Island hopping in Croatia is like visiting different enchantingly beautiful women. Each island is beautiful in her own unique way. Each island has a very distinct personality, as if the island’s spirit breaths from the core of her island and intoxicates its inhabitants with her ways. As we travel from island to island, Claudia and I are the same people. However, each island evokes a different mood from us and castes her own unique spell on us.
Lokrum: The Bewitchingly Beautiful Island
Lokrum, the cursed island, is only available to receive visitors during the day. A short boat ride from the old City Harbor near the Ploce Gate in Dubrovnik, we buy our tickets from a stand in front of the boat. Lorkum rises above the sea with a sheer wall of tan colored rocks topped by a layer of green trees. The island is surrounded by rocks fitted with ladders that descend to the clear, cool Adriatic sea. From the small pier on the island, paths branch out with signs pointing to a cafe, botanical garden, beaches and the ruins of the monastery.
I want to visit Lokrum because I am fascinated by the story our Adventure Dubrovnik guide, Darijo, told us about its curse. According to Darijo, the Benedict Monks had a monastery on the island. One day, Archduke Maximilian Ferdinand of Habsburg came to the island and fell in love with it. The spoiled Archduke ordered the monks to leave. On the last night, the monks walked around the island three times with their candles held upside down so that the wax dropped on the ground. They cursed the island so that anyone who acquired the island for their own personal pleasure would meet personal and financial doom. After Maximilian moved his family onto the island, he was assassinated in Mexico, his wife driven insane and his son bankrupt. Now the people believe that anyone who spends more than three nights on the island will suffer a similar fate.
As we disembark from the boat at Lokrum’s pier, strange cries emerge from the interior of the island that sound like dinosaurs from Jurassic Park. These cries are the calls of the peacocks. The island is covered with these beautiful, majestic birds. As we walk towards the cafe, one has stopped in the path to put on a show for the visitors. He stands with his tail feathers fully unfurled, the indigo blue and green eyes on his feathers stare back at the crowd. He slowly turns like a fashion model on the catwalk so that each tourist can snap a picture. Suddenly, a small brown female peacock crosses the path in front of him. The male peacock stops dead in his tracks and begins to vibrate furiously while uttering a loud, strange buzzing noise. His body and feathers shake at such a high velocity it is as if he is being electrocuted. I have never seen anything like this ritual. The female, unimpressed, continues her on her leisurely path, not even deigning to give him a glance over her shoulder. She is completely unimpressed by his efforts.
We walk passed the ruins of monastery to the olive grove in the island’s interior. On the grass under the trees, bunnies sit munching on plants. More peacocks languidly walk between the bunnies, dragging their elegant tail feathers behind them. It is a surreal scene to watch bunnies and peacocks decorate the quiet lawn in the serene olive tree grove. I can feel the enchantment that haunts this island. Claudia and I speak in low voices as if we are in church.
Beautiful Lokrum is the cursed island. Today, only the bunnies and the peacocks spend the night as all of the tourists are ushered off the island by the authorities at nightfall. I look at the bunnies and peacocks and wonder if any of them are enchanted tourists who dared challenge the curse and spend the night. A chill runs down my spine and I head back to the pier to catch the next boat back to Dubrovnik.
Life is an adventure, not a destination. Live it with enchantment and a healthy dose of superstition.