Julia Molden continues her series of blogs on our Annual Croatian Language and Culture Course with Day 3, Monday. Highlights include some serious Croatian language learning, artist Mauro Stipanov’s atelier in central Rijeka, the Kozala Cemetery and Frankopan Castle, Nova Krajelica.
So now the hard work starts, but in such sublime surroundings that it doesn’t really feel like work. Sitting on comfortable couches, in the airy reception hall of our lovely fin-de-siècle villa, with the French doors open and the sun blazing outside, first impressions would suggest that we were just a group of friends getting together for a good old natter. And in a way that would be correct except that the nattering would be conducted in Croatian and that was bound to cause a few hiccoughs.
We started with a text about Australian plans to explore the possibility of introducing a system of unconditional basic income into the country. Well that would have been quite tricky enough to discuss in English, so you can imagine how we got on trying to deal with it in Croatian, but try we did and we learned all sorts of words invaluable to daily life, such as conducted research and the poverty line. We also investigated the relationship of different Croatian nouns, adjectives and verbs to see how you work out the progression from one to another and, of course, in this context the dreaded perfectives and imperfectives raised their ugly heads. Take, for example, the word ‘okončati’ which is the perfective, that is the completed, verb, meaning to terminate. From that you can arrive, via a slightly circuitous route, at the noun ‘konac’ which means the final end. If you go the other way, to be in the process of terminating is ‘okončavati’ and thus the noun ‘okončavanje’ means the process of ending or terminating. And this process is replicated endless times with other words, only each time there seems to be a slight or subtle difference in the final words, particularly on the perfective side. Why, I ask you, would anybody do this for fun? Na koncu konca (ie in the final analysis, which in Croatian uses, not only the locative, but also the genitive, case but we’ll leave that for another day!) because it is intriguing and addictive and there is a strange kind of logic to the language which is rather comforting. You may think it sounds about as comforting as lying on a bed of cacti and you might very well have a point!
We are at last up to our full complement after the late arrival, at the Croatian Language Summer School Ball, of Marina, Sarah and Leo. After feasting on all those linguistic intricacies this morning, we moved on in the afternoon to feast on the artistic intricacies of Mauro Stipanov, whose atelier is at the top of a block of flats in central Rijeka. So, clambering up multiple flights of stairs to reach him took care of our physical exercise for today. There we viewed a selection of his paintings, including a self-portrait without facial features but complete with mask – a real epithet of the times we are currently living through.
Then followed a long, quite searching conversation in Croatian ranging over a variety of subjects right up to the universe, so again our brains were cudgelled by trying to glean a few small fragments of the exchange. Next, after a well-earned break for coffee and cakes, it was off to the Kozala Cemetery to wander amongst the graves and mausolea and to learn about Robert Whitehead, an Englishman whose main claim to fame was his development of the first torpedo. His intention had been to live and then die in Rijeka so, with admirable forward planning, he had his own mausoleum constructed in this cemetery. For some reason his plans changed and he moved back to England, leaving it behind him and it remains unoccupied to this day. After all you can hardly put a for sale board on a mausoleum, can you?! All of a sudden everybody in our group started to scratch themselves and jump about in what looked like an impromptu kind of a dance but the explanation was that the local mosquitoes had sized us up for their dinner. So, making a hasty retreat, we all reassembled at the Frankopan Castle, Nova Krajelica, where we finished off this intense day with a delicious meal and finally arrived back home at our villa at nearly midnight. The thought of a day tomorrow with merely three more hours of Croatian grammar, followed by an afternoon at leisure on the beach, certainly has its attractions as I write!
You can find out more about artist Mauro Stipanov on our website post An Illustrated Guide To Rijeka Through The Art And Life Of Mauro Stipanov
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