Putting Faces to Places

Putting Faces to Places: Kotor

I picked through the tables at the cafe on the square, settling near the back where I could observe the goings-on from the shade. Little did I know that I had sat in a row of chairs usually occupied by the older locals of Kotor, Montenegro. Alongside me, older men read the paper, drank their coffee, and conversed. 

While I was jotting something down on my map of the city, of a spot I wanted to visit, the man next to me remarked on the history of the town. Over coffee, we began chatting, about the town and tourism. I found out that Dragan was a retired cruise ship engineer--thus his English was quite good. We chatted for a bit and then he offered to show me around town and tell me its history (mind you, Kotor is small enough to walk around in 15 minutes). After he paid for the coffees of all of the locals sitting against the windows, off we went.

There is nothing like being shown around by a resident: Dragan pointed out the former prison, I was invited inside a tiny Orthodox church, and he introduced the 'husband and wife that run this town.' Later we sought refuge from the sun and I began asking him if there were still tensions in the countries that make up the former Yugoslavia. He said simply, "we always think that our country, our people are good and right. And that the neighbors, the others, are bad." But he expressed that he found the Balkan people welcoming, and enjoyed visiting the former Yugoslavia.

We talked for a while on the ability of people to conflict and lay guilt. His attitude in dealing with people struck me, it seemed so simple and intuitive, but in today's world we categorize and label before we even know a person's name. 

"I think: he is human. And if I start there, regardless of race, or nation, or appearance, it works . . . If you accept them, they will accept you."
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Putting Faces to Places: Dubrovnik

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Wandering through the streets, or should I say the stairs, of Dubrovnik, Croatia I came across an atelier sign. Ducking in, I found myself surrounded by vibrant oil paintings in a tiny room with high ceilings. A woman was there, she told me that I was standing in a chapel from the 12th century, one of the old still standing in the city. Then she introduced herself as Ivana, the artist of many of the works that crowded the walls, overlapping. 

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Both her and her husband are artists, and while quite a few of their works are religiously themed, they also both have more abstract work as well as impressionist still lifes. Ivana was born in Dubrovnik, but studied art history in Sarajevo and Zagreb. She teaches art to middle school students when she's not painting or selling her work. 

After a bit the conversation lulled, and I walked around the small chapel to look at the canvases closer. While I was examining one that was a particularly bright daffodil pigment, the artist interrupted my thoughts saying, "Yellow is the color of joy." That is when I did a 360 turn and realized nearly every piece had at least a thread of yellow running through it. 

Putting Faces to Places: Warsaw

"It is hard to play music on the streets, but not too hard if you love it."

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I was only in Warsaw for a rainy evening following Krakow. But as the rain cleared, I walked about town, soaking in the main street and it's views. Soon, my darling friend and I heard the strains of accordion music and found this man, beautifully playing some traditional music. 

After we listened to a song or two, we approached him and talked briefly. He is from eastern Ukraine, but now lives in Poland. When we asked how long he had been playing the accordion he laughed a little and I wondered if he understood the question. Then he told us that he had been playing for over 40 years. 

Eventually, he very politely asked if he could continue playing, and we stepped back to listen.