I climbed Mt Srđ for the second time yesterday. (And no, that image up above is not Srđ, it’s Rainier. Still relevant to the post.) On my first trip up, three weeks ago, it was relatively warm but deserted–the cable car was undergoing annual maintenance, so only those willing to hike the trail (or drive up the back roads) were there. I saw only two or three people the entire time I was there.
Yesterday I made the climb again, this time with Sebastian. When we got to the summit it wasn’t exactly crowded, but it wasn’t deserted, either. The cable car was running, bringing a steady stream of people up to the top of the mountain.
Dubrovnik gave us her last gasp of winter weather this weekend, so when we set out for our hike at 10am it was still only 39ºF. I dressed in layers, including gloves and a scarf, and regretted it ten minutes into our hike. The combination of the climb and the sun made me think bringing a coat at all, let alone the two that I’d layered, was a terrible idea. When we hit the summit, however, I was very glad of the extra warmth. The spectacular view was accompanied by an icy breeze coming from the Bosnian mountains to our east!
I had gotten to the summit too late in the day last time to visit the Homeland War Museum in the Imperial Fort, but this time we stopped in, and spent about an hour looking at the photos and text on the walls. When we left, Sebastian remarked that both the war and the museum had a sad and “ramshackle” feel to them. The text accompanying the images was unpolished and emotional, laden with anger and hurt over the aggression and “hatred” from Serbia and Montenegro. The entire interior of the museum, which is inside the Imperial Fort (built in the mid 1800s by the French), dripped water from every surface, which meant that display cases were shrouded in protective plastic sheeting. I didn’t take a lot of photos in the museum, but there are several in the Flickr photo set that I posted yesterday.
After the museum, we spent some time gazing out at the mountain view to the east, something you can’t see from on the ground in Dubrovnik. But we got cold fairly quickly, and ventured inside to the Panorama Restaurant inside the cable car station. The prices were touristy, but the view was spectacular and (more importantly) the temperature was warm and toasty. One nice thing about Croatian “coffee culture” is that you can order one cup and sit for as long as you want with no hovering or impatient wait staff trying to clear your table. So we spent an hour sipping our coffee (well, my coffee and his hot chocolate), and gazing out at the sunlit Adriatic on one side and the snow-capped mountains of Bosnia and Montenegro on the other.
I was reminded of the Pacific northwest, with its spectacular contrasts of mountains and water. (Thus the photo at the top of this post of the moon over Mount Rainier, which I took in 2005.) I said to Sebastian that, given a choice, I would almost always pick mountain views over ocean views–although I was particularly appreciative of places that had both. He (like many people I know) is more of an ocean person, and we started to muse aloud about why someone would prefer one over the other. What it came down to (and I’m distilling a long and thoughtful conversation into a brief conclusion), we decided, was a preference for stability over impermanence. The water constantly washes away traces along the shore, and changes from moment to moment. The mountains stand, solid and unchanging, in the face of daily assaults by weather and visitors. On some level, for me, oceans feel both seductive and treacherous, while mountains feel daunting but reliable. (And no, I don’t need more therapy to unpack any of that!)
Today the temperature is starting to creep back up–I woke to 43°F rather than 34°F, and the sun is still shining. For tonight’s ex-pat dinner I’ll be making my favorite lemon-rosemary chicken recipe, with fresh lemons from our backyard and fresh rosemary that I picked along the trail up Mt Srđ. My guests are bringing wine and dessert and bread and cheese. And we’ll enjoy it all while watching the sun set over that beautiful Adriatic Sea, with the hilly (if not quite mountainous) Elaphiti Islands on the horizon.