I LOVE the Croatian Adriatic region, and I want to share my love for it with you. My novel The Lady of the Sea offers a deep sensory experience of this beautiful place that is an integral part of my being. Here, I’ve selected a few quotes from the novel and some photos I’ve taken over the years to share some of this love with you.
1. Brudet – Fish Stew.
“Several large wooden tables had been brought out for the big pots of brudet, a traditional stew made with fish too small to be sold. The pungently delicious smell of this poor man’s dish permeated the square. People slowly queued for a plate…” – The Lady of the Sea
It was originally a poor man’s dish… Now it’s a delicacy sold in fancy restaurants. Oh, fishermen still make it, and so does pretty much every household on the Croatian coast and everyone has their own recipe, and swear it’s the best. What does this mean? To me, it means that you need to try as many as possible! At a local tavern, at another, in a fancy restaurant, if that’s what you like, at your landlady’s kitchen, your local friends… just go for it!
A warning though: It is messy to eat!
But it’s so worth it.
2. Island Life.
“At the dock, there was now much of the usual yelling and cursing that came with the arrival of vapor, as fresh groceries were unloaded for the village grocer, and everyone tried to get to their parcel at the same time. Vapor only stayed tethered to the shore for a few shot minutes, idling with its big ropes screeching under pressure. Then the boat would leave and village would, once again, regain its sleepy feel.” – The Lady of the Sea
My advice is to go to one of the smaller islands, pick a café/ice-cream place, there will likely only be one or two, sit down and relax… and watch the island life unfurl before you. Be forewarned though – nothing may happen for a while! But when it does, it will be worth it. It may be as subtle as a nod between two islanders passing each other, or more obvious like when a fisherman is swearing over his broken nets so loudly the whole village can hear him from the port. But it’s all there, waiting to be experienced by those who are curious and patient enough.
3. Medicinal & Culinary Herbs.
“”See this here? It’s the medicinal sage, Salvia officinalis,” Antica pointed to a plant with soft, silvery leaves and delicate, purple flowers.
“I know,” said Mareta. She would have known the plant anywhere.” – The Lady of the Sea
Even to this day, I am astonished that one can simply walk around a Croatian island and find many of the spices adorning many a kitchen rack: oregano, marjoram, rosemary, fennel, thyme you name it! They are all there! And what about sage, lavender, myrte, and field marigold? Or perhaps some less known ones, pink rockrose, silvery broom, and grassleaf pepperweed? What about the true asparagus or the sea purslane? They are all there too! And many more. It’s simply amazing. My advice: go for a walk. Pay attention. A wonder of herbs will reveal itself to you on every corner, in most inconspicuous places, and in most inconspicuous guises.
4. The Scent of Macchia.
“After the dance was over, he had walked her home. It was a warm, moonlit night full of life, full of potential beginnings. The crickets sung their mating calls and the air smelled acutely of macchia, sea, and excitement. Gosh, he could still smell it! She said she could never tire of the scent mixed with macchia…” – The Lady of the Sea
Scent plays a very important role in the sensory experience of my life. Oh, all those wonderful smells… from a homemade dish after a long hike, to the forest after rain… but very little comes close to the scent of macchia – a densely-growing island vegetation. It has its own identity, and it never fails to transport me to somewhere extraordinary.
Here is my suggestion on how to experience this wonder. Go to an island, out of a village and just breathe. You may sit down, or walk, it doesn’t matter, but simply breathe. You will soon be filled with magic that will stay imprinted in your memory forever, a rich and deeply satisfying scent of macchia!
5. The Magic of the Sea.
“Mareta let go, engulfed by the sweetness of the sea’s caresses while her body glided through its silky surface. She was absorbed in the most nurturing of the embraces, her mind free from all thought…” – The Lady of the Sea
Every sea has its own rhythm, colors, smell, and numerous other characteristics that distinguishes it from other seas… So does the Croatian Adriatic J It is much more than a body of water. It is an experience all by itself, and if you listen closely, with all your senses, it will reveal itself you… Swim, dive, sail, watch, walk or lie by it… Whatever your preferred way of being close to it, on it, or in it, the Adriatic Sea will sing you a different song, one more enchanting than another…