Week 5 – Stone the Flamin’ Croats

by H D Thompson

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The 10.5 hour bus trip to Croatia left 45 minutes late and arrived 30 minutes early. I love the Balkans.

On the incredible, historic wall that encases Dubrovnik’s Old Town, foot traffic is flowed in a single-file-one-way situation, to ease congestion. It’s a great system, unless you’re walking up stairs behind an elderly man who casually lets rip a chainsaw from his arsehole and your head is at trajectory level and you can’t escape because it is one way and single file and you can almost see the gas cloud encompassing your head and all you want to do is jump off the side into the Adriatic but you can’t because you can’t stop moving because it’s one-way-single-file and people have things to do places to see selfies to take so you let the old man’s fart cloud wash over you with the same resigned acceptance you felt when you heard that they were remaking Hocus Pocus without the original cast and you blink and continue on. Single file, one way.

At the top of Mount Drdj, I overheard a couple of young Aussies talking about how slow the chairlift was going. One of them insisted that if he had control of the lift he could definitely fang it down the mountain. I believe him, and wish him well on his quest to do so.

In the Maritime Museum a woman yelled at a worker for unsafe practices because her child was pulling the lid off the plastic display case that was holding very valuable artefacts and she claimed that it was sharp and kids could get hurt. This came about five minutes after the mother was told to remove her very same child off of the old cannon that he was mounting. The worker that got yelled at took it very well, sitting in her chair and blinking the interaction away. Probably because she knew that natural selection would take care of the child soon enough and the customer complaint would be invalid.

In Dubrovnik on the beautiful main street, a young woman, as many do, beckoned for us to take a brochure or information about whatever tour she was working for. We declined and walked on, as we always did. Many hours later we walked past her again, and she began her spiel, then remembered us, apologised in shame and turned away. I felt bad that she worked such long hours at something so thankless, but I did appreciate being remembered.

In a supermarket as she was about to purchase her baked good and chocolate bar, Rachel managed to set off alarms and bells as she was approaching the counter. Turns out she had “won” for being the 15th customer of the day and she was going to get 20% off her purchases. Every 15 customers that goes on. What fun that must be to work with every day.

The back seat on our bus to Korčula was occupied by two very dusty young men who were so comfortable with each other they were basically scissoring as they slept away their hangovers. One was so out of it the other drew on his exposed flesh with a marker and giggled to himself for his wiley ways. As I was taking a note about them he noticed my notebook, took out his own and high-fived me. I adored them.

In our room in Korčula the following could be found:

  • Busts of Tutankhamen and Cleopatra that looked like treasure but were in fact once filled with liquor
  • Two complete sets of Encyclopaedia
  • A cake stand with no cake upon it (is there anything sadder?)
  • A porcelain figuring of Mary Antoinette and Louis XVI (not once filled with liquor)
  • A painting of Leda getting fucked by the swan
  • A 102 inch plasma screen TV

We had a drink on top of a tower that you had to ascend a ladder through a trap door to get to. There were more people than seats, and the drinks would arrive via a dumb waiter that scaled the outside of the tower from below. When it was full, the one waitress up there would shut the trap door and if anyone tried to get in she would close it back up in their face and say “bye-bye”.

We hiked two hours to a secluded beach called Orlandusa, which was completely ours. The water was so bereft of human life, that if I stood long enough in one spot little fish would come and swim around my ankles. I was hoping they would eat the dead skin from my feet, but instead they just danced around my legs, like hairy maypoles.

I saw a dog play with a pomegranate as if it were a ball. When it broke in his mouth, he was visibly shocked, then remorseful and sad that he had broken it. Then he started choking on the pomegranate seeds. It was a wild ride.

There was a beachside pool that looked like it was unused due to the end of the summer season. We checked it out, but as nice as it looked from afar, a closer inspection revealed that it was riddled with garbage and a lot of fish had swam in and taken residence. We went to leave and an elderly man who must be some kind of caretaker enthusiastically told us we could swim! It was free! We thanked him and declined and walked on to the open beach. I don’t know what those fish were thinking, I wouldn’t be caught dead in a garbage pool. Sure it was free; but at what cost?

At breakfast on our last morning in Korčula, our host, a lovely man named Ante who just really seemed to love his life, offered me a glass of his homemade hooch, which he brewed in a 5L juice container. I said no, because it was 9am, but he insisted. By the end of my porridge bowl I could hardly see.

Going north to Split we had to cross through Bosnia, and at the border I was one of three people subjected to a random passport check. I didn’t at all mind because the police officer doing the check was possibly the world’s hottest police officer. I was hoping to be taken away for rigorous physical questioning, but he just returned my passport without a word.

Our Uber driver in Split was an architect and told us that he earned twice as much Ubering than he did in his real job, laughing at the absurdity. Then, after an encounter with a crazy police driver, regaled us with a tale of how the police cars here drive with such recklessness that sometimes they hit people, most recently a motorcyclist. I wasn’t sure how to respond to all of this information so I gave him 5 stars instead of my usual 4 and left no comments.

The most-heard song of the trip so far, that we have heard multiple times in many countries, is Tina Turner’s We Don’t Need Another Hero. I cannot attest to its Balkan popularity, but I can attest to its greatness.

In the ancient ruins of Salona I came upon a young girl in the old sanctuary, collecting rocks and dusting them off meticulously with bundles of grass. This reminded me of when I was little and would bury my Yowies in sand, unearth them, dust them off, and catalogue them. I desperately wanted to discuss this with her, but as I am a grown man and she a little girl I left it be as I did not want my tired face on Croatian Crimestoppers.

Went on a date with a local man. After a while of conversation, he threw at me, out of left field, the fact that we would be progressing no further because I looked like a ‘baby’ and he doesn’t do babies. Then he laughed. I also laughed, considering maybe what I heard was just lost in translation. He followed up by saying that he thought I looked much, much older in my photo (note to self: change photo, delete photo, burn the cloud down so it can never return) and when he saw me in person he saw that I was so young and to touch me would feel like a crime. I decided to lean into his dialogue by suggesting that sometimes the best crimes are the ones that feel the most wrong. He looked at me as though he had just presented his new kitten and I threw it against the wall and offered to shit on his mum. In hindsight I could have phrased it better, or maybe just not at all, but I had never been called a baby before in this context and it threw me. He asked me to button my shirt up(I had not unbuttoned it upon entering the bar, this was just how I was wearing it that day, it was a very respectable and normal 3 buttons down) and leave immediately. I did so, not just because he had told me to but because I desperately needed more to drink.

I left the lid off my pen that I keep in my pocket at all times and it leaked a massive ink spot into my light blue jeans. My descent from semi-stylish traveller to hobo-backpacker has begun.

In Zadar I finally got to visit the Sea Organ – one of my dream world spots. It was incredibly beautiful, as the water lapped into the pipes beneath the sea wall creating music, one only had to block out the incessant chatter of the tourists to hear it. I found out that in peak season, there are police whose job it is to walk around shushing people so that everyone can actually hear it. A professional shusher, now that’s the dream.

As I sat on the back stoop of our quiet garden cottage, a green lizard fell from the rooftop grapevine and landed on the ground in front of me before scattering away. It didn’t seem like a healthy way to descend, so my assumption was that he was munching on some grapes that had perhaps been there too long and drunkenly fallen off. I felt true kinship with this lizard.

In Zadar I made friends with a group of Americans, one of whom was walking her dog – an Afghan hound. His fur was phenomenal and I lovingly played with him, commenting on how beautiful he was, which I think they took to mean his disposition but I really just wondered if this was how Afghan rugs were made and how he would be so comfy to recline on.

Going to the beaches in Croatia is like going to the world’s best candy museum. Everything is perfect and nothing is for sale.

How to make a cup of coffee, Harry-style:

  • Boil kettle
  • Find bag of instant coffee in shelf of cottage you are staying in
  • Remark at how exotic it smells, and how strange the beans look on the packet, questioning nothing
  • Scoop two teaspoons full into a cup
  • After kettle has boiled, go to pour water, taking no caution in using a foreign kettle that feels different and pour water all over the table and paperwork, go nuts!
  • Finally get water into the cup, and take in the rich aroma of your exotic coffee, making sure to stir it through because this coffee is so exotic is isn’t dissolving; perhaps it was ground and not instant?
  • Take your first sip of your delicious exotic coffee you found on the shelf behind the olive oil and didn’t even question even after there were a lot of red flags, and gag and choke and sputter and throw up in the sink because it wasn’t coffee it was finely ground pepper and you just made yourself a cup of hot pepper water and it burns it all burns it will burn forever nothing will save you

People who duck out of other people’s tourist shots sicken me; how dare you give them the satisfaction? You didn’t pay the same full price ticket as them to spend your life ducking and weaving and apologising out of their way. Make them work around you, take command of your life. Make yourself known! Their photos are only enhanced by having you in them. In ten years’ time when Facebook reminds them they were on holiday and they actually look at them for the first time, they will see you there, ruining their shot, and silently applaud the confidence you exhibit.

#H