My stay on the island seemed to be divided in two. On the first few days, there was a bunch of us and we had a car (it belonged to writer and publisher Ivan Sršen, who was very accommodating), so we could visit the different villages at will: in Sobra one can find the only open restaurant which serves nothing but pizza in the winter - at least there is great variety and it's delicious - in Babino Polje we had coffee during the day and pelin in the evening. After the others left, the island grew larger , the streets grew longer. The splendid view of the living room window greets us every morning, my host Matko and me, and the day is filled with endless conversations while strolling by the sea. These natural surroundings are conducive to reflection and self-introspection, even more so than writing or reading. In any case, I was inspired to write a few poems and work on a few of my texts. One of the most proud and beautiful moments occurred during the opening ceremony of the "Ulysses' Shelter", when Bosnian poet Mirko Božić read some of my poems in Croatian. Then we had a tasty local dish, made with potatoes and cod.
In these clear, cloudless nights, the moon alone can light the way on a walk by the beach, in the freezing breeze of the Adriatic Sea. The stars in the sky seem so close, that they almost tangle with the pine needles and the arbutus berries. Once in a while, something that sounds like a wild boar moves behind the bushes - Matko and I have to stop our conversation and wonder it it's only our imagination. Two dogs follow us on each of our hikes, fearless and desperate for some company, even in the underground tunnels leading to the cannons aiming defiantly at the open sea.
Mljet at first seems dull, a long green strip. But when you get the chance to explore it, you find out there are spectacular little corners: green waters on a background of green pine trees towering over them, shady paths which link the lakes to the villages, stairs leading out of the trees to sunlight. The shape and morphology of the land often make you forget that you are on an island. Often, when I found myself in places where the rocks meet the open sea, I had the feeling that I was at the end of the world, in Tierra del Fuego.
Now in December, it's sometimes rainy and sometimes sunny, and this fluctuation transforms exceptionally the nature and image of the island. The same spot can be entirely different each day depending on the weather. There are indications everywhere of a place full of life in the summertime, restaurants overcrowded with people, rocks awaiting throngs of people to stand on them flashing their cameras. Once in a while, a vague sense of bitterness caused by the odors and intensity we are missing now in December, but still some satisfaction that we can enjoy the authenticity of the island.
On an excursion, accompanied by the oldest employee of the National Park, we had the chance to admire and taste the subtle beauty of Mljet. Nuts from the trees, herbs from the rocks by the waves, oysters, all thanks to the guidance and helpfulness of Mr. Jakov.
The waters remind me of those of my birthplace in Albania, Himara. Τhe same goes for the people in the village- it was very amusing to discover here and there words in Croatian similar to those in Albanian. The realization of a sense of closeness, proximity and familiarity in the Balkans fills me with optimism and warmth. I am grateful to to the island and its people. I hope I will be able to come back in a different season and discover it again.