Apr 28, 2006

DALMATIAN NUDE
TROGIR, Croatia – The windshield wipers skreek, sliming water across the car window. Edward says, “I think you drove off the island.”

Hmmmm, I did cross a second bridge.

A good friend, he interprets my grimace. “Europe is the size of a supermarket parking lot,” he reminds me.

Then why would a medieval fortified city be larger than a standard Twister mat?

***

Brie-colored buildings pack one square mile, a marble pedestal wedged into a narrow channel. Sailboats bob in the kingfisher-blue water. Around every corner, a new spire or turret springs up, like a clown car unpacking on an Adriatic sandbar.

Not that it's all champagne cocktails and frilly Corinthian columns; the micropolis has some edge too. The dark, smoke-stained Cathedral of St Lovro flattens visitors with its sheer weight of woes. Even the most exuberant visitors collapse into pews, muted. What atrocities have these stones seen?

Aside from the oldest nude in Dalmatia, that is...

***

This anecdote isn't leading to a bad beach punchline, I promise. The weather nixed that. Rain blanched the spring landscape grey, a hue somewhere between battleship and institutional gruel. Storms churned across all of Eastern Europe. Thousands evacuated as the Danube overflowed. No one was stripping to scanties on the strand.

Dalmatia most naked and famous denizen is Eve, a 1240 Romanesque masterpiece by Radovan, carved into the cathedral facade. Scaffolding conceals her glory at the moment, though.

Maybe it's time to head home, really, when even the statues are swaddled...

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