Saturday, 25 February 2012

The Croatian Linen Lady

Not far beyond the magnificent hammered gold splendour of the Euphrasian Basilica in Porec, fresh from the religious thrill of the reverent silence in her womb,  twisting around the curved expanse of cobble, we found the Croatian linen lady.  When we first saw her, she sat at a quaint table across from the door of her shop, winding ribbon around her needle.  I hadn't spotted her yet when my eye was caught by the linen tableware draped in her window.  I was just exclaiming and showing my sister the intricate patterns of crochet and ribbon embroidery when she came across to greet us.
A lovely place to crochet!

"Hand-made, Madame, hand-made.  Beautiful, beautiful - hand-made," she cooed in her marked accented English.  "Good price, very cheap, very cheap."

I wasn't looking for tablecloths, but I couldn't resist seeing her wares.  She unfolded cloth after cloth, each pattern lovelier than the last.  Reds, greens, blues, lavenders, all marched in various formations across the fabric swaths.  I hesitated.

"Very cheap, Madame, very cheap.  Hand-made, Madame, see.  Beautiful."

I had to agree.  I was entirely captivated by the quality and creativity of her workmanship.  I knew that back in Canada, a similar hand-made product would cost a fortune.  I simply thought of the little room left in my suitcase for the journey home as I shook my head reluctantly.

Realizing the value of this woman's work, I again sought out the piece from the window that had sung its siren-song when I had first spied it there.  My eyes lingered on the pale green and blue ribbons knotted into flowers, on the delicate crocheted pattern dancing lightly around its edge. Now, she bargained in earnest.  Showing me a gorgeous round tablecloth which matched, she offered me a reduced price for both.

Now, she didn't know me.  She didn't realize that I was just shocked into silence at my good fortune.  If she had, she could have saved herself some valuable breath.

Seeing me quiet and hesitant once again, she added a small runner of the same fabric and pattern to my little stockpile. "For Madame, no kuna," she smiled.

That did it.  I was sold.

My sister also purchased some lovely pieces, seeing my good fortune.  We were all smiles as we took her picture and exited the shop.  As we were leaving and congratulating ourselves on our shopping acumen, she trotted after us.

"For you, Madame - and you, Madame," she explained as she patted a sachet of lavender into our bags with a smile.

That really did it.

She'll never know how close she came to getting a very Canadian kiss on her very Croatian cheek.

The entire experience had the savour of adventure, of old-time Europe, of a way of life so foreign to mine.  I smile as I record this story because the magic was so much more than the bargain.  It was the entire moment.

We wandered past her shop, through the ancient arch and out the Roman gate, heading for our car.


Now, that is why I travel...

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