Speed Trap

Trip Start Jun 08, 2010
Trip End Aug 26, 2010

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Flag of Croatia  ,
Thursday, July 1, 2010

Today, I headed back to the coast. As I was leaving, I again noticed the Croatian speed trap setup in the neighboring town. You think seeing two speed traps in two days would have alerted me to be slow around villages, and it did. The problem was in Europe, at least the parts I drove in, they only posted the speed limit when it was something unusual. Aside from that, you were just expected to know in towns it was 50 kph, on one type of road 80, on another 100 and on the "interstate" 130, and the speeds varied by country. You also were expected to know when you just passed into a town or what type of road you were on. You may be able to guess where this is going...

So anyway, I was driving through a wide-open section of Croatia, thinking of how it reminded me of the southwest US. I was probably staring off at some distant mountain, and missed the sign for whatever small town I had allegedly just entered. There were certainly no houses around anywhere for miles, and just one abandoned gas station, with Croatian cops in the parking lot, pulling over speeders, i.e. me.

I get nervous when I'm pulled over in the US (or more like outraged, because it's always totally unreasonable), but for some reason this morning I was just like, whatever. I had read in some countries (I couldn't remember whether Croatia was one), you just pay the fine on the spot. I happened to have plenty of cash with me since the hotel from the morning didn't take credit cards, and I figured I'd just pay it and go on my way. That sounded much easier than in the US where you have to fill out forms and mail things in or show up in traffic court.

The police officer said "Hello" in Croatian, and I said "Hello" in English. He didn't explain anything at that point, but I knew I had been speeding, probably significantly. I asked what he needed to see, and he just half-said, half-pantomimed "Papers". It took me a while to dig out my US driver's license, my international driver's license, and the papers the rental car company had given to me, but I found them all and handed the pile to him.

At that point, he walked back behind my car to the other officer at the traffic stop and said something. I think the conversation went like this: "I turns out she's not Slovenian." (My car tags are from Slovenia) "Italian?" "No worse, American." "Ugh." "I really don't feel like speaking English today." "Me neither." "I'll just let her go." "Sounds good." He gave me back my papers and said "OK". I didn't even get a lecture on driving safely or Croatian speed limits. Yay. I finally got out of a speeding ticket. Next time I'm pulled over in the US, I'm going to try speaking German.

Drama out of the way, I continued on to Zadar. Zadar was another Croatian coastal town. It had large sections of defensive wall surrounding its old town. It also had some impressive early Christian churches, but not much in the way of interesting architecture apart from the churches and the older public buildings. They seemed to be doing some sort of reconstruction on the ruins of their old Roman forum, at least workers were moving giant stone blocks around.

Zadar had a decent museum of archeology covering mainly the pre-history of the local area, captions in Croatian and English, with a few random Egyptian artifacts thrown in. The Egyptian section was Croatian only, so I don't know why the artifacts were in Zadar, but I knew enough about Egyptian history that I could at least make sense of what I was seeing.

The most interesting part of the city for me was a section at the end of the old town peninsula with two recent art installations by Nikola Bašić. The older of the two (2005) was the Sea Organ (Morske orgulije). I overheard a tour guide say Bašić was inspired by the noise the sea made against the cliffs at some location, the name of which I missed. The Organ was a series of pipes embedded in the pier, which made noise as the water moved in and out of them. It was very relaxing, and I sat for a long time listening to the waves and the Organ.

The second installation was called the Sun Salutation (Pozdrav suncu). It started with a large circular array of solar panels representing the sun, then the series of the eight planets in our solar system led away from the sun. It was created in 2008, sorry Pluto. The tour guide said it lit up at sunset, and Zadar was allegedly one of the best places to watch the sunset in Croatia, so I planned to go back in the evening.

Old town Zadar did have a beautiful sunset. It ended a little early due to a line of clouds along the bottom of the horizon, but the thin clouds gave the sky a nice red glow when the sun descended. I'm not sure if the Sun Salutation was on a timer, or if it switched on when it stopped sensing a certain level of light, but the it did in fact put on a light show at dusk. Even the planets were lit-up, except for poor Jupiter, which must have been broken. I didn't actually walk all the way to Neptune, but I saw a group of kids gathered around it, so I assumed it was lit.

There were a bunch of excited children, chasing the lights around the surface of the sun disc. If you've ever wondered about the toughness of solar panels, these at least were able to withstand a herd of small children. At one point, I saw a grown woman running across the disc, and I realized she must have been chasing a child. So I turned to look where she was going and saw (presumably) her small child making a bee-line for one of the ladders down to the sea. He got there first, but was having trouble figuring out how to use the ladder and so she caught him in time.

I didn't check my watch to see when the sunset ended and the Sun Salutation turned on, but I probably watched the lights for an hour. At the beginning, I figured I would stay until they turned off, but it occurred to me after a while the disc had absorbed enough sun throughout the day to keep the light show, plus probably all of the lights in the old town, running for the entire evening. I later read in my guidebook, the show did in fact go all night.

The display went on for so long, I decided it was mainly random, rather than choreographed. One not entirely random effect I did notice was occasionally the light pattern would coordinate with the Sea Organ. It was not just a coincidence. A sine wave would appear, running across the "equator" of the sun disc. The shape of the wave would change corresponding to the sounds coming from the Sea Organ.

No sea-side lunch today. Last night, I ordered another pizza, but the smallest size they had was probably 2 feet in diameter. My hotel had a fridge, so I had leftovers. I don't think the concept of the single-serving pizza has made it to Croatia yet.

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