Thursday, October 19, 2006

Medeni mjesec (honeymoon), part 1

"Erm, dobra večer," I said, clutching a grimy mobile phone to my ear. I stood at the side counter of a compact bar in Zagreb, having just begged and plead with the bartender to lend me his phone for a minute so I could call the owner of our private room at 10:30 pm to tell him we couldn't open the front door.

Coalescent Boy -- his adopted moniker, I'll have you know -- and I had been traveling since 5:30 that morning, when we trudged out to the cab that would take us to Stansted Airport. After a shorthaul flight to Trieste and a long bus ride to Croatia, in which we were stopped at the Slovenian border so bored Croatian guards could order us all of the bus, herd us on again, and then order us off with our bags to "search for drugs," we finally arrived in Zagreb. Exhausted and famished, we successfully navigated a bewildering tram system, the route maps of which were faded beyond legibility and written in Croatian. Furthermore, they relied upon some new space-time continuum in which hours like "36.5" and "19" coexisted, a state of affairs which Zagreb residents seemed to accept, leaving two f---ing confused tourists to run back and forth across the tracks, trying to figure out which side went the way they needed. Finally, we scrambled aboard the right tram, a dingy, graffiti-strewn box that looked older than the city itself. As it rocked on the track, emitting sharp, aggravated cracks whenever it turned, Coalescent Boy and I looked at each other and grinned. We made it.

Our success was short-lived. After finding our room, the first in a series of private accomodations or "sobes" which we occupied down the coast, we set out to find a late-night dinner. The lodging itself was fine, but we were just outside the city center in a roughish-looking neighborhood (hey, for less than 30 pounds per night, who's complaining?). On a whim, I decided to check the lock after we shut the door. I turned the key. The door handle remained fixed in place. CB jiggled the key. No go. Fueled by hunger and the prospect of sleeping on concrete steps in a dingy, draughty yellow hallway, we took turns hammering at the door. The overhead light flicked off.

Great. Nice planning, Ecogrrl. I'd managed to start off our honeymoon by forcing us to sleep on cold cement. Thankfully, the bartender spoke enough English to vaguely understand what I was saying -- that, or he was a little frightened by the frantic girl waving a phone number in his face. We reached our host and convinced him to drive back out again to help us with the door. Ten minutes later, he showed up, considerably more disgruntled than he had been during our initial meeting. I launched into a detailed explanation and apology while CB handed him the key. He slid the key into our lock, turned it until the latch clicked, twisted the handle and shoved the door open.

Oh sweet lord.

"We really aren't as stupid as we look right now," I said.

"Uh-huh," he responded. "I have to go now."

Having done our patriotic duty by convincing another European that Americans are blithering idiots, we raced out to find food before everything in the city shut down for the night. Thankfully, Croatia isn't England -- we may have found the only restaurant still serving food, but a plethora of outdoor cafes awaited after we finished our pizza. We collapsed underneath a canopy of umbrellas stretching end-on-end down a wide pedestrian walkway, ordered a couple of local beers, and sat watching the crowds. Most passers-by were young, drawn to Zagreb's extensive pedestrian zone, where you can walk for several blocks in any direction without dodging cars or mopeds. Music streams from cafes and bars; gelato shops serve huge, glistening scoops of toasted pistachio ice cream; people sit and talk and call to friends walking down side streets. I've never been anywhere with a night life like Zagreb's, except for Cuba. There, too, the warm climate and communal atmosphere created a vibrant nocturnal community. As the minutes slid by, I slipped into a blissful, gelato-induced stupor. Not a bad start to things. Not bad at all.


Kid Sis said...

This is interesting; I may be going to Croatia in May with my wanton Spain group from last spring.

And as far as I'm concerned, I think you had a successful trip as long as you didn't end up in a hostel missing any body parts. :)

Meg said...

Croatia is definitely cool. I'd hit it before people figure out the war's been over for years...bound to become a hotspot before too long, I'm thinking.