We spent the last day of summer exploring the old town of Korčula, Croatia. In the process, we made a few friends with the help of a rice cake.
If the rumors are true about his birthplace, Marco Polo, the Venetian explorer who wrote of his travels while languishing in a Genovese prison, knew about Korčula’s simple pleasures. He would have known about the pristine waters that surround the fortified peninsula of today’s old town, where fish of every color and size swim in clear view of the surface. Marco would also have known that these incredible marvels of nature love the crumbs of a rice cake. Or, at the very least, the crumbs of a fresh loaf of bread from a nearby bakery.
It was the last day of summer, and Tricia and I were taking full advantage of the bountiful sunshine to investigate the mysteries of this former Venetian outpost that was used to spy on the nearby city-state of Ragusa (Dubrovnik) and the activities of its arch-nemesis, the Ottoman Empire. While at one time, its harbors would have been lined with military and merchant vessels bound for the Orient, the only ships from Venice that can be seen now are the gleaming white cruise ships calling on Korčula for the day.
Discovering the panoramic views from the quay wall on the north side of the peninsula, Tricia and I approached the water’s edge and peered down into the sapphire blue of the Adriatic Sea. Like an open-air aquarium with a glass top, we could clearly see the bottom, and all the life in between. There were fish with blue stripes and black dots on their tails to confuse predators, black fish with a hint of red, and fast-moving silver-colored fish. At the very bottom, a forest of prickly sea urchins covered the rocks, daring anyone or anything to try getting at its meaty interior.
Craving an interaction with this immense scene of natural beauty, we reached into our bag and extracted crumbs from a package of gluten-free rice cakes. Would the fish ‘take the bait’? Tricia sprinkled a handful of white flakes over the surface of the water and waited.
For what seemed like an eternity, nothing happened. The lonely remnants of a rice cake simply bobbed in the gentle waves. But then, a single, undaunted black fish meandered to the surface, examined the floating white clumps, and decided to take a bite. Within seconds, the rest of the watery gang took notice, and a feeding frenzy began. Who knew that rice cakes would be so popular?
Smiling, Tricia rubbed her hands together, casting into the water what remaining pieces of rice cake were still clinging to her hands. What simple pleasures can be had in such beautiful settings like Korčula, Croatia!