A lady and her figs caught our photographer's eye.

Croatia is a multi-faceted country with mountains, oceans, islands, villages and cities. It became an independent country in 1991, although it has fought its share of battles since then too, including the Bosnia war through 1995 that has been called the bloodiest war in Europe since World War II.

The Dalmatian Coast is a draw for many and, yes, it is in fact the origin of those spotted dogs. But we came for the back roads and villages on our bikes as a part of a small group bike tour along the coast and its islands.

The subject: We started out the day prior to this at Krka National Park, enjoying the stunning waterfalls and just a short ride, before heading out the next day for a 50-kilometer ride (31 miles). We headed out toward Sibenik toward the west of the park and slightly south. We looked forward to the medieval core of this town known for its Renaissance architecture. But first came the winding back roads taking us through farmlands with fig trees and vineyards and towns, like Cista Mala and Gacelezi, filled with traditional stone homes.

The inspiration: I grew up in California’s San Joaquin Valley with its Mediterranean climate. So the fruit grown in Croatia and the farmlands reminded me of my childhood. When I happened across this woman dressed in traditional garb sitting quietly at the side of the road beside her tray of drying figs, I had to stop. She also reminded me of my Armenian grandmothers. And of course she (and them) used the traditional wooden trays to dry everything. No, I didn’t speak much in Croatian other than a few polite words, and she didn’t speak a lick of English. (And this was before the day of ubiquitous translation apps!) But that didn’t keep her from proudly showing off her figs and offering me a couple to munch on. Our international relations consisted of smiles … and figs.

Artist’s tools: Although I studied photography in college as a part of my journalism major and my camera was my constant companion for a number of years, I had slipped away from schlepping a big camera. This was my point-and-shoot era prior to the smartphone and getting another (D)SLR. I was using an Olympus Stylus with a basic setting and this automatically put me at an f/9 and a shutter speed of 1/200th with a very low ISO. Shooting against stone buildings in the mid-day sun is not exactly ideal, but I couldn’t tell her to move as she showed me her figs so I got what I got. I did only a few simple post-processing touches to bring down the brightness a bit. This was taken in September 2008.

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Therese Iknoian

Writer | Photographer at HI Travel Tales
Little did her parents know that a short trip to Europe in high school would launch a lifetime love of travel, languages and cultures. Trained as a news journalist, Therese Iknoian spent a decade as a daily newspaper journalist before launching a freelance writing career specializing in outdoor, fitness and training. All the while trotting the globe, her focus finally turned to travel. Fluent in German, Therese runs a translation business (www.ThereseTranslates.com) working primarily with companies in the outdoor/sports/retail industry. Also a French speaker, she loves to learn a bit of the language wherever she goes -- gdje je kupaonica? Мне нужна помощь! -- often embarrassing herself in the quest for cross-cultural communication and the search for great travel discoveries.
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