I am the first one to leave the plane – like a superstar, I put my hands up in the air, waiting for applause, greeting that one person, who waits us down the stairs. Some weird kind of freedom, mixed with a relief – we are finally out, at least for a couple of days, for some sun, hitchhiking and not caring about anything else than how beautiful and fulfilling is living when on the one hand you have sea, and mountains on the other.
Krk airport greeted us with a rain, and we went for a walk into the wilderness, or to be fair, to the bridge, straight to the beginning of a love story with Croatia. Couple of days before the trip I mostly listened to the Croatian Amor – and now I know, why would anyone fall for this country. Our plan was not to have a plan (but probably visit Zadar), and so we did, and we did a lot more.
But before that, we went to Rijeka – nearby town, where we met up the lovely host from CS, Tomislav, and his friend Ivan. After the stories about fighting snakes in the mountains in order to get some asparagus, and harpooning fishes, and hearing the sound of clinging of the sails in the calm sea, we decided, that the only way to be happy was to marry a Croatian sailor, have eight children, live near the seaside and wait for him in the evenings, with freshly made calamari. But seriously – Rijeka and Opatija were more than charming, especially in the evening, going down the path near the seaside, listening to local musicians improvising, under the shadow of palm trees.
Next day we started our little trip to Zadar, which at some point started to seem more like a character, phantomous Godot, than a real town. When we finally came there, a day later than planned, the most impressive was the Morske Orgulje – stairs, which are close to the sea, and which make noise when the waves approach. Melody is the same, but the sound is different. Would love to sit there forever.
There are a few great things about the coastal road from Rijeka to Zadar. First – on the one side of the road, there are mountains, and on the other, you see the sea. If you hitchhike, you will not get lost – if you see the sea, you are ok. There is only one road, with small villages scattered around it, little houses here and there, made of rocks, everything is made of rocks, houses, fences, those mystical circles near the sea. Even the people seem to be sculpted in the nature, sitting on the ports, fixing fishing nets, looking for something and nothing at the same time.
Most of the cars in Croatia are so new, that older ones seems to be more of an ironical statement, not a real thing. Maybe that‘s why each Croatian who picked us up, seemed to look at road signs more as a recommendation, not a necessity.
Top speed 90? My car only goes on 140.
Seatbelts? What seatbelts, there is no policemen around.
But anyway, while going on the narrow mountain roads on 120 km/h, I trusted those people more than I trust myself. This is the thing with travel, you forget that you dislike people – you become more open, more trusting, and everything is way simpler. Everyone you meet is a prospective friend, there are no fake dramas, there is only one, easy reality, in which the biggest problem can be narrowed to the dilemma of the millennium – should I look at the sea or should I glimpse at the mountains when I am drinking cheap wine on the docks, surrounded by blossoming cherries. The only time is present, and present is the best time; the people you meet are the perfect ones.
Elder man, who picked us up twice, was the soul of the mountain, stopping at one yard or another, discussing local events with his neighbours, getting a cup of macchiato on a local caffè. He joked dirty in Hrvatski, we laughed, the sun was up in the sky, my nose became red.
Baba Kata, who opened her home after the night catched us in Starigrod – we met her Milenko at 11 pm, walking the dog near the docks. Baba Kata didn‘t care that we do not know Hrvatski, we didn‘t care that she didn‘t know Lithuanian – she told us all about, well, everything: economy of Germany, traditions in Italy, her family, her late husband, her life – being a great house keeper, building a home with bare hands, and what is like to live in Starigrod. I remembered my very own grandmother, and how we also used to drink beer during long talks about the past, future, and beyond. Windows from Baba Kata‘s house have a view to the sea.
Two random guys in bus station of Zagreb, one of whom told the ultimate answer with which from now on I will explain every decision I make: „This is how I function“. After two days of hitchhiking, close to zero sleep, talking about Polish-Lithuanian history, Game of Thrones (KING’S LANDING IS IN DUBROVNIK) and how many cubic kilometers of sea we have, with a chain smokers, who are just casually drinking coffee on 4 am in a bus station on Sunday morning.
And of course,our favourite Hrvatian/Italian boys from now on will be Adi and Michele, who picked us up close to Zadar, and because of whom we made an unexpected turn of the trip and visited Zagreb, tasted local beer and walked around, saw the hooker street and the majic of down town – and hopefully a production of a prn movie in a fire truck near some super sacred place of the town. We even had a youtube party – and believe me, Balcan punk/ska/ V. A. is awesome:
Even though technically hitchiking and Csing is not a necessity, it is the ultimate way to get to know the country in mere days, meet the kindest and most open people, who not only give you a lift, but also invite you in their worlds. A life of 80-year old sailor widow may be mine in that alternative reality, in which I live two meters from the crystal clear sea, bear my kids and maintain the farm and a mountain drive-in, where one day the old neighbour can bring two hitch-hiking girls – and I will give them coffee for free, because they smile a lot, and one‘s nose is red from the sun, the sand and the wind.