Trip Start Feb 04, 2007
107Trip End Mar 09, 2008
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Ogulon was a struggle. We were cold and all falling asleep on our seats. The train pulled up and our private cabin had seats which extended down to make perfectly flat beds. Within about 3 seconds I was fast asleep.
Numerous cobbled staircases, ancient ruins and a few cappucinos later we were on the ferry bound for Korcula. We shall never speak of this ferry ride again. We specifically won't mention the woman who was noisily vomiting for much of the trip. Nor shall we speak of the numerous other passengers who began waving for vomit-bags soon after. We won't even mention Adrian's pallor. The sea was angry that day.
Arriving on the island was a blur of Adrian's Uncles and Aunties speaking kindhearted non-stop unintelligible Croatian whilst preparing welcome picnic dinners and offering us home-brewed Croatian wines along with tips as to how various things worked and where things were kept. His entire family (there were a lot of them on the island) were incredibly generous and welcoming and really improved our visit. Adrian, you have to thank them one more time from us!
The rain passed and the days became sunny and hot. Along with the sun came Michelle, Paul, and eventually Vanessa and Glen. Our cosy threesome had become a boisterous group of seven.
Iain and I differed vastly in our verdict of Korcula. I absolutely loved it and would return in a heartbeat. He spent much of the week sulking moodily anticipating his escape.
Trust me, I think you would have loved it.
* * *
Stepping off the catamaran at Vela Luka there was no doubt where our ride was: front and centre was a beaming man in a soft white cap, bearing every facial feature of our travel companion except that a further 40 years had passed for him.
Uncle Cuzmin and Aunt Mara, Adrian's family on the island, were popping out of their socks to see him, and we became quickly aware of the welcome that had been prepared. Due to the presence of three of us - plus backpacks - Uncle Sedjun had also been roped in to be the second taxi to ferry us out to Cuzmin's holiday home about 20km out of Vela Luka town.
The house lies in a secluded cove with just five or six others around it. The locale is spectacular - particularly the granite edge separating tall firs from a clear green sea.
Dropping our bags, Mara was quickly into the kitchen and showing a bewildered Claudine - who else, she's the only woman of our party? - the tools that would enable her to fulfil her wifely and female duties for the week. I am suitably appreciative and hope the effect is long term.
Mara brought with her one of the best salamis I have ever enjoyed, fresh bread and an ample supply of their homemade wine. What a woman.
On a longer walk, it became evident that everyone here was loosely related to Adrian, bringing a bonus of quickly poured spirits and aperitifs that were a little eye opening at eight in the morning but nonetheless gratefully received.
And while Korcula is great if you have a relative there, it can be less attractive as an unrelated foreigner. As I found in the internet cafe amongst other places.
It will be viewed by my fellow travellers that the internet cafe was a low point for me, but in all honesty it was my favorite aspect of the week. Some earnest and unscripted interaction with the locals. I had swallowed my self respect and commonsense and copped $8 an hour to use a PC for an hour to get on with some onward visa applications. On finishing my time, I waited patiently as the proprietor had many handshakes and lazy words with the customer/ relative being served ahead of me.
Time passed. He ambled over to his computer, clicked off the timer and presented me with a receipt for one hour and one minute and a bill for $12. I laughed and gently noted that I had been waiting for him to finish his conversation, and that a bill for an hour was appropriate.
His mood switched up to Balkan volcanic in about seven seconds. Within five minutes police had been called as I informed him no such bill could, in good conscience, be paid. I have always been a shade stubborn and a tad cheap - both elements magnified after 7 months on the road - and I am aware my course of action may have surprised some of our fellow travellers waiting outside. But silently getting rorted is worse. Going down swinging is frequently productive and always more fun.
The short version of the story sees a police officer trying to convince each of us its not worth worrying about, but in the end the sanctity of the printed bill will be hard to overcome. The core of the proprietor's argument is that its not many euros and you foreigners have lots of them, not exactly a striking argument going toward the fairness and inherent legitimacy of his case. To my mind it was more a statement proving a mindset of extortion.
It is always a cause for retrospective pondering to think how far you can push a given situation. I have no such doubts here. At the point, after about 30 minutes discussion, that the officer shrugged and radioed for a police car to drive us the 20km to get my passport I realised an appropriate juncture had been met to fold my little tent and give the extortionist his extra four bucks. Annoying to lose a fight of this nature, but fulfilling to have strung it out.
In fairness, I have been quite a pain in the ass for this leg of the trip. Next stop, after some heavy lobbying, was determined to be anywhere outside Croatia. Its very scenic here, the family welcome is amazing, but I can't imagine ever needing a return visit as there are more interesting places around in which to get separated from your euros.