Friday, 1 August 2008

Croatia Farewell

My ten month stay in Croatia is coming to an end. I am booked to fly home to Canada on Monday, Aug. 4. The only snag is my flight is with Lufthansa, and they currently have ground crews that are on strike. I've been trying to find out if my flight is canceled or not, but under the circumstances nothing is certain. I pretty much have to wait until the day, show up really early, and see what they can do for me.

When play is work, and work is play

Airline adventures aside, I am very glad I came to Zagreb to work on this "Tesla Project". The opportunity came at a time when I really needed to get away and get some new perspective on life. I got to do a lot of traveling and work with some really great people like Helena and Zvonimir Bulaja, photographer Al Keddie and musician/composer Christian Biegai. There were many other creative people who worked on this project long before I got involved, and still others who are joining the crew as I prepare to leave. Collectively we have produced a huge amount of material that has to be shaped and molded into a film, website, books, and even performances. Helena has grand visions, but somehow she makes them happen.

It's all about the Food

I am very excited about heading back to Canada, but there are things I will miss about Croatia. The coast here is simply stunning. I love spending time in Split, even in the middle of winter. I will miss sipping cappuccino in Britanski Square and eating pastry with salty cheese. Zagreb has the best pizzas I've had anywhere, including Italy. I developed a passion for octopus here (thanks Josh! --and is there something in octopus that makes you a bit goofy? I seem to feel intoxicated whenever I have it... or was I just happy after a good meal?). I will miss the ice cream, which is generally very good everywhere, but Vincek on Ilica St.-- oh my! The cakes and other deserts there are works of art as well. In the winter there are street vendors selling roasted chestnuts, and little stands offering sausages --the spicy ones were excellent! We just called them "spicy street sausage" (which Al's friend, Sarah mistook as a euphemism for something else entirely!).
Oh and of course the "Toplo Hladno" sandwiches from the Pingvin Sandwich Bar on Teslina St. are delicious. I will miss the outdoor fruit and vegetable markets that operate all year long, and the Sunday flea market at Britanski Square with it's mix of treasures and trash.

Higher ground

I won't miss the grey clouds that can hang over Zagreb for weeks in the winter. They blanket the city and just seem to get stuck there, getting thicker and thicker, leaving you to wonder if the sun will ever return. But just one afternoon up on Medvednica, just above the clouds, improved my outlook immensely. I should have gone up there more often. Speaking of the mountain, it features an extensive trail system. I made a few hikes up to Medvedgrad and to a cave for a tour.


I wish I had learned more of the language while I was here, but the truth is it is very easy to be lazy about learning Croatian because most people here speak English very well and as soon as I say dobra dan in what I think is a passable accent, they immediately switch to English. I learned only the basics, like pivo (you always learn the local word of beer right away!), and basic greetings like bok, dobra dan, dobra vecer and dovidjenja or just jenja. For some reason I learned the numbers pet and deset right away (and so pedeset came easily), and eventually I learned osam, and dvadeset... but really, I should have learned more numbers by now! Thanks to my friend's children I quickly learned doci, idemo, and ne. I learned the names of a few types of stores and businesses like frizerski, pekara, and obuća (I challenge anyone to take one walk down Ilica Street and not figure out what obuća means).

You will learn "ulaz" and "izlaz" pretty quickly if you don't want to keep running into people. Waiters here seemed to be endlessly entertained by my pronunciation of "Ozujsko". I eventually figured out that I was putting the emphasis on the wrong syllable. Oh yes, another of my favourite things to say, also food related, is "kikiriki."

I picked up a few other words here and there, of course, but every word seems to have several forms and the grammar completely eluded me. There is an old lady who lives in the same apartment building as me. She's pretty slow moving and I've held the door open for her a few times. She chatters away to me in Croatian, and I have told her that "I only speak English", to which she replies "Ahhh, English..." and then she just continues chattering away to me. I guess it really doesn't matter to her if I understand or not. She's likely talking about the weather, or telling me that she's slow because her back is sore or that she's off to visit her grandchildren. I just smile and say "dobra" and "da". She is likely thinking, "what a nice retarded fellow".

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