Feb 062012
 

About fifteen miles northwest of Dubrovnik is the island of Mljet where part of Dancing with Spies is set. Mljet is claimed to be the ancient island of Melita where St Paul was shipwrecked on his way to Rome to spread the Christian religion to the place which is now its centre. The tradition is that, while sheltering here from a storm, he was bitten by a viper. It is also believed that Odysseus encountered the nymph Callisto here on his travels.

Mljet is claimed to be one of the most beautiful islands in the Mediterranean – in a sea full of beautiful islands. It is a thickly forested island with three saltwater lakes at the northern end which were created when a huge limestone cavern collapsed. The sea has broken through a narrow tidal waterway and flooded the hollows created.

These lakes are surrounded by steep wooded hills which were originally the walls of the cavern. In the larger lake is an islet on which was built a Benedictine monastery, now converted into a hotel. It is here where the love scene and part of the action leading to the climax of Dancing with Spies takes place. It is hard to imagine a more delightful location.

Behind the hotel is a hill covered in small trees and scrub. A path circles the islet climbing to a high spot the other side of the hill. In this location there is a viewpoint on top of a small building which once served as an ossuary where the remains of the monks were secreted (burial was not practical in the rocky soil). It was here that Ralph hid until he was rescued by Caroline.

Mljet’s ancient history claims Odysseus encountered the Nymph Calypso here and St Paul is supposed to have visited the island (then called Melita) and rid the place of venomous creatures.

For modern travellers the romance and secret peace of the island is all that one can ask for.