Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Sea Creatures of Piran

Now, for the moment we’ve all been waiting for: Nick in a bathing suit!

Iztok took us to the Slovenian coastal town of Piran and left us to fend for ourselves among the boats and sea creatures.

We knew about poisonous sea urchins on the coastal floor, so we decided to spend the afternoon swimming. Actually, the well prepared among us had water shoes. I had flip-flops. Still, after dipping my feet in the Adriatic in Koper, I was determined to swim. Also, the heat of the unchecked sun would have inspired anyone to go in the water.

From the main square, there are two options: wander further into town or go to the beach.

We headed to the coast

Where bright-colored buildings line the shore

along with stone buildings that rose up out of the rocks like sand castles.

The beaches in Piran are not fine sand beaches running for miles—they are rocky coves where people toss towels aside and dive into the water. Most lounging takes place on the stone boardwalk where people set up lounge chairs between the large rocks. Or used the rocks as lounge chairs like I did.

Wendy and I wanted to find a spot not overrun with people and picnics and kids. So we continued up the coast, walking until there was no more beach, until we were wading through the water, not sure of where we would end up.

Domenic was along for the adventure, though I don’t think he bargained for knee-deep water in transit or what we found around the corner.

It was a nude beach. Though sparsely populated, most everyone there was naked. But it wasn’t some Bo Derek scene from “10” with lithe Gazelle-like models loping across the rocks. Pale straggly figures balanced on rocks and most stayed in the water. Smack in the center of the beach sat a pair who could have been a walking advertisement against nude beaches.

With some discussion and voting, the rest of the beach would have either evicted them or thrown a blanket or tent over them. Both were burnt bright red and had amorphous bodies with Mr. Potato-Head-style mismatched parts. It was not pretty. But the point of such beaches is not a parade of Michelangelo perfection. So we focused on the goal at hand: swimming.

Bathing suits on, we ventured toward the water, more concerned about the sea urchins than our exhibitionist neighbors. I kept my flip-flops on initially, but soon they started to drag with the current so I tossed them back to shore. If I set my toes down, I might get a sting, so I stayed afloat, swimming around. The water felt silky and cool. Without the sea creatures, I would have been in heaven.

Eventually I got tired and went back to shore, sampled the topless option since I figured I wouldn’t have this chance in the States without having to go to some new age professional nudist camp where people spend a lot of time making focused eye contact and talking about freedom.

Then—why not—I went for the buck. It felt a bit strange, like I was in one of those dreams where your clothes are off and you’re in study hall trying to find a Biology book large enough to provide some cover. I only lasted a few minutes and no one else on the beach so much as blinked in my direction. Anti-climactic overall. Back in my bathing suit, I felt cozy and clothed. Back in my cover-up dress, I felt like a nun.

We headed back to the square

to find the rest of the group and go to the salt store that sold fresh salt from local salt flats. Not just your everyday Morton’s with the umbrella on the box. I bought salt chocolate (anything chocolate works for me, but the salt chocolate had a slightly bitter mineral taste that complemented the sweet perfectly).

Here is the lovely Lauren with her salt store loot:

We ate some chocolate sitting on the square

Then headed down the narrow streets

back to the seaside for dinner. Domenic went incognito with sunglasses on to ward off the mobs of fans.

At dinner, I ordered fish, not knowing that it would arrive at the table, blinking up at me:

Still, I bravely ate…

…all but the spine which I shared with Mark.

Nick tucked a flower behind his ear and I tried to snap a picture but by the time I got to it, only a few leaves were left, so it just looks like his ear had started to sprout green leaves:

As we ate, Nick and I plotted our master plan to split off from the group and start a sheep farm/winery/interpretive dance troupe near Ljubljana. We only lacked a vehicle (and some sheep, land, seeds, and dancers). We knew if we found, say, a yellow van, we would be all set, so we dreamed away as the sky darkened

and the coast turned a uniform blue and lights glowed in the water.

After dinner, we walked back toward the caravan. With Iztok gone, I would be back in the white van, co-piloting as ever.

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