Bol of Fun

Trip Start Aug 01, 2006
Trip End Dec 29, 2006

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Flag of Croatia  ,
Thursday, October 12, 2006

We took another bus back to Jelsa to catch the ferry to Bol. The only thing of interest was that this was our fourth bus ride to Jelsa, counting there or back, and each time the bus took another route. It was like each driver could pick which route they liked best or how they felt that day. I liked this and thought of the bus driver more as an artist, that he could display his mood or impressions by picking a particular route. I call this route "blue blossom of invitation" and only drive it when I feel a connection to the ocean.

We got on the small ferry with a bunch of Germans. Past the harbor it got windy and a little bouncy. Collette curled up on my lap trying to get small to hide from both. We were sitting on the top and we could look down and see the bow. A couple of times the boat would hit a particularly large wave and the Germans in the front would get thoroughly splashed. The Germans up above with us thought it was great and would laugh with glee and point.

The ferry docked and we were immediately met with Boris. Boris was a straight-up guy. In the fifteen minutes it took to walk to his apartments/house he had told us that he was a mathematician, a teacher, and that he was honest and what was money. After he reached the house we asked him what his name was and he said "Borivoi, but some of my friends and people who stay here call me Boris, this I do not like, my name is not short for anything and this Boris makes no sense." He also voiced his displeasure on alcohol and the English, "The bar is over here but I do not like to drink, the English come here and the first thing they ask is where is the bar, I tell them and then they spend the whole time there without ever going to the beach, they come from civilization to spend their time in such a place, I do not understand." You did not even notice he was saying something negative because he was such a pleasant guy and he had no animosity toward anything he was talking about. He was just relating the truth on how he felt "Truly!!" and that was that. Later when we toured the city we paused in the main square and he said, "Oh, there is the church, it is Catholic" and with out pausing to gauge our reaction he continued," I do not like these Catholics, do you know what they pray for, they pray for money, and cars, and motorcycles, it is true, this is what they pray. " I replied that in America they pray for their football team to win. He gave me a piercing stare. "Yes, It is the same here, he retorted.

The "weird thing" about our room in Bol was that it wasn't finished. It was rather loud at night because the glass doors that were supposed to be there weren't. This was our fault since we wanted an upstairs room with a balcony. The tile in the kitchen was only half complete and everywhere on the walls were nests of wires sticking out. Boris would take us on tours of the place, explaining in great detail his projects and their difficulties. "Look here, I had to make another cut to make this piece fit". When he finished talking of his work he would blast the lameness of contractors and the poor quality of their work. I felt two things: One was that some things truly crossed borders and two that I had taken many of my friends on similar tours and I now wonder if they might have been a tad too long. To this end I sincerely apologize to all of those people.

Bol is stretched out along the coast and has only one small harbor. However, I highly recommend the hot chocolate in the café. One of the major attractions of Bol is a large triangular shaped beach (Zlatni Rat) that juts about a half mile out into the Adriatic. In all of the post cards it is covered in sun bathing tourists like seals on a wharf. Of course we had to go, the weather was great and Andrea, the mother of Collette's new friend, told us she would be at the farthest part of the beach in a little cove. We followed her vague directions and I walked to the cliff and looked down to see where we were. Something was immediately wrong with the color. Too much flesh tone always looks peculiar and we had stumbled onto the nudist part of the beach. My perceptions and expectations were quickly dashed. As David Sedaris.1 once said, "The people who aren't nudist should be and the ones who are shouldn't be". The evidence stretched out below me lumbering in the sun made his words truer and realer than ever. It impossible to tell them apart because they were the same shape and color of walruses and I am not a trained biologist. If I was a retired tax auditor from Munich I do not think the first thing to come to my mind would be public nudity. Unless I wanted to show what a lifetime of office work and a liter of beer a day could do to a body. There was enough wiener snetzler on that beach to feed India if they didn't have so many vegetarians. However, I did admire them for bucking the system and sticking to their convictions. As we saw more of them, or tried not to see more, I kind of admired them. They were different, doing their own thing, but non-violent and by the evidence of their lack of movement completely non-threatening. They also seemed to be completely lacking in the trait of being judgmental. If you are over weight, over sixty, and going a la mode you have, by default, given up your right to be judgmental of others. However, amongst themselves they might be judgmental of other non-nudist, weekend nudist, etc...I just don't know. As an American I feel that we have a particularly judgmental culture. I am more than guilty of this affliction. I think people who walk slow have low IQs, people who wait for parking places are chronically lazy, anybody who drives slower or faster than me is an idiot, and anybody who wears a backward baseball cap is a stupid frat boy and that late people make bad mothers.2 Even though nudity has a deep stigma.3 attached to it made me reflect less on the aesthetics of it and more on myself. Looking around at them I never thought that the thin nylon of my Speedos would feel so big but in the end at least they remained on.

Collette particularly liked Bol, not only for the beach and the random dog and kitten, but because she had a new 4 year-old playmate staying in another room. His name was Leon and his Croatian mother had taken him from Zagreb to Bol help him improve his health. Leon had no hair but in all other aspects appeared to be perfectly healthy and full of vigor. He had a gentle and inquisitive nature about him and Collette treated him like he was her underpaid employee or like a brother. In other words, badly. At one point after Collette grabbed his cup he was digging with (she had the exact same cup of her own in her other hand) it made him mad enough to lock himself in his room. After about five minutes I took her little hand and she knocked on his door. "Leon, I'm sorry," she meekly stated. Leon quickly rebuffed with a large angry flow of Croatian. We tried several times until Christy opened his door and played UN diplomat. Things were soon back to them playing and fighting without any hurt feelings. We spent most of one day with Andrea and Leon in a small cove, swimming, pointing out sea creatures, and eating lunch. I let Leon push me into the water and he kept excitingly saying something in Croatian, Andrea quickly translated that he was saying "again". I complied and we had a great day.

Later that evening Boris was going to lead Christy and I and a German woman to a restaurant. In the meantime we decided to check out a local festival that was starting at six. We arrived at the wharf and saw rows of tables on the waterfront laden with food of all kinds. Boris saw one of his old students and I asked if he was a good student. Boris laughed, "Not so good this one, perhaps it better that he is the butcher." We meekly approached the tables to ask how much and were happily surprised to hear the response, "Free". I was trying to not be the "American Pig" but I fulfilled and then surpassed any stereotypes. In fifteen minutes I had accumulated a small pile of plastic plates that once contained, "goulash, fried scallops, fish pate, mussels, mousaka, sausages, cake...I am embarrassed to go on. After the feeding frenzy Christy and the German woman went to buy beer and I supervised Collette as she went on a spastic odyssey with several other Croatian kids. What looked like a high school marching band was playing music. Led by an old and equally small man that appeared to be chewing gum the band played a few rousing songs. After one song the old man went up and reprimanded a trumpet player and I learned that he was the retired professor of music. Every time I see these bands I think that in the United States we should have more of them. If you play the trumpet, a clarinet, or God help you, a tuba. You have four glory years in high school then after that there is no chance to play and your career is over. If we had more festivals like Europe we could keep the tuba and accordion players happy and they could contribute to our greater society by playing seventies classics loudly and bombastically. Give someone a half-liter of red wine and a rousing rendition of "Louie Louie" you are not on your way to a party-- you are already there.

Alternating with the band was a two-man band. Boris knew the band and its singer," This guy, you know, every time he sings about things that are bad and sad, makes me want to kill myself and I want to forget I have ears." Collette in the meantime was running with a group of kids that resembled wild dogs, if wild dogs could ever have that much energy.

Since the restaurant trip was postponed we headed for it the next evening. With Boris as our faithful guide Christy, myself, Heike (German friend), and a new German woman, walked down the road to the square, past the harbor and then up a step road to end at a small restaurant. The guy who ran it was talkative (in both English and German) and very friendly. The restaurant had three terraces. We sat at a large table on the second terrace with a view of the sea and the rising moon. Luckily Collette was asleep so we could relax and enjoy the company of other adults (the restaurant guy insisted on wrapping her in two different blankets). The elder German woman owned a bookstore and in halting English explained the difficulties and minor trials of her job. She was sleep deprived from work and an overnight bus ride, and kept knocking off her glasses with her hand gestures. Heike explained that she worked for an Internet company doing contracts and her hunched shoulders and upturned palms clearly stated that she was tired of her job and that it was a grind. "What can you do?" translates fairly easily. On our part we had a long convoluted and useless conversation about what is a banana slug and did they see it on the shirt in Pulp Fiction. All I heard from the elder woman was her distaste for the movie and that they had difficulty picturing such a bizarre and hideous creature. How long is it?" Heike would ask with upturned eyebrows, "this long I would respond holding up my hands she would suck in her breath between her teeth and shake her head. In the end we promised to send her a UCSC banana slug shirt so she can be the envy of Germany.

After dinner our host gave us some fine walnut liquor that reminded both of us of France. There seemed to be two major classifications of Liquor in Croatia; all that are pretty good, and a pale yellow stuff that burns your throat and tastes like rancid rye bread. Papa and Mama gave us the yellow stuff but here nothing but fine and smooth liquor. The host saw Collette sprawled out in the stroller and decided to drive us home. We put up some very mild protests and then succumb to his generosity. Still in shock from the unusually kind gesture we pilled into the old station wagon, put on some pop music, and rode back. It was one of the nicest evenings we have had in a long while, and it was a pleasure to have some company that is generous and interesting and did not try to grab the silverware.

With reluctance (and non-refundable ferry tickets) we prepared to leave Bol. Under the hot sun with our luggage sprawled around us like nudists we waited for the bus. There were several reasons we were reluctant to leave. One was that Boris had expressed his displeasure and disapprovement of a unique festival that was to take place the Sunday we left. Boris explained that at 5:00 PM, as the last ferry was leaving, many of the town members would jump off the pier and into the water. It was a celebration to mark the end of the season (I assume tourists season but it was never clear). It had the right mixture of absurdity and action that greatly appeals to me. I even was tempted to buy one of the t-shirts that commemorated this festival but I had no idea what they said and Boris was too disgusted to explain it to me.

Bol so far was one of our highlights, not just because of the place but because of the people and connections we had made. Thank you Borivoi and Antica for being such `
entertaining and thoughtful hosts, and thanks to Leon, Andrea and Heike, for your company and companionship, not only to us but to our daughter.

1. I felt that I had to give David Sedaris credit due to his imposing demeanor and intimidating stature.
2. See other rants on smokers and people who split checks elsewhere.
3. One must be careful with words. It turns out that stigmata has a completely different meaning.
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