After our first day of lessons, today’s afternoon excursion was to the Limski Canal and Rovinj. With such a large group this year, we had been joined by our second teacher Zoran and, together with Ljerka our guide, we all set off in a minibus towards Lim Bay, from where our boat was waiting to transport us along the Lim Valley towards our ultimate destination for the evening. The weather was perfect, the boat was perfect, the scenery was perfect. I suppose you always have to be prepared to accept a little grit in your Istrian oyster and this time it manifested itself in the form of our fellow travellers. We were all happily installed on the spacious and comfortable boat when suddenly out of nowhere appeared a large group of large Germans many sporting large tattoos who demanded that some of us should move as we had taken their seats. How they worked that out was not easy to see but, as you can imagine, this did not go down too well and the journey proceeded with a fair measure of jostling for position and unfriendly glowers. Thankfully the edge was taken off things by the more than generous crew member who plied us with a variety of refreshments along the way, including locally made rakija and white wine. The scenery was stunning, with the green of the tree-clad cliffs on either side of the canal rising up from the blue of the water to meet the equally vivid blue of the cloudless sky.
In Rovinj Ljerka took us on a walking tour of the Old Town, which was an enchanting jumble of cobbled streets, narrow alleyways, flower-filled courtyards and houses of all shapes, sizes and colours, which tumbled down the hill from the Church of St Euphemia perched on the summit. One little area called Pod Lukovima gave us pause for thought about the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of the beautifully infuriating Croatian language, particularly as we had touched on in it in our lesson today. At first glance we could have been forgiven for thinking it was something to do with onions, particularly as there was no sign of any stress symbol on the stone street sign. But then, of course, we remembered that there is no plural for onions in Croatian, except apparently you can have two, three or four onions, due to the fact that they would be in the genitive singular. Anything more than five would be genitive plural and therefore not allowed, so from them on you have to have pieces of onion. Except for twenty-one to twenty-four onions, which you can have as they are technically singular. And so on to infinity for anything that ends one to four. Are you with me so far? Anyway, it was all academic because the alternative meaning for the word luk, which strictly speaking should have had a stress sign over the vowel, actually means arch, so it was perfectly permissible for it to have a plural and gain an extra syllable in the process and you can have any number of arches without having to resort to pieces of arch. If we are not careful, Ljerka will be asking us questions about this so I hope you have got it straight!
And getting back to the church, perched on the summit of the bell tower itself was a five metre tall statue of the saint, which doubled as a weather vane facing in different directions depending on which way the wind was blowing. In olden times this statue was avidly watched by the sailors of the town and, depending on which direction the saint was facing, they could tell whether it was safe to set sail or wiser to stay at home. Of course, even in those days, nothing was perfect and on occasions she got stuck in one position and failed to deliver her message correctly.
From the church we had to slip and slither our way back down the shiny cobbles of the main street and finally all reassembled in the main square for aperitifs before a jolly supper in a nearby restaurant. We were eventually deposited back at our respective homes after a memorable trip, which seemed to have been greatly enjoyed by all.