Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Captain is in....and out

Just outside of Dubrovnik, to the north, is the unique and somewhat off the (cliche-ish) beaten path town of Ston. It's a small fortified medieval town, lying at the point where the Peljesac peninsula joins the mainland, some 60 km north of Dubrovnik. The most impressive feature in Ston are its fortified walls (a miniature version of the Great Wall of China) stretching for just under 5 kilometers. My cousin, (he of the verbal chum fishing), says that you can see this wall from space; the only man-made object other that the Great Wall that is visible. As my ever-loving wife pointed out, there is scientific dispute these days as to whether even the Great Wall is visible from space. But what's a little National Pride. If my cuz says it's visible, who am I to argue? And why waste the time to argue?

Architecturally, Ston is a curiosity. Its built area is compressed into a small space with streets running from south to west and crossed at right angles by a number of very narrow lanes devised to help the town to defend itself. It was acquired by the Republic of Dubrovnik at the beginning of the 14th Century because of its strategic position to protect the Republic's territory from attacks and pillage.
One of the most important sources of the Dubrovnik Republic's riches was salt, harvested from the natural salt-pens in Ston. These are still being worked today. The majority of visitors are locals from Dubrovnik attracted to Ston by its peaceful surroundings, open countryside for walking, fine wines of Peljesac peninsula and, most of all, for the oysters served in the local restaurants, which come straight from Ston's famous oyster beds.

The local tourist agency encourages one to use "a self drive car" as the mode of transportation to see the Peljesac peninsula. There are many orange and lemon plantations on the peninsula and some parts are fertile enough for soft fruit, particularly peaches and nectarines. There are many lemon and orange plantations. However, Peljesac is best known for its south - facing seaward vineyards which produce some of the best wines in Croatia. These include Dingac -an expensive full-bodied dark red wine with high alcohol content and Postup not as heavy as Dingac. Personally, just seeing a "a self drive car" would be worth the trip.

Pressed for time, only a visit to one of Ston's famous restaurants was possible. So, off the Magistrala, we drove to Kaptenova's Kuca.

The menu is imposing and tempting, but (obviuosly) leaning toward seafood. Most folks make the trek for the oysters, mussels, and shellfish unique to this region.
They also come for the "special" service.
After being seated in the restaurant, with a view of the small harbor, a glass of the local red wine, Dingac, washes away the kilometers spent dodging cars, trucks, and bathers on the Magistrala highway.
The waiter comes by. He seems to be minimally dressed. Speedos and an easily removable vest. With no a/c it must get hot here in the outside dining area. He takes our food order, including our initial plate of the renowned Stonske kamenice. He turns from the table and walks off. But not in the direction of the kitchen. The sea seems to have beckoned him. With the smooth transition only possible from repetitive motion, he takes off his vest with one hand and dons a facemask from a pile of facemasks on a table close to the harbor's edge. With a skip, stop, and a jump (one hand on the facemask), he executes a razor edge dive into the water.
Must have caught him just before breaktime.
10 minutes later, we seem him climbing up the stone stairs built alongside the docks. He has a bag in one hand and he's taking out a knife from his speedos in another. He veers off to the side to pick up a plate onto which he empties the bag's contents. Another waiter had already placed a plate full of sliced lemons on our table.
Our waiter stops by our table and carefully opens each Stonska kamenica for us, water still dripping from his hair and arms.
We clap for his perfomance; he actually seemed to blush. Then we dig in, squirting the lemon juice in all directions out of excitement and hunger.


Were not you and your fellow diners supposed to accompany your waiter rockside and point at the oysters you wanted?

I much prefer to leave such decisions to the chef, too.
FCB We'd left our speedos in the trunk, so accompanying him in full turista attire would have been most unsightly.
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