Saturday, 18 May 2024
Lost in Translation: A Journey to Stolac and Self-Discovery Mark Thomas

Lost in Translation: A Journey to Stolac and Self-Discovery

Written by  Mar 24, 2024

“What Stolac? Why would you what to go there?” said my wife to me. To be fair I didn’t really know where I was going. I knew nothing about Stolac. And more to the point I wasn’t actually near the town.

So let’s rewind a little.

I was offered a job of translating a rather long book for a very important Croatian institution that were celebrating their 150th anniversary. When I say long that is somewhat of an understatement. Over the years I have done a tonne of translating, from Croatian ministries, to famous authors and restaurant menus. “It’s around 150 pages long, and in places rather specialised,” said one of the publishers.

To say it wasn’t my field of knowledge would be another massive understatement.

I started, and then stopped, well rather I gave up. It became clear to me very quickly that to do this job I was going to need a controlled environment, or rather an environment that I controlled.

“I think I am going to have to go away to the mountains for a few days in complete peace and tranquillity to be able to do this,” I said to my wife. Mountains had sprung into my head because this was a book for the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service. A view of some mountains might give me inspiration.

Now it proved surprisingly difficult to find anything that really suited my needs in Croatia. But an hour and a half away across the border I stumbled on a what looked like a gem. I booked it for four days and a few days later I packed and left.

I had my GPS set for Stolac because this place didn’t have a village name or a number, yes it was a "no number" house.

“You can’t miss it from the road,” I remember my host had said. I drove up another hill, my eyes peeled for any sign of life, and then in the distance I saw a group of trees and what looked like a stone block. “That must be where I am staying,” I said to myself as I drove up a short gravel road.

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Photo - Mark Thomas 


Now try and imagine an ice-berg in the middle of the ocean, and you have some idea on my accommodation.

I walked around the home and nothing, there were no neighbours, no sign of life (apart from a flock of sheep in the distance), nobody and nothing apart from the road I had driven on. Out of sheer curiosity I quickly got my drone up in the sky.

“Well, this is perfect,” I said seeing green hills and fields for as far as the eye (and my drone) could see.

I got settled in, I even brought my own computer chair from home to make sure I had the best conditions to work with. And the next day I got to work.

I don’t think that I have ever been so productive in my life. My flingers flashed over the keyboard, I was laser focused on the first chapter, and (apart from a short lunch break) I completed over 40 pages in day one.

As darkness fell I went out for some fresh air. “F*** me! This is full-on scary,” I whispered.

My nice view of the green mountains had been replaced by black with a capital B. If you want a solitary life in nature be prepared for the night. I don’t think I could see more than 15 metres. Note to self – before booking such a place don’t watch The Shining the evening before.

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Photo - Mark Thomas 


I then looked up. One bonus of having zero light pollution is the night sky. Never have I seen the Milky Way so bright and in such detail. I ran for my camera. Set it up on a tripod and then heard the blood-chilling echo of a wolf cry. It sounded like a lone wolf. And it didn’t sound so far away. I half imagined seeing a pair of eyes though the darkness. Needless to say my camera and tripod spent a night outside as I ran for the sanctuary of my stone house.

Day two was equalling as productive and apart from a power cut which thankfully didn’t last into the evening meant another chapter was almost done.

When you cut away all the outside noise of everyday life it is so much easier to work. Now I understand my Hemmingway went to Cuba.

Day three and I had finished another 40 pages and the second of three chapters. That was my plan before I went and I was ahead of schedule. All this time my mobile phone was switched off (what a joy) and I would speak to my wife via WhatsApp before bed.

I was in a black hole (literally at night) and to tell you the truth loving it. My reasons for going were for work, but somehow I managed to combine that with a refresh, a stocktake, from everyday life. We all need that at some point, not as a luxury but as a necessity.

Read more Englishman in Dubrovnik…well, if you really want to


About the author
Mark Thomas (aka Englez u Dubrovniku) is the editor of The Dubrovnik Times. He was born and educated in the UK and moved to live in Dubrovnik in 1998. He works across a whole range of media, from a daily radio show to TV and in print. Thomas is fluent in Croatian and this column is available in Croatia on the website – Dubrovnik Vjesnik


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