Early and Silent in the Water


The swimming pool at the Hotel Kastel at the very top of the hill in Motovun, Croatia is glassed-in and bright in the morning with the green of the garden just beyond the windows. Pieces of the original medieval stone have been used in the construction and you will see them—a stone beam here or there, the outline of an old window—as you float from one end to the other, disrupting the surface at the same sleepy pace as the stone water spigots, which pour into the far end.

I fall in love with it instantly, literally at first glance, standing there in jeans and sneakers as we are given a tour of the hotel’s basic but inviting wellness facilities. I think, I must swim in that pool.

And I do. I wake up early the next morning when I don’t need to. And even as my eyes open to watery sunshine, to the view across Istria’s rolling hills, I know exactly how I want the day to be. I want to think about and do nothing difficult. It’s my last morning in Istria. All I want is to float.

I take the glass elevator downstairs wearing a cotton dress and leggings, the comfort food of my wardrobe, and hope that being an early bird will payoff. It does. In the off-season, in spring, at that hour of the morning, I enter the pool and I am blissfully alone. The spigots haven’t even been turned on, so the surface is an unbroken blue sheet and the room is silent, the air still and softly humid. I think to ask the spa technician if it’s OK to swim, but I can’t find her, not that I try very hard. A white board on one wall lists the water temperature and pH and I consider this an official invitation.

I change, dropping my stuff in a locker. I break that perfect surface. I am empty-headed, toes above the surface, doing easy laps. This is more or less my favorite thing to do on earth.

The jacuzzi seems like a great idea until I slide into the curve of blue tile at one end of the pool and press the button and my calm surface erupts into spurts of foam and bubbles and the silence dies, chased away by the hum of the hum of the motor. I want it to stop immediately, annoyed with myself. I swim away from it as though it were a bratty kid splashing and screaming in the shallow end, hoping that it will stop. After what seems like an eternity of gurgling and humming, it does, and my peace comes back. The laps continue. I am suitably solitary, prune-y at the fingertips, on vacation.

Travel provided by the tourism board of Istria, Croatia.

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