Whirlwind Croatia

Trip Start Jan 17, 2006
Trip End Dec 01, 2006

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Flag of Croatia  ,
Wednesday, June 7, 2006

In this entry, I am combining Pula and Zagreb because they happened on the same day and neither of them is worth their own entry.

I took the bus from Porec to Pula on the day that I was to head to Zagreb. I just wanted to see the coliseum that the Romans had built there over 2000 years ago. When I got there, I stowed my bags at the train station and started walking. I came across the coliseum quickly because it was so big. I was displeased to learn that I had to pay to get in, but in the end with my student discount, it was only 10Kn - chump change. (7.5Kn is one Euro and 4.5Kn is one Australian dollar). So, I get in there and it is decidedly modern. There was a music stage with loads of scaffolding set up in the main square and the seats opposite it had all been rebuilt. I always wonder with these ruins - what is actually real and what is fake/restored. Half of this place was what I would call over-restored; that means that is has been made into what it might have looked like many years ago, but because it has been done with modern building materials and methods, it takes away the authenticity. Modern concrete held most of the place together and in the underground section, it was all concrete walls and ceiling. There was a museum underground about pottery, but I didn't really give a crap about that at the time, so I went back outside. It was a nice sunny day and I have a bad habit of getting my towel wet just before I have to go somewhere with my bags. I took advantage of the situation and made like an Arab and draped the towel over my head. I was killing two birds with one stone here: shielding myself from the sun and drying the towel - genius, self-proclaimed of course. Hahaha

I had two more hours to kill before my bus left and I wasn't really up to it for strenuous walking. I went to a little café attached to a pizza place and sat down. I ordered my pizza and a beer and went to sit inside. The waitress was impressed that I was from Australia and we started talking. She was from Bosnia, but was looking for a job in Croatia. She also studied journalism and was looking for a job in a newspaper or something. When I finished my beer, before I could order another she brought another over and nervously said 'this ones on me; it's my birthday!'. I thanked her and then I made her explain why she gave me the beer under the guise of birthday celebration. It turns out that she was a lonely girl because she didn't know anyone in the city.

A big difference I've noticed between western people and the people of Eastern Europe is that we are so guarded with our emotions and other people. It would seem very strange if someone you knew for five minutes at home admitted to you that they were lonely and didn't have any friends. When she told me this in the café, it seemed so as-a-matter-of-fact that it didn't matter. I like this a lot: she was able to be honest with a stranger and lay all her emotions out for other people to see, because at the end of the day we are all just that: people. We had a good little chat and like most Europeans I have met, it is their dream to go to Australia - I wish her luck.

I used hospitalityclub.org to get accommodation in Zagreb. This helped me get my first insight into the difference between the culture of the people from the south and the people from the capital. When I arrived in the Autobusni Kolodvor, all I had as directions was his address. It was up to me to find my way there and I loved having the opportunity - it is always an adventure when this happens. I went looking for a tourist information booth, but what I found was a security guard. We ended up speaking in German and he helped me out enormously. He went searching on the net for maps and wrote things down on pieces of paper that I was to hand out on my journey. I had pieces for the driver on the tram with instructions and pieces of paper for other passengers to ask them to help me. It was fantastic. I doubt if his boss would have been happy about it, but he left his post to walk me to the tram station and waited until the tram came to make sure that I got on the right line. It was so nice of him. I get to the end of the line, where we thought I should get off. My destination suburb was called Precko and the guard and I decided that going to the Precko station was a good start. It turns out that it wasn't the right station, but two before it - Precko is a big suburb. So I get off this line in what seems the middle of nowhere - I was on the outskirts of the city and the buildings were starting to get sparse. There was only one dude in sight who was waiting to be picked up by someone, so I went and asked him. He wasn't a local, but was determined to help me and he gave me his mobile phone to call my contact - this sort of open-minded help was so refreshing. I found out that I had gone too far and so I got back on the tram the way back. When I got to the right station, I was still lost and disorientated and I really needed to piss as well; that didn't help me think straight. I went to a restaurant that I saw and asked them for help - they didn't know, so I asked them where a phone booth is. When they found out I was making a local call, the waited shoved his hand into his apron pocket and produced a shiny mobile phone and placed it in my hand then walked off to serve someone. I used it and tried to give him some money, but he laughed at the thought, smiled then sent me on my way. Finally I met Marko, my host! I was so impressed by the hospitality of the Zagreb inhabitants - you would be hard pressed to find that in Australia and we allegedly have a friendly culture.

When I arrived at Marko's apartment, I was greeted by his lovely girlfriend Marija. She was cooking up a storm for us to eat, which was a welcome change from the loaves of bread that I normally consume on buses and ferries. We had capsicums stuffed with this muesli mix then baked. It was savoury and yummy. There was also this onion bread - so yummy - I hope I can get this when I get home because I love onion! Upon this onion bread I spread a Zagreb-style paste made of mashed broccoli and garlic - yes, we did need a TicTac or two after dinner! This was all well and good and then in front of me I spotted what I thought were salami sticks. I was told that I should try them and they are also a Zagreb specialty, but he wouldn't tell me what it was until I had tried it. I tried a little bit and didn't really like it - it tasted like fat and nothing all at the same time. It turns out that I just put a concoction of pig's head in my mouth. Parts of the cheek, the tongue and brain all go into this stuff. I wouldn't eat it again, but I am now happy to say that I at the head of a pig.

We chatted about things and I got a new perspective about how Croatian people consider themselves and the countries/people around them. After dinner we watched the film Snatch and retired for some rest. Unfortunately, I had to leave and I couldn't spend more time with them, but maybe I will revisit Zagreb before I go home and go see them again.

Now it is back to Germany.
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reactor21 on

Keep up the travelling!
Hey dude, I always smile when I read your travel blogs - keep up the good work! I'll be embarking on travel of my own in about 7 weeks (Hyogo Japan all the way!) so I'll definately keep in touch (if not just for the goss in Europe ;). Steve

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