By Julia Molden
During our lessons today, we spent much of our time trying to avoid the elephant traps that the Croatian language constantly seems to secrete in unexpected places just when you think you are getting somewhere. When it suits them, feminine nouns seem to prefer to act as masculine and singular nouns have an uncanny habit of being plurals in disguise. And as for those collectives, well least said soonest mended!
After lessons we set off for the nearby old town of Nin, once again accompanied by our guide Marija from earlier in the week. Our first stop was at the salt works, where we learned all about the production of high grade sea salt and flowers of salt. Our guide explained that the shallow sun-kissed waters of the Nin lagoon lent themselves to the production of organic sea salt. The Romans knew this and the current salt-pans show evidence of sluices from approximately two thousand years ago. Through four stages, the sea water is concentrated by evaporation until it is too strong to support life. At that point it is diverted into the newly cleaned concrete basins where the crystalisation process takes place over seven to ten days depending upon weather conditions. Thereafter the salt is stored and then made ready for packaging. Such salt contains seventy different natural minerals. The really premium grade salt is called flowers of salt and this is creamed off from the top of the salt in the pans to be incorporated into various top quality products, including olive oil and chocolate. We were told that only one man at the plant was sufficiently skilled to be able to skim off the flowers of salt while making sure that no contamination took place from lesser grade salt crystals. Clearly there are no holidays or sick days for him during the production season from the beginning of July to the end of September and, before he retires, someone new will have to be trained up to take his place.
After the salt pans, Marija took us round the old town of Nin explaining to us as we went the twists and turns of Nin’s history. We ended up in the museum, which was packed with exhibits which shone a light on the Liburnian and Roman periods of the city’s history. She also explained that, during the Venetian occupation of the town, when it became clear that the Ottoman Empire was going to make a bid to conquer it because of its useful strategic position, it was the Croatians themselves, out of pride and necessity, who took the first steps to destroy their own town, rather than let their occupiers do the evil deed. A meal in a local restaurant brought the evening to an end before we were deposited back home after another splendid day.