When in Rome, do like the Romans?


The Dalmatian Coast of the former Yugoslavia bakes in the sun

"When in Rome, do like the Romans." Just what does this age old adage really mean? It has comforted travellers for centuries, who are at a loss how to dress, act, or well..ya know! when they are in a strange countries. In my case, heck...just what should I wear in rural Pakistan? I mean, i don't look good in a Shalwar Quameez and besides it would get caught in my spokes! So when in Rome? And this begs another question. Just what did the Romans do? Oh, sure they conquered the known world, and built roads and spoke latin and coined money and all that. But I mean, what did the Romans do in their spare time? If you are fortunate enough to cycle down the coast road from Slovenia to Albania, your question will be partly answered.

The Romans then, as the Italians now, always sought refuge from the sweltering summer heat of the central and southern peninsula. The cooler valleys of the alps, near Lago Lugano, and interior switzerland near Interlaken, were well known to them. But why go overland when, across the small and usually placid Aegean was a sun drenched, cool and much less humid coast? Diocletian saw it and moved his court here, to Split.
The beauty of this region comes from two sources. First, the limited circulation of the Aegean gives it a higher salt content and a deep, resonant blue that is just remarkeable. If you happen to know a chemist have them show you a solution of copper sulfate. That is the clarity and hue of these waters. Near the shallows where the water is reflected from the bottom, the blue fades thru every shade of green over to yellow itself.

Yet the hills are whitish limestone dolomite, blinding white in the bright sun which seems to bleach and scour them. Because the Aegean is so small, the ocean is smooth, almost like a lake; yet its blue stretches beyond the distance till it becomes one with the horizon. There are numerous peninsulas and offshore islands to provide variety to the coastline, and many are desnely forested and sparsely populated.

Roads here are in good condition unless you abandon the coast and head for the hills. Then they are narrow and steep, and sometimes sandy. Most stretches of the coast have campgrounds, often near the larger cities for the nature loving Slovenes and Croatians. Wild camping also is no problem. Ferries serve the chains of Islands and also make frequent crossings of the Aegean to Italy. Ferries to and from Greece were suspended at the time I was there, due to Albanian political instability and NATO war activities. 1