Back up travel snippets: Zadar to Split, Croatia.
Way back in September I had the fortune of meeting an old college friend in Croatia. We split a lazy week in Zadar, Split, and a day at the Krka National Park. It was wonderful to meet a friend abroad as an alternative to visiting one another or even embarking out together. Both cities were smaller than we visualized leaving lots of time for sun baking and swimming. Rather than describing what we saw or did, I'd like to share a story of our late night out in Split and the character of the locals we met there.
On our last night in Split Jen and I decided to try to act young and go out for the evening. We started out well, dancing around to 90's and 00's music while drinking wine in the flat and getting dress. Around 1O we made our way out to the old town in hopes of finding a bar to start and dancing and friends for later. Now, this is where we encountered our first mistake: it was a Thursday night. In Newcastle and Tokyo (our respective homes) this should not have been an issue, but apparently this is a Friday and Saturday only city.
We did eventually find a downtown bar that was open and settled in with a few drinks with three Germans we met. We were advised not to even try finding dancing and to be content here, so we were. After a few drinks though, conversation grew stagnant; either there was a language barrier, or more likely, we were just very different groups. That is when we transferred to a group of Swedish businessmen there on a group holiday. Conversation was easy, people were relaxed, and it was all going very well late into the evening. That is, until one of the men - the one we were conversing most with - starting showing signs of elitism, sexism, and some racism too. A fast turn with the alcohol revealed and absolute jerk.
Huffing off, angry and ranting Jen and I headed home. Blood rushing from offense, we passed by an elderly gentleman and his younger companion smoking. Jen asked for a smoke to calm down, and perhaps seeing our distress, had us sit and speak with him. His English was very limited, our Croatia zip, so it was mostly seeing that we were ok and then showing us his cats around the corner. We learned that he ran the bakery across the street and at 3 am, they were beginning to bake the bread for the next day. His companion was one of the bakers. He took us inside and introduced us to the men working, showed us the bread and the ovens. We even had a chance to try to slice the bread pre-baking which is much more difficult than it looks. One of the workers then gave us each some bread to snack on as we watched and stayed warm inside. It was a series of kind gestures and we were so overwhelmed by this surprise introduction to their lives, that our moods completely lifted.
Having opened the shop, he invited us along with a co-worker of some sorts to his flat for coffee. It was a small bachelor pad and it appeared that he had lived alone for a long time - as there certainly was no hint of a woman's touch around. He made coffee on the stovetop and served it with grinds and all. Jen was not accustomed to this method and woefully did not filter the grinds through her teeth on her first sip. It was strong and not exactly tasty, but well appreciated as we were perfectly sober by this point. They spoke about the local Dalmatian music on the radio and asked us about our story. An hour later, Jen and I were ready for sleep and the men were headed back into work. They walked us most of the way to our flat, after we insisted we were almost there as it was quite a bit out of their way.
And all we could speak about as the sky began to lighten was how in a single evening when humanity disappointed us so, it also showed us the most kind and wonderful people.