August 22nd 2010
The Adriatic coastline is stunning. I arrived and couldn’t figure out how to get to an apartment I was staying at for a night, as the directions weren’t very good. I should have borrowed a phone from a pair of travellers I have run into in Belgrade, Sarajevo, and now the Mostar-Dubrovnik bus trip. But I decided to do things on my own and ended up walking in the heat, following some rough directions from a helpful lady at the bus station. I walked up 600 steps, with 30+ pounds on me. I was soaked by the time I got to the top. With some walking, direction-asking from other helpful locals running pansions, and sheer luck, I ran into the guy who owned the apartments.
(Walked up with my stuff from where the sea is, in 35 deg C, tiring)
I walked down 600 flights of steps again to reach the bottom and took a bus to the Old Town. There are massive numbers of tourists. Dubrovnik used to the a hidden gem in Europe but now, it’s very well-known. Many Hollywood celebs come here for holiday and Oprah even has a house somewhere. But it is very beautiful from all angles, which I enjoyed while walking around the City Walls. The atmosphere was fantastic and watching the skies glow on the coast as the sun was setting was quite magical.
(People walking along the City Walls)
(Open air market)
I enjoyed delicious seafood at a restaurant beside the docks. The first night, I had seafood risotto. I felt like I could taste the sea (in a good way). It made me feel alive, and that’s when you know the food is really good. I had mussels the next day for lunch, at the same place.
When I walked into my room that night, the Australian guy from early in the day was gone and was replaced by an Asian guy. He had very long hair, tied up in a bun (without anything holding it), and shaved sides. I struck up a conversation with him and found out he was from a small village near Hiroshima in Japan. He was, at the time, traveling by bicycle around South-Central Europe. This form of travel intrigued me. He told me he would average about 100 km a day, and at night, he would find an open spot to set up his tent and camp (but this time, he left his bike with a friend in Belgrade, where he will be returning to soon). Once in a while, friendly locals he meets would invite him into their homes for some food, shower, and a bed. He told me stories of his bicycle-travels around the Middle East on bike and I kept listening in fascination. I could also see how much he derives pleasure being outdoors with nature.
Kaz (short for Kazuhiro) is 25 years old and went to school in Tokyo to learn how to make bags from scratch. He then moved to Florence to start selling bags he made. He would buy high-grade leather, and from the ideas in his head (no drawings or anything), make various kinds of uniquely designed bags (deriving his inspiration from nature, which he absolutely loves). He would then go around to various Italian boutiques and try to sell his bags to them to be resold. He told me a lot of store employees would look at him funny because he wasn’t dressed up formally (almost looking like a bum sometimes) when going around selling his work. I guess it’s ok because he’s an artisan. I looked at his work and thought they were extremely unique and wonderful. Imagine having a one of a kind handbag, hand-made with of some best Italian leather. I asked Kaz if he was planning to go mainstream and become a brand (like the Japanese Versace, I joked). He said that didn’t interest him at all. For him, money isn’t everything. His dream is to become an organic rice farmer (if not in Japan where rice is grown once a year, then a country where rice can be grown frequently, like India or Malaysia). He wants to grow enough chemical-free rice to support himself and also sell to his friends and family.
Kaz was one of the most unique and interesting characters I’ve met thus far, not just on my travels, but in my life. It was so refreshing to meet someone so humble, and who wants to live such a simple lifestyle. I told Kaz that when he goes back to Tokyo (he’s in Vienna until March 2011), I will join him for some sushi some time.