Meeting My Delilah

I got my hair cut recently.  I had not done so since early-December and, not only was Jessica making frequent suggestions that I have some trimming done, but as the summer temperatures settled in the mid-80s, I began to feel uncomfortable with my shoulder-length locks.

“Are you going for Dumbledore or Gandalf?” she asked.

Not that I objected to cutting my hair.  It was just that I still lacked the confidence in my command of Italian to have allowed me to walk into a men’s hair styling shop and try to explain the style I was hoping for.  It took an alignment of planets and circumstances to get me into a barber’s chair and that alignment occurred on our recent trip to Croatia.

The trip started with a drive to the ferry port in Bari, followed by a 9-hour, overnight trip across the Adriatic Sea to the Croatian port city of Dubrovnik.  A half-hour after disembarking from the ferry, we were on a bus for the 4-hour ride along the coast to the city of Split where we were to meet Jessica’s father, Jeff, and his wife, Cindy, who were in Croatia with a bicycling tour group.  We spent 3 days in Split and of all the things we saw and experiences we had there, what struck me most deeply was the music.

I awoke on our second morning there to the soft, melodic tones of a piano well-played.  I couldn’t triangulate on the source of the music, but it was there, in the air and made awakening a better experience.  We were staying in a small apartment in the heart of old town Split and, as arranged, met Jeff and Cindy, along with four other of their cycling group, at Peristil Square for a leisurely stroll through the area and then to lunch.  Just off the square is the vestibule of what remains of Diocletian’s Palace dating back to the 16th century.  The vestibule is a circular structure with a cupola with a large round opening, the perfect acoustical environment for the klapa bands to entertain the tourists that flock to the palace each day.  The a cappella singers that were in residence that day provided our second dose of atmospheric music and their concert began with a moving Croatian folk piece in multi-part harmony.  Here they are, in this YouTube video, performing that song in the vestibule of Diocletian’s Palace: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIuwyoo75dg.  As you watch, imagine the dulcet tones wafting from the oculus at the top of the chamber and floating across the square.  Heaven could not be far away.

A cappella singers at Diocletian's Palace, Split

A cappella singers at Diocletian’s Palace, Split

We found a restaurant that could provide some shade from the rays of a hot sun and enjoyed hearty food and local beers and wines.  Then we set off to find a proper place to have dinner.  The one we chose had a large amount of outdoor seating on a large square with restaurants on three sides and the sea on the fourth.  We retired to our respective rooms for a siesta and, when we reconvened some hours later at the restaurant, we saw that a large collection of musicians was setting up on the part of the plaza not taken up by restaurant tables.  Soon the entire square was being treated to a concert by the Stanford University Wind Ensemble under the direction of Giancarlo Aquilanti (reputed to be an Italian).  For ninety minutes we were regaled with music played by students of one of the finest of the American institutions of higher learning and they made us truly proud.  When the last piece had been played, the applause was thunderous and, when the musicians left their seats and wandered through the crowds, the applause began again and extended to each player individually.  It did our hearts good to witness both the performance and the reaction to it.

The Stanford University Wind Ensemble plays Split

The Stanford University Wind Ensemble plays Split

Jeff & Cindy are the first on the floor in Peristil Square

Jeff & Cindy are the first on the floor in Peristil Square

Jessica and I, guided by Jeff, ventured the next day, by ferry, to the island of Hvar and roamed the interesting parts of it, inhaling the lavender fumes that filled the air, watching the small boats coming in and going out, and admiring the courage of the “beach” goers as they tried to find secure footing for their loungers on the rocky shore.

On the rocks

On the rocks

The next morning, Jeff, Cindy and their crew headed back to the States and Jessica and I hopped onto a bus for the 4-hour ride back to Dubrovnik where we would spend three days then catch the ferry back to Bari.  It was a €10 ($13) cab ride from the bus terminal to  Old Town Dubrovnik.  Unlike many European cities with historical centers, Dubrovnik’s is actually located within its city wall.  Since cars are not permitted within the old part of the city, the cab dropped us off at one of the three city gates.  We quickly (because it started to rain) found our way to the hotel we had booked into, the Prijeko Palace, and were warmly greeted by a young woman who spoke very good English and escorted to our 3rd floor room.  On the way to the room, she informed us that the hotel had only been open for a few months.  The room was small — the smallest of the 9 rooms in the hotel, we were told and also the cheapest, we were told — but beautifully decorated and nicely appointed.  The artwork in each room was all original and hand-selected by the woman who owned the hotel, and the furnishings for each room were unique to that room.  We quickly concluded that we had found a gem.

From the hills above, the confines of Old Town Dubrovnik are discernible

From the hills above, the confines of Old Town Dubrovnik are discernible

We had planned to spend the rest of the day wandering about the old section of Dubrovnik with a goal of ending our tour at a little wine bar we had read about but the incessant rain made the prospect of hiking around unappealing.  We decided to go straight for the wine.  D’Vino is located just around the corner from Prijeko Palace and just up the street from the Stradun, the main street of Old Town Dubrovnik.  It is owned by a guy named Sasha who is of Croatian and Australian heritage and who really knows his wines, particularly those made in Croatia.  Tell him what color, character and profile you prefer and, voila!, a wine meeting that description appears for your drinking pleasure.

We noshed on some small plates of cheeses and olives and little bread and, of course, tested Sasha on his wine knowledge. (“Can you name this wine in three sips?”) After a couple of hours and several glasses of wine, the rain finally stopped, so we slid off of our chairs and  began to walk the streets of Dubrovnik.  Up one small street and down another, we randomly chose a course through the confined historical center.  At one point, we came upon a barber shop on a small side street. The proprietor was a large fellow who took up just a bit more of the large chair he was sitting in than the chair really offered. There were three other men, older than he, occupying the other available seats in the place, except that the seat of honor, the place where a customer might sit to actually get a haircut, was empty. Perhaps it was the hair hanging down the inside of my shirt collar, sticking to my skin from the sweat that was pouring out of me. Or, maybe it was the effort involved in constantly pushing the hair out of my face and away from my eyes. It could have been the wine, too. Whatever it was, I stopped in front of the shop.

“Honey, wait,” I said to Jessica as she proceeded down the street.  “I’m going in.”  I didn’t mean for it to sound like I was about to charge into a burning building but I guess it did.  I should say, at this point, that I speak no Croatian.  It should also be said that the barber spoke hardly a word of English.  Nor, apparently, does he speak my version of Italian even though the caged bird in the shop was named “Pavarotti,” since he confirmed my request for a haircut by grabbing a hank of my hair and making scissor-like gestures with his fingers.  The deal made, he ushered me to the chair, draped a white sheet over me and tied it around my neck, took a gigantic swig of beer from a bottle on the counter and proceeded to wield a pair of scissors in my direction.

Hrvoje gets started

Hrvoje gets started

Large swaths of my locks fell to the floor as the “snip snip” of the instrument did its work.  He worked quickly with the experience of decades at his back and I, just thankful that he was not the only one of us who had been drinking, sat back and let him ply his trade telling myself, over and again, “It will grow back.”

Meanwhile, Jessica was looking around the place and noticed a multitude of photos of the barber in the company of Japanese visitors.  It turns out that my barber, whose name is Hrvoje Cikato (Don’t ask me to pronounce it.), once cut the hair of someone famous in Japan and was photographed doing so.  Henceforth, he was a celebrity in Japan and, when in Dubrovnik, Japanese tourists pay homage to Hrvoje by interfering with his beer-drinking and asking to take his photo.  He apparently indulges them frequently as evidenced by the number of pictures on his walls.  He is also the guy to whom Haircut Harry went in Dubrovnik and who is now memorialized in this YouTube video (Note the bottle of beer on the counter.): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbKBAaJcf2I.

As Hrvoje cuts, Japanese tourists visit the shop

As Hrvoje cuts, Japanese tourists visit the shop

Posing with a Japanese tourist

Posing with a Japanese tourist

It was later that afternoon, when we were once again taking up seats at D’Vino, that I asked Jessica, “Did I pay the guy for the haircut?”  I honestly could not remember handing over money before I left the shop.  Nor could she remember me paying.  “I have to go back,” I said and left to find the place, something I was unable to do after wandering the backstreets of Old Town Dubrovnik for 45 minutes.  I returned to D’Vino.

For the next two days, Jessica and I toured Dubrovnik, walking the perimeter of the old town along the top of the city wall, taking the cable car to the war museum where we saw, first hand, the places where rockets and mortars were fired into the old city, destroying nearly 20% of its structures a mere 20 years ago, all the while keeping our eyes out for the barber shop.  Eventually, we found it, but no one was there.  Having made a note of its location, we returned several times, but, on each occasion, it was closed.  Finally, we found it open for business.  Hrvoje and one other old fellow sitting in their chairs, drinking their beers and chatting amiably.  I tried to explain that I had been there a few days earlier and ask if I had paid.  Fortunately, Hrvoje’s buddy had some knowledge of English and passed the message along.  Hrvoje began to laugh heartily and confirmed that I had indeed paid for the haircut.  We shook hands, said good-bye and I walked, much relieved back out onto the streets of Old Town Dubrovnik.

The Stradun (the main street) of Old Town Dubrovnik

The Stradun (the main street) of Old Town Dubrovnik

Walking atop the old city walls

Walking atop the old city walls

I felt no weaker after having all my hair cut off, but I did feel lighter and cooler so, in that respect, it worked.  Once the guilt of possibly not having paid for duly rendered service was disposed of, I suggested to Jessica that a celebratory glass of wine was in order so off we headed, back to D’Vino.  Cin cin.

Before...

Before…

The end result

And, check out the rest of Jessica’s photographs of our Croatia trip and many others at her new website, www.jessicacoup.com.

11 Comments

souloftheheel

31 August , 2014 at 11:21 pm

Thanks for taking me back to Split and Dubrovnik. Spent a week in the area a couple of years ago. Hope you and Jessica saw the amazing fleet of yachts in the Split harbor. Makes the "Monkey Business" look like a life boat! Didn't get a hair cut in town so I admire your courage. And I must say, you look great with those gory locks gone. RJ

souloftheheel

31 August , 2014 at 11:18 pm

Thanks for taking me back to Split and Dubrovnik. Spent a week in the area a couple of years ago. Hope you and Jessica saw the amazing fleet of yachts in the Split harbor. Makes the "Monkey Business" look like a life boat! Didn't get a hair cut in town so I admire your courage. And I must say, you look great with those gory locks gone.

Retirement Investing Today

29 August , 2014 at 11:11 pm

I'm still saving hard to build the wealth needed for early retirement in Italy. Not long to go now... In parallel I'm conducting as much research as possible remotely as well as planning another Italy visit in the near future. During some trawling of gate-away.com I noticed you're selling both Villa Tutto and Trullo nella Pineta. Are you planning on staying in the Valle d’Itria? If the move is related to negatives in Italy as a whole or the region it would be great to know why you're moving on as the Valle d’Itria was on my very short shortlist (the other location is currently Gozo)?

Scott

31 August , 2014 at 3:53 pm

You're right: we have both of our properties here on the market, but for different reasons, neither of which is a desire to leave the Valle d'Itria. As for Trullo nella Pineta, that has always been an investment for us and, although our first rental season went very well, we would like to sell it, take a bit of a profit, and re-invest in another restoration project here. The prospective sale of Villa Tutto is just a recognition of the fact that I am almost 62 years old and the maintenance of a large property and the olive and fruit trees will only become more difficult as time goes on. Things here seem to move slowly, so we are acknowledging that it may take a couple or three years to sell so we're just planning for the future where we will move into town (probably Cisternino) and take an apartment that requires less work. Having visited Gozo, I can understand your attraction to and interest in the island. I must say, though, that I found the people there to be kind, but quite wary of outsiders. Even our friends who are Maltese have expressed that they feel like foreigners when on Gozo. For what it's worth.

Retirement Investing Today

31 August , 2014 at 4:18 pm

It's great that it's just moving onto a different stage in life rather than something about the region. I wish you much success with quick sales. For a trullo restoration do you have a finger in the air restoration cost that you use when screening potential projects? I've read numbers like EUR750-1,000 per square metre as a guideline. On top of that you obviously then have the small pool cost (my better halves rule not mine :-) ). Personally, I should be about 45 when I retire to either Italy or Gozo so I think I'm going to be going for the house and land option. Understand the apartment attraction but having now lived in one in London for 8 years I feel I need to spread my wings again. If Italy I know I should be sensible and go for a nice Villa but I am just so continually drawn to a Trullo even though I know they come with their many issues and complications. I just love the history and quirkiness. Your point about Gozo is also a concern of mine also. I'm wondering if you really make the effort to integrate whether those barriers can be broken down though. A question I don't know the answer to. To try and find out I'd probably rent for 6 months first and push hard on the integration. If it just wasn't working I might have to settle for Malta. Having spent time in both locations Italy is actually my preferred option but the Italian taxes including increasing wealth taxes are a big turn off as I'll have a lot less spending money. Puglia house prices and cost of living does seem a bit less though so maybe they even out. Keep the posts coming. It really does help me get a feeling for what life can be like in that part of the world which I then add to my own all to infrequent visits.

Joan

29 August , 2014 at 1:23 pm

Love the haircut. Makes you look younger, and makes me feel younger. Also love reading about your adventures. Jessica's photos are amazing.

Scott

31 August , 2014 at 3:43 pm

Thanks, Mom. I need another one already. I'm not sure in which country I'll get it, though!

Linda Chartier Scala

28 August , 2014 at 7:50 pm

I found your blog by accident and enjoy it very much! It gives me a chance to see how things are going up north (north for us, we are in southeast Sicily) and in one of my favorite regions.

Scott

29 August , 2014 at 11:06 am

Hi, Linda, and thanks for checking in. I'm glad you found Soul of the Heel. I can tell you that your area is one of the things at the very top of our "places we have to visit" list. Thanks again for following our exploits and stay tuned. Ciao. Scott

Lou

28 August , 2014 at 7:24 pm

You look like the handsome young guy I worked for 20 years ago! All the best. Lou

Scott

29 August , 2014 at 11:03 am

Thanks, Lou. It seems that you've been hanging around my former boss too much since you lie to me so easily. I only WISH I looked that young, but I do know that I would look older right now if I were still working on the 45th floor. We're keeping our fingers crossed that you and the family will make it here for a visit soon. Hugs to everyone there. Scott

Leave a Comment

Please be polite. We appreciate that.
Your email address will not be published and required fields are marked.

I'd love to hear from you. Please leave a comment or email me at scottjb8907@yahoo.com.