Category Archives: travel

Edinburgh, This is Home.

After an absence of nearly two years, I have been ‘home’ for a week. Things are always subject to change, but Edinburgh’s constancy resonates with me at a deeply cellular and emotional level. Though I have lived in a wide variety of American and European cities, DSCN9227and I loved everything about living in Boston for nearly a decade, Edinburgh is certainly the only place I have ever truly felt/thought of as home without actually ever living in it.

While I have gotten a sunburn here in February – with temperatures that hit nearly 80°F (27°C), incredibly, in the nearly 15 years I have been visiting Scotland I cannot recall being here just after The Festival – and I have never been here for ‘it’ because I hate crowds. September in Edinburgh is as close to perfection (for me) as can be imagined. The weather, let’s start there, is perfect. As I write this the current temperature is 18°C – 64°F. The sun is out, the sky both blue and streaked with puffy grey and white clouds, less than a half hour after hanging them the clothes on the line nearly dry with the soft breeze that is blowing.

For most of the week, I have been back I have been writing.  My ventures out have been limited to short bursts of exercise gained from making forays to the grocery store. My day started with an email from a stranger who felt compelled to write after reading a letter to the editor I had written on Thursday evening had been published (I had not a clue until this man told me; I am having lunch with him tomorrow). I had deemed a ‘soak up beauty’ day for Saturday and so it was off to an auspicious start.

10,000+ steps starting in Morningside, 20160409_105153advancing to Bruntsfield then up to Edinburgh College of Art, down to the Grassmarket, up Victoria Street to The Royal Mile, down The Mound to the Princes Street Gardens before finally hopping on a #36 bus (my bum knee was complaining loudly) on Lothian Road back to Morningside.

Along the way, I nipped into shops whose managers greeted me as if the last time they saw me was three days ago. Odd Bins was sampling Champagnes and Beers (fizzy being the theme).  15 minutes into my day of beauty it seemed only reasonable to enjoy a properly full glass of Pink Champagne while reading the labels on their collection of small batch gins. I bought duck eggs and two Majorie’s Seedling plums (amazing) from a green grocer at The Grassmarket. I poked in a vintage shop and found three 1980s vintage Hawaiian print shirts for a friend in Los Angeles, sadly all of them were made in China so I had to pass. Walking up Victoria Street – sigh – I succumb to an Oink!, shared a table with a German couple who were visiting Edinburgh (and the UK) for the first time. Asked the girls at Oink! to let them have a piece of crackling to try and was assured by words and moans of pleasure that they would be back today for a second round before flying back to Cologne. (Mission accomplished, repeat business and tourism guaranteed.) At the top of Victoria, the last time I was in this neighbourhood sharing Edinburgh with my girlfriend Kiki visiting from Minnesota, having shared an astonishing meal at The Tower before driving up to Aberdeenshire and staying at another favourite haunt of mine Norwood Hall. I hang a left and walk up The Mound to The Royal Mile. Smile at the collective memories had standing in front of the inlaid brass along the bar (below) at Deacon Brodies. 20160202_132945~2~2

The Prince’s Street Gardens (on my left) are in full glorious bloom with picnickers, meanderers and solitary readers, ice cream vendors, dogs being walked.

Waiting to catch the #36 a raucous group of twenty-thirty something men, some in dresses and wearing makeup (badly) approach. I said to two of the group, “I don’t want to know, do I?” They shake their heads in unison. In all the years of ‘being here, ‘ I have never run into a stag party – the mirror image of Maid of Honor I had watched the night before last. I am asked (verre politely) by the about-to-be groom for a kiss, he pecks me 20160118_224438~2~2on the cheek leaving a smear of horrid pink lipstick.

All of this is life everywhere but in Edinburgh, it is more, somehow. This Is Home.

If you enjoy my blog please consider ‘buying me a cup of tea’ in your currency via PayPal to livelikeadog@gmail.com and do share it with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschi. To order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 
AllThatINeedbizcardartfront

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

C’est Normal. (Not where I’ve ever been.)

I am an American. I grew up near Buffalo, NY known as The City of Good Neighbors. I have lived in cities on both American coasts – notably Boston and San Diego – as well as in Atlanta, Georgia and in many smaller communities in states along the East Coast. I have had jobs which had a commute into New York City. I have had the enormous pleasure to have lived (for considerable blocks of time) in Edinburgh, Scotland, in Trogir, Gospic, Pula, and Motovun, Croatia and in Villardebelle (in the foothills of the French Pyrénées), Angers, and outside Rouen, France.  I have travelled, extensively. And, I can honestly say that NEVER in all of my experiences have I ever encountered the scope of kindness which the people of Paris, France extended to me on 10 August 2017.

 

love locks

Love locks at Pont Neuf

The day started with a creepy, obsessively religious narcissist complaining that I was able to shed tears for his dog but wouldn’t cry tears for him. (The dog was an angel well-deserving of my sadness of leaving her.)  Eager to remove myself from his toxic energy I set off walking to the Sannois, France train station with my 40 kilograms of luggage on a little two wheel cart.  ‘The shift’ was immediate.

All the time who hear people say to be on your guard while travelling. I am not that person. I trust. There are the lines from Ithaca reminding me not to look for Cyclops and none will appear but it is something more. It has consistently been my experience that when I most need protection it will appear.  Of course, there is also some logic to my belief that no one is crazy enough to steal 40 kilos of luggage!

I needed to buy a ticket for Paris, the station was closed. The ticket kiosk wasn’t on the Paris bound tracks I needed but on the other, and at the opposite end of the station. I had an acute awareness that every step of my journey was as though I was a participant in Extreme Fitness Travel Edition so I girded my loins and determination for a long morning. I never assume someone will speak English (in their own country) so I sloughed on with my woefully inadequate French trying to convey politeness, and make my queries understandable.

As I approached the Sannois train station a lovely French woman helped me with the luggage and uttered repeated passionate « Madame, regarde à Votre sac » reminders (guilty as I was of being distracted by the desire to escape the possibility of running into the narcissist again at the station). We secured my ticket. And then she quite literally walked the city block, down an impressive ramp, helped me carry my luggage up a flight of stairs, settled me on the platform and waved me off with kisses, an ‘a bientôt’ and another reminder to watch my purse! Fellow passengers helped me get onboard for our train to Gare Saint-Lazare. At Gare Saint-Lazare things got more complicated by the sheer magnitude of the station, the converging trains and the hundreds of thousands of passengers commuting around Paris each day.  Eventually, with many, and I do mean MANY, more stairs both up and down, one elevator, lots of walking and turnstiles and the assistance of a dozen random Parisians I eventually found the correct Paris Metro track toward my ultimate destination in the 18th Arrondissement.

paris_metro_map_con_eutouring_lrgEvidently ‘my’ metro is one of only two lines which split, and I took the wrong train.  I discovered this as the train left the station at the split and I got off at the next stop. A man about my age also got off at this station. I stood on the platform with my luggage trying to get my bearings, and determine a Plan B course of action. He stopped. He asked en francais. All I could do was share the directions on a crumbled piece of paper in my hand and say « que je suis bete, le metro » and put my hands in the air.  He took the cart from me. We hauled it up three flights of stairs. We got onto the street and approached the enormous (and helpful) maps found at each bus stop in Paris. It started to rain. He parked me under an awning and disappeared. I waited. An Algerian French man noticed that his smoke was bothering me and extinguished his cigarette. And I waited. I got my bearings and started around the corner and walking. The Algerian Frenchman suddenly ran up asking me to wait, « Monsieur arrive ! » I stop. He had gone and found someone to give him directions. That person had photocopied a map of the area and highlighted the route (blocks and blocks). He took my luggage again. We walked. And walked. And walked. There were periodic stops where he asked for clarification of where we were against the map. There were lots of gestures in my direction along the way. More than an hour later we arrived at 9 rue Désiré Ruggieri where he put me into the elevator of Olivia’s building and then brought my luggage up after I got up to the third floor. His name, unknown up to this point, was Alain. Throughout my time with him I could only express « vous etes tres gentil homme, mille merci beaucoup ». He never replied. Now, safely settled, his reply was, « c’est normal ».

About six and a half hours later I went back out to collect Olivia’s weekly subscription box of organic vegetables. It was raining. In the middle of the street an ancient wren-like French woman walked with her grocery handcart while a car came up behind her. I said « Regardez Madame, un voiture ! » and escorted her onto the sidewalk where she clung to my arm to steady her journey. We stopped for her to introduce me as her new American friend to the baker, the Japanese owner of a takeaway restaurant and a woman at a dry cleaner to whom she gifted crepes. Outside the dry cleaner’s a Muslim woman stopped to chat with her and said to me in English that she would make sure Madame got home safely.

With so much evidence around us it is easy to believe that the world is cruel and ugly. If it is through your lens it is perhaps because you look for Cyclops.

If you enjoy my blog please consider ‘buying me a cup of tea’ in your currency via PayPal to livelikeadog@gmail.com and do share it with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschi. To order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 
AllThatINeedbizcardartfront

Alberghi diffusi, the truest luxury is dictated by finely crafted authenticity

The recent Travel & Leisure article entitled Reviving the Italian Village takes a note of vanity efforts afforded by the enormously wealthy. That might seem a judgmental statement, it isn’t. I am grateful for anyone, for whatever reason, choosing to take on the arduous process of heritage preservation.

When Dr. Giancarlo Dall’Ara originated the concept of alberghi diffusi thirty years ago, long before futurists started speaking of circular economies, I believe he aspired to create a noble legacy which would positively impact rural Italian economies by driving tourism, ensuring the preservation of cultural heritage and providing a path to the continuation of a more connected way of living. As urban life has become more complicated and messy, much like the value proposition offered by Product of Designated Origin (PDO) assignation, the alberghi diffusi now has the potential to fulfill a demand for an authenticity remarkably devoid from most contemporary life. I don’t see alberghi diffusi as a Utopian fantasy but a model of socio-cultural, economic and environmental sustainability, scalable and practical in perfect harmony, and logical extension of what I set out to create with Thistle & Broom back in 2003.

The haemorrhaging of rural communities, and the diaspora of countries alike, is not new. Natural disasters and economic hardships have driven great migrations of people to cities nearer, and very far away from agrarian lifestyles for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

The currently running ‘Anno dei borghi’, organised by Italy’s MIBACT (Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Activities and Tourism) is designed to entice visitors to explore 18 regions and help manage the impact of the tourism sector growth on Italy’s urban areas – as well as spread the economic impact around.

Creating an alberghi diffusi from a near ruined village without services takes time. Italy’s unemployment hovers around 11%, and is more than three times higher among those under the age of 25. Housing, following the 2016 earthquake, remains at a premium. At the end of a rather long and dark tunnel two emerging trends of isolation as luxury and experiential travel provide a much welcome light. Mind you this isolation is not a minimalistic, silence-only spiritual retreat but one replete with simple but exquisite accommodations, agro-tourism / slow food / gourmet dining, extraordinary privacy and ultra-high speed internet connections – all of which create jobs, and provide economic stability.

It is here that a sweet spot of sustainable development exists, a convergence of yet-to-be alberghi diffusi with a tremendous opportunity to prove systems destined for adoption in Smart Cities. I am not referencing autonomous cars but rather reinvigorating, and making contemporary circular economies which have always existed in communities bound by the ‘butcher, baker and candlestick maker’. The alberghi diffusi model is a solution to any number of pressing contemporary issues worthy of both investment monies and public policies support.

Clean-tech incubated in alberghi diffusi would pull villages off the easily hacked central grid while providing self-sufficiency. What’s more, this model allows those individuals not lured to the bright city lights to continue practicing (or develop) arts, crafts and traditional hand-skills of a region with the market (quite literally) coming to the mountain. Imagine bathing with organic botanical goats’ milk soap and sleeping on crisp linen sheets hand-woven from blue flowered flax grown in the meadows surrounding these villages which a year before was wafting in the breeze and growing tall in the sunlight. That the village is masterfully IoT connected and a set (or two) of those linens can be ordered and paid for with a voice command based upon block-chain technology generates real efficiencies and quality of life for all parties.

The truest luxury is dictated not by fashion, but finely crafted authenticity and the improved efficiencies offered by technology.

If you enjoy my blog please consider ‘buying me a cup of tea’ in your currency via PayPal to livelikeadog@gmail.com and then, please do share the blog with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

ROI and Working with Social Media Influencers

amirandes-crete-minI have just read Skift’s latest which includes the use by tourism boards of social media influencers and my head is about to explode. In the piece the Tempe, Arizona tourism board is referenced as viewing the 2m social media impressions generated as a successful return on their investment for inviting 4 bloggers to be their guests. Let me express that I have more than a little experience, and many documented analytics to prove, that Tempe set the bar way too low.

As a first let’s understand that in 2016 tourism accounted for 10.2% of GDP and one of every eleven jobs globally, and despite our geo-political circumstances these figures are growing, not shrinking. In some markets, by example Croatia, tourism represents approximately 20% of their GDP. What’s more, because of globalization, machine learning and artificial intelligence employment for the average person will increasingly be found in the travel vertical; which makes customer care and attention-to-detail skills so important in your hiring decisions. A less than perfect cup of coffee in our social media connected world becomes an immediate, and widespread, negative review (Yvonne also shared her post on LinkedIn). So, before inviting anyone who is an influencer to visit, get your house in order (“Is your destination Instagram-worthy?”).

Next, there is an enormous disconnect between the possibilities which could be realised and the results generated largely because the right questions aren’t asked, nor have parameters been established around a visit from a journalist, blogger or social media influencer in advance. If you are the person responsible for coordinating ‘press visits’ allow me to suggest you embrace at least the following points before you decide to host anyone:

  1. The average global rate of engagement (on Twitter) is 1.6%. As influencers anyone you invite should be able to generate at least triple that (4.8%) and since they are in the very top tier of people on social media globally 6% is a very realistic objective. While previous performance does not guarantee future results you are engaging them, and their portfolio, on your behalf. It is entirely reasonable to ask to see examples of their previous work and the supporting 3rd party analytics (get as granular as you feel is necessary).
  2. Ask for references. No one has time for prima donnas (of either gender) no matter how large their following might be. It’s in your very best interest (mitigate stress levels for your organisation and those venues you will visit) to know how easy, or difficult, an influencer might be to work with as well as the satisfaction your peers had with their delivery of top quality content in real time and the subsequent results (again documented by analytics).
  3. The total number of impressions generated is a fragment of what should be part of your evaluation cycle. Unlike any other vertical, hospitality realises close to an 11% conversion rate on social media engagement (see point #1 above) making the quality of their content extremely important to your future revenues. Establish specific requirements about the content for the posts, what they need to post and how many times per day before, during and after their stay in exchange for your hospitality.
  4. Once you decide upon contracting a social media influencer to help you with your marketing efforts, it is entirely reasonable to me as I have done this for clients, to ask that they pre-market their trip to visit you. This can vary depending upon the scope of the package you have put together for the guest but a single Instagram and Twitter post each day for two weeks leading up to their visit is about right.

Transportation, accommodations, feeding (and providing beverages), spa treatments, and activities for a week can run into the tens of thousands per person and providing that hospitality needs to come with business objectives and metrics as part of your invitation. When I worked doing public relations in tech we used to use a CPI (columns per inch) metric to calculate the value of earned media against monies spent, anything above a 4:1 ROI was deemed a success. If you are spending 100,000 of whatever your local currency is (I think) at minimum you should realise a demonstrable 5:1 ROI (and yes, there are ways to measure this).

Finally, an entire portfolio of dreamy backlit views of your influencers pool or ocean-side are not going to fill your restaurants to eat your glorious gourmet food and drink the world-class wines in your cellar.  Whatever your budget might be for hosting please remember this point – their visit is not positioning them to expand their personal brands at your expense, it is about driving your incremental revenues by heightening the awareness of everything about your destination.

Post script. While the trade laws in every country will vary please be hyper-diligent about compliance issues related to in-kind and monetary payments to social media influencers. In the United States the “Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has rules in place requiring that “influencers” who share promotional materials “clearly and conspicuously disclose their relationships to brands”.”

If you enjoy my blog please consider ‘buying me a cup of tea’ in your currency via PayPal to livelikeadog@gmail.com and then, please do share the blog with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

Without intention, here in Jerusalem

So much about our personal journeys are about revealing truth, to understand, to find light, to connect to ‘source’ – so too in walking a labyrinth.

I was alone at mid-morning in 1995 in San Francisco’s breathtakingly chartres from abovebeautiful Grace Cathedral the first time I walked a labyrinth. In 2001 I traveled to Chartres (1220 AD) to visit the cathedral and walk its original 13th century labyrinth. 15 years later I can still feel the scope of mysticism, the pure intentions, meditations and powerful energy of tens of thousands who have come before me resonating through my own footfalls from the smoothly worn stones and soaring up to the buttresses and the heavens to the Almighty like a silent, but mighty choir.

As a result of the Crusades in the Levant a pilgrimage to Jerusalem during the Middle Ages was an extremely dangerous undertaking so the Roman Catholic Church designated that seven European cathedrals, mainly in France, become “Jerusalem” for pilgrims.  Both the layout and architecture of Chartres and its labyrinth were made to fit the demands of sacred geometry which include representations for the length of time, essence and substance of creation, the wholeness of God represented through the Trinity and the cycle of a week representing the completeness of God’s creation. At the time of its construction people believed they were creating the most Divine thing on earth to the glory of God.

“God made the world in measure, number and weight: and ignorance of number prevents us from understanding things that are set down in Scripture in a figurative and mystical way.” ~ St. Augustine

So I find myself, quite without intention, here in Jerusalem. Consciously, I am not making a pilgrimage but experiencing. I follow no guidebook or map, what unfolds is (mostly) magical and sometimes mildly corrosive but with everything there is darkness and light – a delicate balance of all that our universe represents. Yesterday, against a post Sirocco-driven rain storm a perfect blue sky day filled with light and kindnesses in Jerusalem, and yes, three ‘darknesses’.

I did not (intellectually) know that the labyrinths I have walked previously 20160109_150835-2were created with the intention of mirroring Jerusalem until this morning. For those who have visited, busy with their guidebooks and itineraries, if you had started at New Gate and walked to the right passing through the Armenian Quarter, the Jewish Quarter, the Muslim Quarter, and the Christian Quarter eventually you will circuit the entire walled Old City. My total footsteps ultimately equaled 4.55 kilometers of ascents, stairs, flat walks and descents – a meditation on all things held holy and how (if we let it) the secular collides with (our) quietude.

My first ‘stop’ was at Couvent Armenien St. Jacques. Old stones speak a language all their own. Your touch joins 1300 years of the same, the oils found on our hands making the stone feel as soft as silk velvet. 20160109_132410-2.jpgKhatchkars (Armenian carved crosses) adorn the wall above your hand. Your head bows in supplication, a silent Our Father recited, a prayer for peace, protection and Divine intervention for our planet. The attendant returns and hands me a Host cradled in a white napkin, 9 January being the Saint’s Day of Polyeuctus, martyred in 259 AD. He tells me that I may take pictures, despite the sign indicating otherwise, he ushers me further into the complex to stand beneath 1300 year old stone arches, the orange, red and blue of the Armenian flag snaps in the wind against that crystalline blue sky. Rolls a poster documenting the Genocide and gifts it to me. As I take my leave he blesses me and then kisses me on both cheeks, outside the midday sun glints through ancient trees standing sentinel over the cemetery. I continue on my labyrinth walk. The next ‘sign’ (in both 20160109_134044senses) are old tiles pointing the way to the Western Wall but first I must pass Zion Gate and navigate the walkways around the Greek Orthodox Church, then the Jewish Quarter. The panoramic view of the Wall nestled at the base of one of Jerusalem’s natural amphitheatres, at this distance I take a 20 second video.

It would be apex of arrogance to visit the Western Wall and not be respectful of the sacredness of this place to Judaism, so before entering I pulled my shawl up over my hair (my clothing already very conservative). Despite having a Rabbi for an uncle and all of my 1st cousins being Jewish their religious practices never brushed up against my life; I  only understood the general rule of ‘no use of machinery or of working’ for the Shabbat. I had forgotten to write a prayer to place in the crevices of the Wall prior to coming, so before approaching via gender segregated ramp I found a flat surface, took out my fountain pen and tore a small piece of paper off of a folded sheet in my purse to write to God. It took no time at all for an Orthodox Jewish woman to yell at me for my violations, perhaps I could be forgiven actually writing to God and not being a Jew? I feigned ignorance of her English language. Mea culpa. Do I reconcile myself in the Divine presence of the Wall by walking backwards away?

The Muslim Quarter was a thrum of everyday life. The Muezzins voices ring out, at the fountain built by the order of Sultan Suleiman the 20160109_143948~2Magnificent a man does his ablutions, while a short distance away two men play backgammon. Spice and confectionary shops spill out into the streets filling the air with heady scents of Turkish delight, dried figs, pineapple, papaya and kiwi, mountains of rich Halvah.  I purchase a mixture of fruit tea and spices for making Bedouin and Moroccan rice, Jordan and regular almonds, the total takes my breath away – my second darkness. When I question it I know that I am being sucker-punched for being an American. It’s my own fault for not speaking Arabic (despite his English) or understanding the nuances of this culture related to negotiation because despite our lengthy conversation (and making his eyes fill with tears) I don’t feel like saying “put it all back” and haggling. The day has been too perfect, I bury my resentment; this is somehow the admittance price of being here so I give it over to God. I know that I have let this man feel he won a victory. Further along a spice pyramid crowned 20160109_171951~2by a crystal and gilt miniature Dome of the Rock, and then  God makes me an instrument of His will again. I duck into a small jewelry shop asking that two small silver links be added to my pearl bracelet so that the Roman glass charm can safely be held. I am poorer but wiser – when the price starts at 80 shekls I explain that I can wait until my Buddhist jeweler in the States can do this small thing for me for less than $5. Ultimately the work done for (the last) 25 shekls I possess. He needs to share his life story and in being kind I discover that his son nearby is (very) hungry but there is no money. A mere twenty minutes before I walked in he had told his son, God will answer. My purchase feeds the boy. An antique rose gold, handmade 19” chain is thrust upon me. No bill of sale, no expected date of payment or even a price. “When you can, pay me what you think it is worth.”

A text tells me that I need to get going to meet my friend for a ride back to her home, six hours have passed in the blink of my tear filled eyes.  I walk out of the Old City through the Damascus Gate, head up hill to the New Gate, too early by 45 minutes I sit on a park bench and am immediately accosted by a twenty-something man pan-handling. The only money that remains in my wallet are a handful of Croatian, American and Israeli coins – in total about $3 USD in value. He wants whatever I have and I find it’s easy to give up the coin than to stay exposed to his dark energy.

All day, “…yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace.” 1 Corinthians 15:10

If you enjoy my blog please consider sending me the “price of a cup of tea” in your currency via PayPal to livelikeadog@gmail.com and do share it with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

AllThatINeedbizcardartfront

A place in the clouds. Motovun.

a place in the clouds

View from the terrace of Villa Borgo, Motovun

A place in the clouds.

There is a lovely movie that I thought of when I wrote a tweet about the powerful emotions which Motovun has unleashed in me this week.

Where do I begin? The logistics that can be easily found anywhere? Images from the Internet? No matter what you expect by viewing thousands of these, none will do it justice. Until you see it, and more specifically experience Motovun, you will never “understand” and maybe some of you never will, and that is perfectly okay. I live without expectations, thus I am rarely disappointed. That expressed I am highly receptive to energies (both positive and negative) and from a purely 20150820_115622physical perspective ‘there is something VERY special here’. Something that has me vibrating at a higher frequency than perhaps I have ever felt anywhere before setting foot here six days ago. I can’t tell you what it is. Yet. But today, on the month anniversary of leaving the United States to participate in the Istrian Tourist Board’s #ShareIstria campaign with my business partner Ken Herron, I can tell you that the ache of leaving tomorrow morning for Buzet (a mere 22 kilometers away) might break my heart.

I am sitting here listening to Gibonni on YouTube as I type (what else could I be expected to be listening to?). A lovely breeze off the Adriatic an hour away to the west wafts through the open window of Villa Borgo kissing my skin. I have been working on this blog post mentally all week, and most of the day I have been ‘trying’ to capture what I have experienced here. It’s nearly impossible. When I set out two years ago on the path of discovery to find a REAL place to call home – not merely a place in which to accept mail and to reside – I thought it would be in Croatia someplace near the Adriatic, likely in Dalmatia. As much as I have swooned under the soaring heights of Scotland’s Munros and having skied on a great many hills across the United States and Canada I never imagined wanting to make my final permanent home at an elevation of more than 100 feet above sea level, least of all an hour away from falling from my bed to swim at dawn in salt water, but here I am.

20150818_145416-2Here in Motovun. Ancient stone streets. 441 metres of citadel walls and arches and its-never-been-conquered-by-an-invading-army-at-any-time-in-history. Five churches. Motovun perched above the Mirna River valley with its rich agricultural economy that produces 70% of all of the fresh produce in Istria surely is blessed by the heavens, here I fell into the rhythm of the place with the greatest of ease of any place, anywhere, I have ever visited or lived.

Of course gastronomes come for the truffles and the exquisitely prepared regional cuisine made of the freshest organic and slow food standards heartassociated with agroturizim here in Istria. I don’t think you can have a bad meal in Istria – anywhere. Though some meals which I have enjoyed both as part of the ShareIstria campaign and in the following three weeks have been beyond exquisite. Let it be understood that Istrian hospitality, while capable of offering tasting menus of perfectly prepared gourmet experiences you will still be stuffed at the end of any meal as though you were at your grandmother’s table and she thinks you look thin and pale. 😉 It’s said in Istria if you can still say the words “Ne mogu više “I can’t eat another bite” you still have room to eat more and another helping will be put on your plate. May I suggest you go to my Twitter account and search for #ShareIstria and #Motovun for a sampling of pictures of #foodporn which will surely prompt you to book a flight tomorrow.

I had a chance idea to (quite literally force) the inclusion of Klapa Motovun (they are new to Twitter please give them some love!) onto the ShareIstria campaign, I had no idea doing such would lead to my being Motovun’s guest for seven nights and foster a passionate desire to 20150820_211144~2become a Motovun citizen. The guys (of Klapa Motovun) having previously sung (at my request) Gibonni’s Lipa Moja in Vdonjan invited me to their rehearsal in Motovun’s iconic St. Stephan’s church, and surprised me in singing it again. This was basically a private concert in a sanctuary so perfect acoustically that the angels painted in frescoes on the soaring ceiling above surely were made real flesh and blood for four minutes. Such experiences cannot be purchased for any amount of money. These gifts alter the most essential aspect of who we are because they are given freely and from the heart; I have never felt so rich.

Yesterday I made the mayor of Motovun’s mother and sister both cry as I explained how I felt about their town. After speaking to Goran over a glass of his freshly squeezed grapefruit/orange/lemon 20150822_170717juice I followed a very elderly white haired lady as she methodically picked her way up the cobble-stoned hill that TripAdvisor reviewers have complained about doing – evidently she does this every day in her dress and cardigan and flat soled slippers. I found the most beautiful sewer grate on the planet, carved of stone, set into cobbles as I walked. Houses inhabited for four hundred (or more) years where nothing has really changed an ancient stone (or gorgeous antique metal) bench by the door can be found for ‘mental health purposes’. Despite the frenzy of activity and industry there’s 20150822_165006always enough time to talk, to be kind, to be a community of neighbours thoroughly welcoming of the astonishing scope of people from all over the world. All drawn inexplicably to this tiny town atop a 277 metre hill with the longest staircase in Istria – 1052 steps – which looks much as it did in the 12th and 13th centuries.

I finally, 10 hours after starting the writing of this blog post, did a search for “energy + Motovun” which got me this reference to something called “Dragon’s Furrows” and from there, suddenly, I had clarity about the sensation of feeling swamped with the energy of Motovun.

“an interesting study about “dragon’s furrows” in Istria. It’s about the directions of energy meridians and their converging points which are the sources of positive Earth energy. Energetic relations to the landscape, as Pogacnik stated, were known by the oldest civilizations, and their life, as well as buildings were organized due to the “dragon’s furrows” and their converging points. In this “Pogacnik system”, Motovun was the most powerful source of positive energy in Istria where three “dragon’s furrows” converge.”

The ‘how’ remains to be revealed but I believe I have come home to the place my soul has been seeking to return to my whole life (or lives).

If you enjoy my blog please consider ‘buying me a cup of tea’ in your currency via PayPal to livelikeadog@gmail.com and then, please do share the blog with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

AllThatINeedbizcardartfront

The only oil that goes with a Croatian bikini is olive!

German translation of the following here, and the Croatian translation found here, and now in Japanese here.

*** VICTORY! 22 January 2016 The new Croatian government announced a cessation of any further plans to drill for hydrocarbons in the Adriatic.

On the morning of 29 July it was announced that Marathon Oil had returned 7 of the 10 concessions for drilling for hydrocarbons in the Adriatic had been returned to the Croatian government.

In the interest of full disclosure, since writing this post in December 2014, and it subsequently going viral (nearly 125K reads in the original English version alone), I have been invited to join, and now serve the Clean Adriatic Sea Alliance as their Chief Strategy Officer.

Every link in the following post is VERY PURPOSEFULLY chosen toward education and action, I AM ASKING YOU MOST SINCERELY TO ACT on all three efforts embedded within this post (read on, don’t get caught up with the girl she’ll still be here when you finish)!

17 March 2015 UPDATE: http://www.croatia-split.com/blog/what-s-happening/adriatic-drilling-casa-replies-to-oil-agency-boss-barbara-doric.html

17 February 2015 UPDATE – the Croatian government is being sued for its illegal activities around drilling in the Adriatic. (I don’t agree with all that the HCSP stands for but…)

“This decision reacted by the Croatian Pure Party of Rights (HCSP).
Press Release signed by the President of HCSP, Josip Miljak in its entirety:
“A criminal decision of the Croatian government to announce an international tender for a fictitious oil and gas exploration in the Croatian economic zone is a crime which, if not prevented, Croatia could cost you dearly. If you sign contracts with foreign companies, a group of experts has already prepared two lawsuits, one Court for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg, ie. The UN Security Council and other State Attorney’s Office.”

If you care about the seas and oceans and clean water for all, renewable energy, the environment, cultural heritage, vacationing at the beach, water sports, sailing, boating, eating seafood, Croatia’s (or Italy’s) Adriatic and a quality of life based upon harmony with our planet in the face of greed and violation then this end-of-the-year post (originally written on 30 December 2014) is for you! No apologies, it’s a long one. I ask you to share it widely on all social media platforms. (Efforts are underway to translate it into multiple languages – hyperlinks will be offered in this paragraph as completed.)  Many thanks for an amazing year to all my readers. Sretana Nova godina, Happy New Year.

——————–

I think about consequences – all the time (including how many people I might piss off as a result of writing this, and how).  I am not (though perfectly capable to be) a corporate consultant of scenario planning. I see inter-dependencies in ways that most people rushing through their lives never consider. What stimulates me must be for a greater good, and my heart and head must find a perfect balance for me to say – YES!  A lot of things ignite my passions and expertise but for me to engage it always comes down to integrity and authenticity.  This post is about the Venn Diagram offered by the convergence of the Croatian economy, its environment and how the manipulation of European Union regulations could have a devastating and far reaching effect. This is about shortsightedness, immediate gratification for individuals and how their greed, if one thing goes horribly wrong, will destroy one of the greatest treasure troves of untouched historic, ecological and economic value in the world and the livelihoods of a people who have depended upon the Adriatic for tens of thousands of years.  This blog post is about finding a way, with all of your help (please, PLEASE SIGN THIS Change.org PETITION as well as THIS Avaaz petition and then SHARE BOTH with friends), to turn back and make things as the Croatian tourist board says, “The Mediterranean as it once was”, and keep it that way for all of us but make it better economically for Croatians.

The Travel Channel references Croatian Bikinis (a Croatian bikini, btw, way is nude) and cliff diving, and if only once everyone wants to enjoy the freedom of laying on perfect golden sand and swimming in the sea waters ranging in colour from cobalt to aquamarine naked – and Anthony Bourdain is talking about the food and how beautiful it is here, well, expect those numbers to grow. It would be an understatement to say that the impact of tourism is huge and should be amongst the greatest market segments to be cultivated in Croatia.  And yet, the right hand doesn’t seem to know what the left hand is doing here (not unique to Croatia) or they would have blocked this effort. Don’t Croatian ministers actually strategise in their cabinet meetings?

I am in Croatia because I am trying to determine if I can make this my permanent home. (Now back in the United States unhappily let me say I actually found a home in Croatia.) Save for the fact that I am here in the dead of winter, I was drawn here largely because of the Adriatic – just as some 11.5 million people who came in the summer of 2012. Put that into perspective, a narrow band of Dalmatia hosting nearly 4 times the population of the entire country within a three month (between June and August).

(Emphasis in the following is my own.)

The first page of Lonely Planet’s guide to Croatian music festivals reads:

Sonus Music Festival

http://www.sonus-festival.com/ Pag Island Croatia August 2015

“Croatia’s music festival scene is flourishing, with exciting new events popping up each summer. A lovely natural setting is pretty much guaranteed, with idyllic beaches, lakes, meadows and forest clearings hosting crowds of delighted festival-goers.”

Rough Guides best of the Croatian coast landing page reads:

When it comes to beaches in Croatia, the best advice is to head south: it’s on the Dalmatian coast where the most seductive sandy shores, pebbly coves and sun-fried rocks are to be found. Indeed all of the beaches that made our list are in Dalmatia, except for one (the bewitchingly sandy island of Susak in the Kvarner Gulf). A sizeable collection of swoon-inducing destinations has been left off this list, largely for simple reasons of accessibility: islands like Korčula, Vis and Šolta boast any number of heavenly bays […].”

Croatia has been named the #1 world travel destination on the rise according to Fodor’s. The value of tourism to Croatia’s economy (like so many things here) is subject to wide ranges of statistics – the EU says 15%, while locals estimate that it makes up as much as 40% of the entire Croatian annual budget.  Croatia’s Minister of Tourism,  Darko Lorencin, said that the first six months of 2014 totaled € 2.12 billion, which was 2.2% more than the same period last year.  Estimates put 69% of the Croatian economy coming from the services industries – things like renting sailboats, bar and restaurant trade (offering seafood from the beautifully clean waters) and yes, those taking care of all those sheets and towels. If you take words of The World Bank’s front page on Croatia’s economy as sacred, then:

DSCN9906

Drvenik Channel, the Croatian Adriatic, view from my balcony 30 December 2014 to where I have been swimming for the last two months.

Croatia remains an ecological treasure in Europe, with 47% of its land and 39% of its sea designated as specially protected areas and areas of conservation. Croatia boasts 19 National and Nature Parks, with some- such as the Plitvice Lakes National Park – designated as United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage sites. Croatia’s natural beauty draws in millions of tourists each year, with tourism revenues representing around 15% of the country’s GDP. Preservation of the environment is high on the development agenda and has been a requirement for European Union membership.”

BP over Adriatic

This map, provided by Richard West, shows the scope of the BP Gulf Oil Spill, aka Deepwater Horizon spill, as overlaid against the Adriatic; it wouldn’t ‘just be’ Croatia impacted but also Italy, Slovenia, Montenegro and Albania.

So, after two months of swimming in these pristine waters the fight for keeping the Adriatic clean is now VERY PERSONAL to me! WTF!? Why, oh WHY!?, would anyone think that drilling for gas and oil in these waters is a good idea? Even if there isn’t an environmental catastrophe on the scale of the (British Petroleum) Gulf Oil Spill (I wish someone would overlay the map at left against a similar one showing the whole of the Adriatic to see what might happen) from one of the ten platforms currently licensed to operate in Croatian waters, the impact on the developing film industry (Game of Thrones et al), tourism, fishing – Eurostat figures for 2013 put the export value € 115.2 million, archaeology (at the bottom of the sea) and culture, and yes, the preservation of these rare dolphins, let alone the livelihood of more than 50% of the Croatian population from even the smallest accident could be catastrophic. To which point I was just (8 Feb) introduced to the technical expertise and wisdom of Croatia’s internationally, and highly, educated Nenad Duplančić.  If you are Croat read this from Dignitea Hvar in your language, if you are from any place else I BEG YOU to use a translation tool to grasp the importance of his commentary on the proposed drilling in the Adriatic.  For the rest of you new drilling platforms have been banned in the United States since 1969 so you start to understand why (to maintain corporate earnings and salaries) multinational oil companies are looking at impoverished countries to exploit and destroy (unemployment here in Croatia is above 23%).

Barbara Doric

Barbara Dorić – perhaps someone should be checking her bank accounts?

As I see it the Ministers of the Croatian government who should be fighting this with every fiber of their collective being include: Ministry of Culture, Ministarstvo culture, Mrs. Andrea Zlatar, Ministry of Economy, Ministarstvo gospodarstva, Mr. Ivan Vrdoljak, (who SHOULD BE looking at wave, wind and solar technologies and ditching petrochemical energy altogether because as Duplančić points out this industry is near it’s logical end), Ministry of Environmental and Nature Protection, Ministarstvo zaštite okoliša i prirode, Mr. Mihael Zmajlović, Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure, Ministarstvo pomorstva, prometa i infrastrukture , MPPI RH, Mr. Siniša Hajdaš Dončić, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministarstvo poljoprivrede, Mr. Tihomir Jakovina and, of course, the Ministry of Tourism, Ministarstvo turizma or MINT, Mr. Darko Lorencin. So ask yourselves why a company blocked from exploration on the Italian side of the Adriatic should be given reign to do so by the head of the Croatian Hydrocarbon Agency, Barbara Doric? (Who, quite frankly, should be stripped of her citizenship and exiled to a very dirty beach for her role in promoting this debacle.)  Croatians are hardly indifferent to the beauty and life provided by their location – when so often you hear them express “who could buy this?” with a broad sweep of their arms across the vista offered by their Rivas and the Adriatic. Could it be that the Italians actually understand all that is at stake better than the Croatians?  

Saudi Arabia is manipulating the oil markets to keep the price of crude artificially low to discourage the further development and expansion of renewable energy, and with croatia nudethe established dangers of hydraulic fracturing to obtain natural gas it should be clear to everyone that petrochemicals are the very last thing that should be anywhere near a Croatian bikini.

This isn’t my country, yet I am supremely indignant about this and I hope all of you reading this are too.  Haven’t we seen enough destruction and war over the greed and insatiable consumption that comes with oil and gas? Climate change scientists indicate that a rise of sea levels will wipe out coastal communities around the world, hello? has anyone looked to see how much of Croatia’s population lives at very nearly sea level? In Europe climate change is expected to magnify regional differences in natural resources and assets. Negative impacts will include increased risk of inland flash floods and more frequent coastal flooding and increased erosion (due to storminess and sea level rise) and is projected to worsen conditions (high temperatures and drought) in a region already vulnerable to climate variability, and to reduce water availability, hydro-power potential, summer tourism and, in general, crop productivity.

oil croatia

Photo source: Croatia Week online magazine

It needs to stop – now. 16 February is the deadline for open comments to the Croatian government, the form required for submission is found here.  It has painstakingly been translated into English to the right of the original Croatian so, REGARDLESS OF WHERE YOU LIVE, non Croatians who care about our seas can also submit comment. Please do! As you can imagine this fight is going to get expensive from a legal perspective, please “help with the heavy lifting” by making a contribution to the Clean Adriatic Sea Alliance.

Croatians have a real chance to set a world standard for clean energy working in tandem with the rest of their economy but it takes all kinds of people, everywhere, to put their ‘big boy and big girl pants on’ and say NOT HERE, NOT NOW, NOT EVER, and cap those wells and dismantle those ten platforms.  Join me?

If you enjoy my blog please consider ‘buying me a cup of tea’ in your currency via PayPal to livelikeadog@gmail.com and then, please do share the blog with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

AllThatINeedbizcardartfront