What are the first things you notice when you visit a new place? Is itttttt the warm or cold air that hits you when you leave the plane? Theeeee food! Gosh I’m a foodie and I’m always keen to check out the local cuisine. Architecture? Is it really old? Really modern? Shabby chic? Well… for me it is the flora and fauna (and by fauna, that is largely dominated by all the cats I inevitably befriend!)
Take for example my recent trip to Croatia… Not that I’m feeling the holiday blues or anything!
It was so interesting meandering along the village streets, seeing the local’s gardens. That was the thing, we were tucked away in a gorgeous little village through air bnb, therefore escaping the touristy side of things. There was a drive with a garage fashioned entirely out of vines with huge hanging grapes. Great swathes of purple climbers popped against the white washed buildings and self seeded snapdragons were growing sneakily through the cracks by the side of the road.
Small orchards of various fruit trees hung heavy with ripe, juicy fruit, which we used to get from the tiny little store by the beach, there was room for one person at a time in this store as it was floor to ceiling fruit… I definitely had to take my hat off to fit through!
The thing that struck us was how beautifully kept Split was. Getting the bus in daily, we noticed the perfectly manicured sections between the main roads, the beds beneath the huge palm trees, brimming with begonias and what looked like brightly coloured gladioli. Which certainly made me ‘gladioli’ (sorry terrible joke opportunity not to be missed!) Yet we never saw a gardener?! Astounding!? Especially as both of us are trained in horticulture and had our eyes on the look out! And their grass…. Was green?! Probably due to the incredibly intricate irrigation system we spotted! Even so, in weather that hot, it was very impressive. Especially when people’s lawns in England were certainly looking a little parched!
Naturally, the silver green leaves of olive trees could be found everywhere, the palms were as tall as the buildings, and the rosemary! I’ve never seen anything like it…. Huge, great bushes of it! Growing like our hedgerows!
Split is an ancient city, I’m talking 3rd or 2nd century BC! And the old walls of the Palace of Diocletian were built in AD 305… So I mean OLD! It was beautiful to see the labyrinth of stone paths turned shiny, through thousands of people walking over them, over thousands of years. Every nook and cranny was a photograph where plants had managed to grow from cracks in stone or on top of ruins, softening their historic edges.
Of course, when we came across local markets, I immediately gravitated towards the flower stalls. Despite the sweltering heat these ladies still had stunning arrangements for sale. In incredibly broken Croatian and not too broken English the ladies told me that they have to find the shade to set up in and only certain flowers can sustain the heat even then. They explained to me that a lot of the funeral arrangements are actually arranged with faux flowers. Massive, shiny palm leaves, lilies, Mexican orange blossom, gyp, statice, glads to name a few – they were in abundance across the stalls. It was obvious these are their staple, go-to flowers and foliage, yet they were still able to introduce variety through the rainbow of colours the flowers are available in.
So, yes, I noticed the heat, the salty air, the architecture, the delicious fresh cuisine (fish and fruit especially!) the sound of the crickets and the many many maaaaaany cats I befriended…. But for me… the thing I noticed the most has got to have been the copious amounts of beautiful flowers; be they subtle or bold, wild or tended to, tiny or humongous…. Every which way you turned, they were there, ready to great you.