: iris and lilac in gardens and the bright mauve of wisteria cascading over walls and gates.
It was the second week of April, and the Government Tourist Bureau was in full swing. And here was the happy-go-lucky air I met everywhere - perhaps even a little zany. When I asked an attendant what would happen to the boat tour if it rained, she said, "It won't rain! But if it does you can go the day before or the day after."
Mulling this over, I booked every available tour. The first was a walking tour of the old town: the cathedral, monataries, and ancient pharmacy, and a clock which struck the hour twice in case you missed the first time. From the walls, up which we climbed, we had glimpses of domestic life including a group of preschoolers playing a singing game.
Next came a bus tour to Mostar where we saw the old Turkish bridge with its single graceful arch - the bridge which has been grievously damaged in more recent troubles.
Each time, the journey itself was sheer delight, swooping around fine mountain roads, seeing small bright villages in the valleys and the shining, slender church spires, reaching for heaven as it seemed. About those roads, I learned that each summer the Government invited Scouts over fifteen years of age from all over the world to come and do road work, the pay being room and board and plenty of time for outdoor sports.
There was even a day trip to Albania, that poor little Communist country. From this trip the Americans, so mighty at the conference table, were barred. We didn't see a great deal: a very old castle, one very wooly sheep, and a bust of Stalin in a dusty town square. None of these could we photograph without special permission. If the town of Skutari had fine buildings, we didn't see them; but its setting on Lake Skutari was beautiful.
With all their fussing, they failed to stamp our passports. However, we insisted on this formality: we wanted to show the little red star to our friends back home!
Another delightful spring day we had a water tour, making excursions to the home, now an art gallery, of Yugoslavia's greatest painter, to the mausoleum of a family stricken down in the 1918 flu epidemic, its stone cupola surrounded by the dearest little sculpted angels, the work of Ivan Mestrovic who won fame later in the United States. To see these artistic wonders, we panted valiantly up steep streets down which we came with a burst of speed to make up for our laboured ascent. Then back to the boat for the last time to be welcomed with little glasses of slivovitz, the potent grape brandy of the country, which warmed our chilled bodies for by now the sun was low in the sky.
At last, Easter Sunday was here with its glad peals of church bells and treats in the dining room for all: gaily decorated eggs and miniature semi-sweet loaves of Easter bread.
Off we went after breakfast to Cilipi to see the people come out of church, all in their national costumes to honour the day. Such large white hats with wings sweeping up on each side and voluminous skirts and aprons for the women! Such baggy trousers and pillbox hats for the men! Such happy, friendly groups, chatting and mingling with us!
And now, my splendid week in Yugoslavia was over. With such a satisfactory ending I could twitch my traveling cloak into place and I could say with Milton's shepherd "and now to fresh woods and pastures new".