Croatian Cafés and Car Washes
For ten days in Croatia, with no Internet and no computer, but lots of time to reflect, I penned pages and pages on a pad of paper, kept notes in a small diary and discussed observations with my daughter. Together we shot hundreds of photos of the miles and miles of jagged coastline shimmering with blue, blue waters, the ancient cities with their stone and red tile roofed houses lining narrow cobblestoned streets, natural waterfalls to crystal clear pools of fish in the national parks, the pink skies behind stunning sunsets, both pebble and sandy beaches riddled with bathing beauties and took photos of each other we could use as blackmail material.
We wanted an adventure — somewhere we hadn’t been before, didn’t know the language and where we could relax and get a good tan. It was an aggressive plan over ten days, five overnight destinations (four bed and breakfasts, one hotel), three ferry rides (to and from the mainland and two islands — Hvar and Korcula) and more than 1500 kilometers of driving (along ragged coastlines, rocky roads and newly built Autoroutes).
Our goals were more than accomplished — every minute was an adventure, we returned with golden tans and more importantly, we learned a very important lesson during our stay in Eastern Europe…that we as Americans living in Paris are about as spoiled as anyone can become.
Without considering the historical aspects of this young country just now rediscovering its assets as a tourist destination, we observed some aspects of the culture that we couldn’t begin to explain from our American/French point of view.
For example, cafés are absolutely everywhere. In fact, the sidewalks are overflowing with them. Vodka and rum is cheaper than the fruit juice. The local wines are quite good and the cappuccino just as frothy and delicious as anywhere. The seats are filled with Croatians and international tourists (we heard every European language and lots of American English). Here’s the enigma: they serve no food whatsoever…with the exception of an occasional croissant and ice cream cone. Pizzerias are occasional, but restaurants are a rarer lot.
At both lunch and dinner time, we found ourselves wandering the narrow streets, searching for something real to eat while everyone else seemed content to just drink. The restaurants you do find all have identical menus and serve exactly the same dishes — grilled fish and meats, mixed salads, spaghetti and risotto. The breads were mostly pasty and tasteless. We found one Asian restaurant in Zagreb named creatively “Asia” and other than that…?
We scratched our heads and wondered how they kept themselves alive on coffee, beer, vodka and pizza. We tired of having eaten the same meal at every sitting…all at about the same price, all at about the same quality.
The young men are Adonis look-alikes (I fell in love every ten seconds) and the young women are well endowed and shapely (and became green with envy). As they aged, the pizza diets told tall tales and we didn’t have to wonder where their good looks went.
In the supermarkets, we discovered dozens of different brands of deodorant, but other basic hygiene products totally missing. On the roads along the coastal cities and on the islands, we searched high and low for gas stations, but found car wash after car wash after car wash and wondered why the cars needed to be clean, but didn’t need gas. The beaches were not as universally topless as they are in France, Spain or Italy, but the very young children were mostly running around nude. No one seemed to care.
This morning as we left our hotel in Zagreb quite ready after ten days of pondering Croatian culture to be back in Paris where being spoiled was more normal than not, we broke into uncontrollable hysterics with one look at our silver colored rental car. At once we finally understood why there was a car wash on every corner of Croatia.
During the night, thousands of birds must have dined on blueberries and sweet fruits…then, as if targeting us specifically — the spoiled and curious travelers — rained the remains all over the vehicle, totally obliterating its originall
y shiny tone and making it impossible to see through the windshield and windows.
You can bet we headed straight for the car wash before heading for the airport, laughing all the way there.
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
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P.S. In this week’s French Property Insider, I’ll give you a more detailed account of our adventure and later still, I’ll publish a very complete article, one that can help you have your own Croatian adventure.