How often do we neglect the beauty right on our very doorstep? We marvel at foreign destinations and dream of visiting far flung exotic countries when within easy reach are places that have indescribable beauty. Yes, I have just spent a long, long weekend on my absolute favourite destination in the whole of Croatia by far – Mljet.
Even though the Mljet National Park once ran an advert stating that a photo tells a thousand words I am pretty confident that I could fill my columns until the end of this year marvelling at the magnificence of the island. God was having a very good day when he created this island. I have been to countless countries, visited hosts of national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty but not one of them comes even close to Mljet. It’s like nature with the volume turned up to maximum, ear-shattering splendour.
And at this time of the year it has the added advantage of being empty, I mean literally empty!
The first day we walked all the way around the Large Lake. By the way whoever had the job of naming the lakes on Mljet was obviously not Shakespeare. It is around 12 kilometres around the lake and guess how many people we met along the way, zero. The next day we walked the Small Lake, and again we had all this nature to ourselves. As much as I was happy to be able to enjoy the birds singing, the fish jumping and the rustle of pine trees in the wind I was also a little depressed that nobody else could see and experience what I was seeing.
How this glorious national park can’t attract walking and hiking tourists in the winter is beyond me. Sadly, it doesn’t surprise me, it just continues to annoy me. But let’s not focus on our own stupidity or laziness. No, I want to concentrate on a huge plus point.
We were lucky to be staying with one traditional Mljet family. This was a perfect picture of humans and nature in harmony. Over the last decade the buzz words have been “eco-friendly” and “green living.” Politicians, governments and institutions have been spending billions on finding a way to save our planet. A planet that the human race has been raping and exploiting for our own gains for centuries. Laws and regulations have been passed. New rules on recycling, in fact new education of our future generations so that they will not make the same mistakes that we have continuously made. But here on a tiny island in the middle of the Adriatic I was experiencing at first hand the future by looking back at the past. We have so much to learn from our past.
The first time we all sat down for lunch, and it was a big family lunch, everything on the table had been produced within a stone’s throw of that very table. We ate and drank like kings and everything was organically and locally produced. Wine, eggs, olive oil, salad, meat, vegetables and fruit all “Made in Mljet.” Every day we ate salad picked directly from the garden in front of the house, we drank wine and rakija from vineyards behind the house and sprinkled olive oil from trees we could see through the window.
And nothing, and I mean nothing is wasted. Glass bottles have no need to be thrown into a recycle bin when they are used countless times to be refilled with wine and oil. Plastic bottles are reused to hold young wines and water. For this is the true meaning of recycling. The micro climate is respected and crops are planted to suit the needs of the weather and the surrounding nature. Living with nature is the key. Nature is far more developed and quite honestly wiser than humans. And on Mljet is was taken back to a time when we lived together as one. Modern technology has made us dumber. Smart phones and smart cars and smart houses have made us all dumb. Nature will always be smarter than us and its time we realised it.
“Take a quiet walk with Mother Nature. It will nurture your mind, body and soul,” once wrote Anthony Douglas Williams. Thank you Mljet for nurturing me.