Hello again, and Greetings from sunny Croatia!
Grettle has been on fantastic form, travel frog has been ribbiting happily by her side, and the three of us arrived in Croatia over a week ago, from the rocky mountain passes of Slovenia. What a spectacular drive it has been! One that has certainly rivaled that of the Grossglockner Pass, and which has embedded a broad and permanent smile across my face. From the snow capped peaks of the Alpine mountains, to the sun, sand, and sea of the Mediterranean; it has been an adventure to say the least, and one that has brought with it, some of the most stunning scenery I have ever witnessed.
If I remember correctly, I left you whilst snug in my tent, upon the Wurzen pass, of the Austria- Slovenia border, intrigued as to what I might find along the winding way. As it turned out, what lay ahead for me that day, was something almost more beautiful than Grettle herself (I realize this is hard to imagine!)
Just as I thought I had seen the best of the Pass, I arrived at a crossroads, with little idea of which way to turn. I took a right at random, and what fantastic luck that I did! The small road led me onto a separate pass altogether, that wound its way through yet another fabulous national park. The name of the this, I later learned, was the Potkoren Pass, where the photograph on my last post was taken.
I think it might have climbed higher even then the Grossglockner, although I cannot remember the height written on the final turn
of the pass. The gradient of the hill became so steep and serpent-like, that we slowed to a pace only marginally faster than Aunt Marge, until it became nothing more than a narrow, cobbled path, only just wide enough for a small truck to squeeze through. On the way to the top, there were in fact many small trucks; it was rather peculiar actually; each followed a cyclist, and played pumping tunes from a stereo, that
became louder and louder, supporting the groups of cyclists until they reached the top, where there followed a ceremonious celebration, and much clapping and cheering, as each exhausted rider reached the end.
Grettle, Travel Frog, and I, had reached the highest peak of the pass early in the morning, where there lay one small square of concrete; a flat view point over the mountains, that spread out beneath us, like a colourful and finely knit tapestry. I parked on this point, sat down to munch on a cheese sandwich, and attempted to paint a picture of the fabulous view.
I was soon joined by the usual team of beefy bikers. These turned out to be mainly Italian, all of which fell deeply in love with Grettle, grouping around her in admiration, and inspecting her closely. Watching this from afar, I took what I thought to be a very subtle snap shot of this amusing scene, but was caught red-handed by one of the men. He asked curiously if I was the owner. I nodded and laughed in
seeing their amazed expressions, and we soon got chatting.
One thing led to another, and a long photo shoot followed, during which each leather-clad biker stood with thumbs up and goofy expressions, beside, or on top of Grettle, who shone proudly in front of the magnificent back drop of the Alps. They then rather embarrassingly insisted on taking a video, asking me to promote Vespa mountain adventures, for their friend, who it turned out was also a Vespa owner, but had not had the balls to take the trip.
The crowds of cyclists peered over to this unusual scene, and I rather felt it was time to move on, for the photo shoot was blocking the entire viewpoint over the mountains. Having realized this, I hastily packed up my painting equipment, bid farewell to the Italians, and descended t
he pass, through Slovenia, and onwards towards Croatia.
I have since received word from the fellow bikers by email, and was rather chuffed and amused to find out that Grettle and I had become their idol! They sent me all of their photos from that sunny morning upon the Potkoren Pass, and I will try to share a few of them with you on the blog.
I drove on to Croatia that same day, and on seeing the ocean, whooped for joy, congratulating Grettle and Frog on their efforts. My
excitement was rather short-lived however, and having arrived in Rijeka; a city which lies at the top of the Croatian coast, I searched for the familiar Road 8, which takes one down the entire length of Croatian coastline, through some dramatic rocky scenery, down a marvelously swerving coastal road. It was getting dark and I must have taken one too many wrong turns, in search of the right one, finding my self in the dark, on a fast moving motorway, heading inland. Very tired and a little frustrated by this point, I took the first turning that I came across, and sidled into a near-by field to set up the tent.
I settled in a spot that seemed in every way to be ideal, considering the circumstances; out of sight of the road, on a flattish patch of grass, and where I assumed I would not be troubled.
Alas- no such luck!
I slept only for a short few hours, and stumbled sleepily out of my tent that morning to take in the view. I woke with a start as a loud and fierce bark sounded from behind me. Turning around, I saw a vicious looking dog, snarling maliciously at Grettle and I. For a few moments, we stared at each other. I was hoping desperately for a change from the bad atmosphere; to witness a wag in the tail, a tummy to rub, or a friendly greeting of some kind. After a moments pause, the barking began again, this time louder and more malicious, and before too long the dog was joined by another, larger and fiercer looking breed, that leaped out from behind the hedge row to join his buddy.
There was a house not far away, and it suddenly occurred to me, these were either guard dogs, or a wild dogs, neither of which sounded like the nice cup of tea I was hoping for that morning! I was longing for an owner to appear but no such sign did. The two of them began to circle the tent, and the barking became more ferocious still, as they began to hone in on me
I stood frozen to the spot, trying to think of a plan. I thought of Crocodile Dundee, and the scene in which he transforms two wild dogs into
soppy, friendly pups. If I remember correctly, he did so, by making some peculiar noise, resembling that which a buffalo in pain might let out, simultaneously doing something strange with his hands, pointed in the direction of the incoming beasts. Hoping there was some truth and method behind the madness, I considered attempting this myself, but as the dogs circled closer, I realized I was stretching to desperate, and deluded measures. Such behavior would only encourage the wild things, and excite them further.
I had no stick with me to fight off the dogs, and so there was nothing for it but to climb back inside the tent. My heart pumping fast, I waited, and leaving a small flap unzipped, watched ,as they paused for a second, assessing the new situation. The snarling ceased and I held my breath. At that moment, something must have taken their fancy more than myself, and they suddenly bounded off into the darkness.
Taking this opportunity, I crawled out hastily from the tent, and began to pack up my bags. In a flash, they were back, barking harder and louder than ever. I leaped back into the tent, and peered at them through the mosquito flap with my heart in my stomach.
Another ten minutes passed, the snarling ceased again, and once more, they bounded off into the darkness. Perhaps this was some kind of sick game, and they would just keep me here for ever!? I crept once again out of the tent, half expecting them to dart back as soon as they heard a noise, but thankfully, nothing hurtled in my direction. I hurriedly packed up my bits and pieces, threw my bags over Grettle, revved up the engine, and hurtled off into the distance, as fast as her little wheels could carry her, relieved to leave the sounds of snarls behind me, and escape once again into the darkness.
I lost my memory stick that morning, it must have fallen from my bags, as I hurriedly leaped on the bike. Since I had been totally lost in the first place, by the time I had found the familiar Road 8, and realized what I was missing in a little coffee spot, I had no idea where to go back to to find it. Although I had lost some super footage from the mountain passes, I was in fact rather relieved, to have an excuse to avoid the wild dogs, and a second terrifying encounter.
That day, I sailed on down the superb small road that hugs the Croatian coastline, and just as I was beginning to feel a little tired, I was approached by two men at a gas station, whilst sipping on an ice coffee. I only remember the name of the one who spoke English, and introduced himself as Marco; a local chap who had run some adventure biker's program, and told me of a beautiful camp that he would like to show me, if I had the time.
Debating for a second whether or not it would be wise for me to follow these two strangers, I considered the potential alternative, of wild dogs and lone camping, and took the two men up on their offer. I was then escorted, with a large adventure bike behind and in front of Grettle, to the middle of absolutely nowhere!
I began to consider that perhaps I had made an error in judgement, as we wiggled our way up and down tiny path ways, over the
mountains, and inland from the sea.
Eventually however, to my relief, my nervous imaginings of what could follow this escort ceased, in seeing a beautiful oasis of trees, green grass and an azure blue lake, which lay in the middle of a valley amidst the rocky, baron mountains.
Many Slovenian, Croatian, Italian and other men where camping here, and I was rather relieved to see one other girl among the crowds. I had a beer with the boys, and decided to camp one night before moving on to Dolac, which was my next destination. Marco filled my map with places I must go and see, and put me in touch with a friend of his, who lived in the adjacent town to Dolac, on the coast. I enjoyed a happy evening in the camp, found a group of younger hippies to enjoy a mellow smoke with , some delicious meat, (although it was too dark to decipher what exactly I was eating, I thought it best to keep it that way) and was treated to many beers to wash it all down with. I retired to bed before the party had reached its peak, and woke early in the morning with a banging head, rather eager to continue on my
I drove on to Dolac, where I held many happy memories, in a small bar called Boxer Bar, sadly to find it was closed as the season had not yet properly started. I hope to return there before my time in Croatia is up, to say hello once again to the lovely group of bar staff, who took me under their wing for a week, whilst I camped in the shade of some trees, in the small cove, which hosted the sweet little bar, perched on the rocky cliffs above the beach.
So in driving on to Primosten, I called Borko, the friend that Marco had put me in touch with, who invited me up to his lovely villa overlooking the beach. He turned out to be a diving instructor, and so I spent a wonderful few days out on the boat, snorkeling and sketching, putting my feet up, and generally having a marvelous time. This pleasantry stopped rather abruptly however, a few days after my arrival, at which point I somehow, and quite honestly hold no idea how, set a-light his dressing gown! I had smoked a cigarette earlier that morning, removed the dressing-gown, and returned to my room a few minutes later, to find smoke bellowing out from it's pocket. It had burned bad holes in both the gown, and the bed sheet it lay on, and I felt rather embarrassed having to explain the situation to Borko, when he returned from his early morning jog.This happened only shortly after I dropped and broke one of his best glasses, and so the
moment came where it became apparent I ought to move on. I think he was in agreement on this front, clearly a little concerned his villa might soon be burnt to the ground!
I left the diving spot and was soon approached an old hippy named Jure. He told me of some nice herbal substances in his place, and through muddled sign language and gesture (since he did not speak a work of English, and I, not a word of Croatian or German -excluding the line 'I wear leather underwear', taught to me by my dear friend Olivia, and which I later learned, was not the best line to come out with in this particular predicament!), agreed on taking Grettle a couple of minutes up the road, to his place, to listen to a bit of the Beatles, and enjoy a smoke.
I began to feel a little anxious on entering the run down looking place, through large iron gates, where a large padlock hung from the railings. We arrived at the door, above which there was an inscription scribbled in white paint. I looked at this curiously, and a broad smile stretched across Jure's face. 'The White Snake' he said smiling, as we entered through the door. Nervous laughter... But on we went....
In passing through a long narrow corridor, we entered into a kitchen area, where there were fur cones, plants, tinsel, hats, scissors, some sort of cutting equipment, rods, even a pair of heeled boots; there was really very little that was not hanging from string tied to the ceiling. Again, a quizzical look, and a mimed response of some kind that I could not decipher. I think he mistook my curious expression as I gazed at the pair of heeled boots hung to the ceiling, and thought I needed a new pair of shoes, offering these to me hastily. In actual fact, I was wondering what on earth happened to the poor woman who must have once been wearing them. I refused his offer, and tried to remain vaguely calm whilst this mad man began to mumble that wine, or, 'vine', vas his life!
Soon the spliff was lit, and my worries grew a little larger, as he began dancing and swooping around the dark chamber, now and then stopping to stroke my cheek, whispering 'Emmmmma...you are gooooood, i love you.' with a mad, obsessive, and manic look in his eyes. Bugger fuck! Time to go I thought! The doors were locked, and I worried for a long second he would not let me leave. A big error in judgement no doubt, agreeing with this mad old hippy to accompany him in the first
I told him plainly and clearly I felt uncomfortable, that I must leave, and to unlock the doors immediately. I felt a little like Hermione Granger, when she attempts to tell Gwarp, Hagrid's Giant younger brother, to 'Put her down! Now!'. 'I don't knooooow Emma' was the response, repeated over and over, as bottles of wine where disappearing down his throat at the speed of light. Perhaps he had no idea what I was saying, but I think the gist was caught in the end, just at the point when I was getting seriously worried I might not see the light of
Finally I was outside the White Snake's house, at which point, he attempted to hoist him self on top of Grettle, behind me. I insisted I must go alone, and almost had to run the old man down, as he stood stubbornly in front of the bike, refusing to let me leave. Beside us, was the horrible, familiar sounds of a guard dog; a great black beast, chained to the bollard next to the entrance, yapping and barking furiously at this scene.
With one final rev of the engine, a little more power, we escaped the clutches of the mad man, and I was relieved to be free of the White Snake's abode, scooting as fast as I could to a small cove I knew a little further down the coast. I camped here for the night and tried with little luck, to regain a calm mind-set.
The next morning, I spent filling out application forms, and signing a contract for teaching English in Turkey. The semester will start in September, and end in June- rather a long stint but I am needing to top up the coppers a little, in order to afford the extortionately high costs of guides through China, and the spectacular Karakorum highway, leading from there to India.
I am now a little further down the coast line in a city called Split, waiting to catch the ferry tomorrow morning to Korcula island, where I hope to catch up on painting, and have a generally more relaxing time than I have done for the last few days!
I arrived in the center of the city, feeling rather flustered and wondering where on earth I could find a cheap hostel amidst the chaos. A young lady saw me looking about nervously, and asked me if I was looking for somewhere to stay. I nodded cautiously, wondering where I might be taken next, and any excited anticipation was soon lost in arriving at a towering set of grey, concrete flats. I followed her, and on our way up the many flights of stairs, she attempted to win my approval, by muttering words such as balcony, paintings, food, and so on, until we finally reached her layer, where she swung open the window in my room, singing 'Birds', as it opened onto a scape of high rise concrete flats and apartments; not a bird in sight!
My initial skepticism however, soon past, in seeing the rooms, the double beds, the televisions, and kitchen area, at which point she told me there was much salami in the fridge, to help myself to coffee and food, and to make myself at home. This swung the decision, and so here I am , chilling on my bird balcony, overlooking the city, sipping on coffee, and writing this entry.
I am soon to work in a summer camp in the Italian Alps, teaching English and art to young kids, and so will be setting off from Croatia in a week or so, to start the training. I am told this will go on for 5 days in San Remo, after which point I will be told where exactly in the Alps I will be teaching. All rather exciting, and I am looking forward to meeting some other young, and more normal characters, holding my breath that there will be no White Snake for a good few thousand miles!
Until then, Adios X