Friday, December 22, 2017


As I post about Croatia during this holiday season I'm poring through the 1,700 photos made on the trip & realizing how many images I made of bells. I suppose I was thinking of the requests I get to do slideshows at ABA conventions. [The American Bell Association is an international organization for bell collectors of which I've been a member for 30 years.]

Of course the "silver bells" part notes my long time passion for making small bells, usually in sterling silver, which I market on the website: GRB BELLS  While I've been happily in thrall to the archetype of bells I celebrate them particularly at this season...

We trekked steep steps to the tops of several bell towers in the churches of the stone-wall fortified cities we visited along the Dalmatian Coast but we also discovered numerous bells stashed in museums or even stored in dead-silent crypts.

Stephen made these shots of the bell tower in Split & me on the way up... The Bell Tower is the name of the ABA's journal.

These bronze automatons functioned as theater, 
miming striking the bells high in the tower yet visible from the pavement.
These originals, having been replaced, are now retired... 
relegated to stand at such attention for eternity.
Since they chimed the hours there was clockwork involved as well.
This apparatus was also replaced, allowing me to enjoy in the same museum it's
mechanique antique 
Climbing into the throats of some big bells...
Wondering what the environment would be when they were ringing.
 Such art & engineering!
Stephen leads the way up ancient steps
fortunately retrofitted for safety 
along with the structure supporting the bells.
 They can be massive, mounted to swing,... or more usually be struck... pounding tones from their tonnes atop what becomes delicate engineering... comforting for the proof of longevity.

 One was tucked in a courtyard... seemingly to cap the well... 
Curious... thus sealing off the water, muting resonance"?
& this one is a resin replica... a big prop for what show?
 These seemed staged toward some installation
 developing an open space
A table in a street in Ston presented this conundrum on bell sound.
 I must invent stories for the bells relegated to a crypt in Split...
 While others get to hang-out in glorious exposure.
 I can only then wonder at the resonance here when the bells peal.
Solstice is Shifting.
Much Joy & Resonant Peace!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017


There were two excursions from Dubrovnik planned on the itinerary I inherited.  The first taking us to Kotor, Montenegro... another to Mostar, located in Bosnia and Herzegovina... country names with which I was rather too vaguely familiar from the war in the 1990's, but I still have not grasped that history with much understanding.  Seemingly mostly religious intolerance... about which I might observe as being "not my thing", until I realize that bit of lazy thinking makes most of history "not mine." I'm sticking around hoping to learn more.

For each of the day trips we were to have a car & driver.  Nilola & Boris, both usually bus drivers, considered these trips in their company’s Mercedes as a bit of a holiday from their usual work with larger scaled vehicles carrying much larger groups. They were not guides & their English was a bit more limited than the Croatians with whom we'd been staying. These guys were from rural areas, working the tourist season while longing to get back to their villages.

We gradually, tenuously learned as we chatted with them in honest curiosity along the way, appreciating by turn how much intelligence of their own they had to share.

Nikola picked us up early, driving us to Kotor, Montenegro, another walled city... small, ancient & quite well preserved.  It snuggles deep in a finger of water, fjord-like but actually a riva or a submerged river bed... forming a sheltering port.  While it had long become sleepy, now cruise ships bring the pluses & minuses of the tourist economy of which we are a part.
History has always been commodity... 
[I must acknowledge my own consumer-hood]

One church displayed only these few remnants of once elaborately painted walls.

 The commodious qualities of stone frequently write visual poetics...
Not foot-polished stone, but contemporary bronze church doors 
in an ancient town... progress responds to loss

I come to understand
 that this travel is to be all about
walled cities...built mostly during
the Venetian Empire.
because we are going to visit that city later in this travel...

Next morning we met Boris,... a bit younger & a bit less reserved... who drove us to Mostar, which proved to be rather a long drive, with several crossings of the complicated borders.

I savored the views of the undulating coastline the highway followed north up & then east... away from the Adriatic waters I found myself loathe to leave... would there be octopus for lunch? The route reminded me some of the lovely mid-coast parts of Highway One in California.

We learn that the reason for the route has to do with a quirk of geography created during the drafting of borders from the recent peace negotiations (in Dayton, OH!), giving the country named Bosnia and Herzegovina a finger of territory connecting it to the sea... thus making a puzzle of multiple border crossings in order to use the route of the highway.

Rising through farmland becoming more occasionally forested, we gleaned bits about the agriculture, geography & history... with sub-currents of the several cultures living a long discomfort in these beautiful territories.
Remnants remain of the war's destruction...
That confrontive friction has long been creatively connected by a lovely stone bridge,
famous for 450 years, since being built by the Ottomans... linking a valuable trade routes.
That meeting of Muslim East & Christian West has mashed or mixed since ages before then.
By choice-in-necessity the city, while gently culturally divided cities on each side of the river communicated over a stunningly designed geometrically sound structure.
It defines for me an "enormous delicacy"...
The name of the bridge is Stari Most.
In the war it was destroyed!

Then, by what seems miraculous
 it has been rebuilt... 
hope springs

We arrive as yet two more tourists in the crowded continuity of this historic connection. Polished stone abounds for such foot traffic. The bridge seems actually a bit dangerous... it requires hard work to make such vital traverse on the polished stones. Meanwhile a man is soliciting funds toward the ticket that he would dive from the center of the bridge... there are videos I've not seen. But, the kitty [containing a Euro from Stephen] doesn't match his price, so we did not see him do the feat.  Fair enough.
You can see a dive here:
This is not in any way an easy bridge...
yet it is so beautiful in form, function & symbolism.
The color of the water is incredible...
luminous shades of turquoise & aqua.
It is simply spectacular.
The view upstream shows the mosque
 on the other side of this ancient cultural divide this bride spans.
The much smaller "Crooked Bridge" was built a few years before its much larger sister as a study for the construction techniques. We had lunch at a table looking up at it.
Built as a monument after the war this tower rises from a terrace with differently colored paving stones illuminating the footprint of the foundation plan of the destroyed church which it memorializes
A new concrete sanctuary stands beside it... still very dusty for the finishing work being done.

Yet within sight of all these remnants of the war, we observed these souvenirs!
Humans are so curious!

The city has some fascinating street art, which we observed on a side trip to the new mall... contrasting the ruins with too-familiar contemporary retail, of course. War & shopping seem to be hallmarks of human culture...

Stephen discovered that there was a Sufi Monastery nearby, so we requested a side trip to discover a small compound Blagag tekke built perching above 
where a subterranean river flows exuberantly from a sheer cliff... 
again, water with that incredibly luminous color.

 Yet even more color burst from the rugs inside the rooms.

I then came to appreciate the subtle sculptural strength of the stucco details. 
supporting that riot of chromatic exuberance.
I certainly became enamored with the naturally irregular slate tiles on the roof hung in delightfully organic patterning. I would observe this treatment other places as informal effective function.
 Having  had recent experiences with wheelchairs I smiled to realize this was a similarly folk version of handicap access...
This place was indeed a spiritually sacred emergence
I was pleased to be able to feel its power.


I understand that this travel/ride is to be all about
walled cities, built mostly during the period of the Venetian Empire.
Appropriate... we are going to visit
our favorite city, later in this travel...

Ah, but our next destination became
 my favorite city of this trip...