In our last segment, we were just leaving Barcelona for Greece–home to more cats than I imagined could ever survive in the urban wilds!
They were everywhere–in the ruins of the Roman Agora, on the Acropolis, at bus stops, and by the hordes at every restaurant we went to. The Greeks seem to have an accepting attitude about them, neither condemning them nor particularly nurturing them (a lot of people do feed them), but just considering them part of the environment. I have written about the street cats before, saying that I did feel a bit uncomfortable about the sheer numbers of them and so many of that seemed malnourished and uncared for.
But there are also people who do care for them, and many Greeks have pampered indoor cats, too.
For a country now so overrun with cats, I found it interesting that so little ancient art included any feline imagery at all. There is, of course, the famous Lion’s Gate at Mycenae, and some lions in some friezes and 8th-century and Byzantine objects, but no cats of the domestic sort that I could find. Were there no house cats in ancient Greece? There must have been, given that Egypt had so many.
Croatia was filled with felines, too, and our stay in Mlini on the Dubrovnik Riviera included resident house cats as well as those on the street. And I couldn’t help but be amused that at the rather intimidating border crossing into Montenegro (we were forced to turn around and go back for auto rental papers), the stern border guard’s demeanor was somewhat softened by the appearance of the officer’s champion mouser. That’s her, the white one with orange and black spots, below basking in the sun as we turned our car around.
In Montenegro we found in its lovely bayside walled city of Kotor Venetian-inspired architecture and sculpture as well as the Venetian-inspired Cats’ Museum about which I have already written (see my entry for April 13). And so many cat-themed objets for sale in its tony, upscale shops!
Other artistic objects in Croatia were a little thin on feline themes, except for all those lions in churches in Split and elsewhere. But I loved this frock in a Rijeka shop window!
From Zadar, we travelled on up the Croatian cost to that most multicultural town, Trieste. The town was one of our favorite places, as you can tell by my previous blog entry (see May 2). Some local cats, some street animals, but only a few feline-themed art pieces.
Right to the south of Trieste is the old Venetian outpost of Muggia, and as a Venetian product, the Lion of Saint Mark figures in much of the town’s symbolic imagery. When depicted with closed book and sword, as seen on the side of the Muggia Town Hall, it was a sign of war, a warning to aspiring conquerors that Venice would come to its rescue if attacked. Other lions in town are more welcoming, with open book and no sword.
Our weeks in Ljubljana, back in Vienna, and then in Germany were lovely, but yielded little in the way of cat imagery. (Except for this one bit of hilarious graffiti in Ljubljana’s Tivoli Gardens–which seems appropriate for our experience of that young and breezy town)
But I will end this account with our Toronto friends, all of whom have cats of various shapes and sizes. Welcome back to North America!
I just had to figure out a way to organize all these images of cats! I suppose I could write more ancillary text focussing on some cultural aspect related to the place and the context in which I encountered each of these animals and/or objects, but for now I’ll just hope that some of you will enjoy looking at all of them!