I wonder what patterns visitors to Canada see as they travel around the country. What are the themes they observe that are common to their Canadian experience? Who are we as a people? How do we provide a temporary home for those from other places?
I have been ruminating about these questions as we have traveled along the Dalmatian coast stopping at towns and villages and visiting the many islands that dot the shoreline. We’ve been here a couple of weeks and are beginning to notice distinct patterns in our experience of the people and places we’re visiting.
The old towns are architecturally similar, their whitewashed stone buildings in classical style topped with red tile roofs and jumbled together around a harbor in a series of narrow cobblestoned streets always including steps up the hillsides. There is inevitably a fortress, a cathedral, a town hall, a bell or clock tower, centered around a main square or two. There are flowers everywhere.
The countryside we have explored has a similar rhythm. Croatia is mountainous, covered with low-growing greenery, including huge rosemary bushes, with grey rocks protruding everywhere. Where there is agriculture, the rocks have been piled in long sinuous walls, rock mounds, roadside barricades, and used for small huts and farm buildings. Vineyards and olive groves are common. We have been especially impressed with the road system, new and well maintained, and particularly the many long tunnels, some as much as 4 or 5 kilometers in length, that cut through the hilly landscape.
The people are invariably friendly, speak good English, are consistently helpful with information and support. We met two women traveling from the UK who couldn’t find their hotel. When they asked a local man, he promptly asked his son to drive ahead of their car to lead them to their destination. There are many of these stories as we make our way up the coast and talk to people. At our last hotel, the family who owned it gave us a bottle of their homegrown wine as we left because we had enjoyed it over dinner. At the place before, they had treated us to grappa when we arrived home from our evening.
We have been made to feel very much at home here. I wonder if we create the same kind of experience for our tourists. I for one intend to be more generous in my interactions with the many tourists in my city so they feel as much at home as possible.