[RENAISSANCE GARDEN VOL 3]
Whoever has at least once heard the invisible weaving of a spider’s net, spinning under the oaks all night, one has touched with his heart the delicate weaving of fairy tales and the doors of the imagination are open to him.
Above the source of the Dubrovnik River, there is a limestone Fairy cave, through which the course of this wide abyss once passed. In time, the spring water found new paths for itself and emerged under the massif of the hill in a green-blue gap in which the limestone rocks are reflected like in a mirror. Once upon a time, the river cut its bed and lowered the spring so that the water could only be seen from the gap under the vertical of the Pigeon Stone. It comes from afar, it is formed by large and small springs from Popovo field. This field is wide and spacious, full of grain and corn during the summer, and in winter, if it did not vent in the gaps, the water would cover the villages along the edges and dry up the Dubrovnik Ombla River.
The river has been flowing for a long time, and the force of the water multiplies by hectoliters down the cave, through porous karst passages. At the Palatin area, the golden-green one comes out in the waterfall, and when it rains, the water turns yellow and the riverbed becomes cloudy.
For thousands of years, the entrance of the Fairy Cave was closed with limestone and placed like a gatekeeper, so that a new spring could break through from the foot of the hill, from where it still flows today.
In the Fairy cave, which swallows in the dark, you can hear the soft sound of drops and feel the smoothness of the cave siga under your hands. The signposts of the corridor branch through the halls, timelessness frightens with the horror of hidden abysses, and mountains of stalagmites grow from the interior, while stalactites hang like chandeliers. Prehistoric man lived in these caves and left behind pottery and stone tools, and descended from the eagle’s heights after clearing an oak forest, flooding the muddy steps of the water and turning them into fertile lands from the top of Šumet to the edge of Tenturia.
Several caves are visible on the opposite side, above the small villages of Drginja and Čajkovići, , the openings of which look like a large reddish door, resembling a folded fan.
It is said that fairies once lived in these caves above the springs. They were beautiful creatures, long-haired and slender, and the waterfall of their hair shone in the morning sun, as they sat on the viewpoints of the tall boulders of limestone. They say that the cave pearls were also created by a whirlwind of drops when the hill shook with the bura wind. This strong wind blew through the corridors and it seems as if the fairies spilled their decorations there, so that one day they could return again and open the River shaft.
The fairies even had wings, which looked like membranes woven from the finest net of butterfly thin threads. They flew silently on them during the spring nights when the shepherds returned with their flocks from the green Dubrava.
When young men measured the gaze of the country girls, they were always imagining fairies. Many of them wanted those wonderful creatures to appear at dawn or early dusk. With that wish, some of them remained hidden at night, above the groves that hide the cave entrances.
One night during a full moon, two young men who were persistent in their intention to be touched, at least for a moment, by the magical fairy creature, waited a long time hidden in an ambush. They had a stalk of basil in their hands, to protect themselves from spells. It happened that on such moonlit nights, a blue light appeared in front of the entrances to the caves, which only went out at dawn. At some point in the night, a girl’s giggle was heard and in front of them in the forest, a fairy wheel appeared, dancing in transparent veils, making a magical circle until morning. The young men lay secretly so as not to drive the slender long-haired dancers into the laurel shadow with an unexpected movement. Not long after, the noise of fishermen who were going home was heard from the River, and the fairies suddenly disappeared without a trace.
On the last night they met, he led her down the unknown forest paths, away from the caves, hoping to prevent her from entering the cave where she hid during the day. When the laurel with purple-red berries rose above the pine tree that autumn morning, everything in the forest seemed to grow out of the invisible. Before his eyes, in the first rays of the sun, the fairy vanished like a gentle strip of fog. The forest was bathed in glitter, everything was falling apart. The door of the fairy cave closed, desolation reigned in his soul, and the dewy grass creaked under his feet. This grass is still today called fairy hair.
As far as is known, such a beauty as a forest fairy has never set foot on the terraces or in the salons of Dubrovnik renaissance stone summer villas. The fairy is elusive, mystical creature who subjects only to her own laws. And that is why the nobles of Dubrovnik could not resist fantasizing about this unattainable free being.
One summer afternoon, when everyone was looking for shade in the garden, a boat sailed to Skala-Sorkočević’s summer villa in Komolac. A young landowner from Dubrovnik came out of it, and so as not to disturb the host who was in a serious conversation with one of his friends, he went for a walk to the small village of Ogarići. This old village was sheltered by the shade of tall oaks at the back of the houses, and it also touched the garden of Gundulić’s old building on its right side.
Who knows why that day Mr. Maro decided to go down an unknown country path, when he could rest in the shade of the vines. Maybe he was just looking for solitude, because the little village houses were sleeping behind closed shutters and no one was around. He knew that the old noble ladies had said that forest fairies were hiding in the woods around the village of Ogarići and in the fairy caves near Laranja. He was not surprised, therefore, to see a young girl with untangled hair under a shady laurel. There was something about her posture that resembled Boticelli’s Venus.
That summer, he was seen going to Ogarići several times a day. He joked with his company that there are fairies appearing during the day, for those who know how to keep secrets, and that their stories are much more interesting than the verses.
It’s been two summers. One evening, they found him above the nearby village of Drginja, where shepherds were grazing herds in the early evening. The gentleman should have been warned not to go for a walk further because the Bartolovica cave was nearby, and its entrance was hidden in the gap between the two stones. As he was in the good mood, he skillfully asked about the girls he saw on the pasture when he walked there… Unaware of anything, the shepherds revealed to him that it was not even a month ago, when the most beautiful of the girls, Điva, married in the nearby village Knežica. They couldn’t know what kind of a love story had been going on under the oak trees for two summers. Only she, careful and timid as a forest fairy, knew of the place in the green grove where she would meet with her beloved every night.
Since then, his foot has not stepped into Dubrovnik River area. This story was told for a long time in Knežica, because the houses in the neglected small village of Ogarići have long been overgrown with tall trees. Perhaps the imagination added something to this story in which, due to an unhappy love for a peasant girl, a young Dubrovnik nobleman retired to the solitude of a Benedictine monastery. He was well acquainted with strict laws that did not approve of ties between commoners and nobles.
When “fairies managed” someone, it may not always have been about imagination and dreams. Fairies were considered skilled herbalists, capable of reviving people from even the most serious diseases. They prepared healing balms, and they knew how to heal with miraculous water. They sometimes even taught their miraculous art to certain women. These mediators of the fairy art and knowledge were called elves, and the people worshiped them and asked for their help in troubles. And not just the love ones.
Do you believe in fairies and their miraculous art? It is time to invoke them with the magic of music…
Photo: Katarina Karakaš Spiroski, RIM
Text: Ivana Jelača
Video: Unique Films
Music in the video:
F. Lhotka: Serenade
The RIM chamber ensemble, 2017
Gović, Tereza, A walk through the old Dubrovnik Gardens, Dubrovnik, 1989.
___________, Dubrovnik landscapes, Dubrovnik, 1995.
___________, Stories and legends of the Dubrovnik River, Dubrovnik, 1990.
___________, The Homeland stories, Dubrovnik, 1998.
Stojan, Slavica, Daughters and lovers, Zagreb-Dubrovnik, 2003.