Homeless in Dalmatia

 My recommendation with this passage:

There is something great about listening to St. Germain under the shadow of old stone walls carved two thousand years ago, with a cup of coffee and watching a soup of folks stroll on by. Draped in color, both drab and dazzling, with smiles and scowls in their heads and the dust of desire in their hands.

There is something about sitting at a table, all to yourself and watching the waitress trapeze through the crowd like some lithe tightrope walker, the tray of drinks held precariously above her head, only her fingertips pressing the underside and gravity doing the rest. With practiced skill and centrifugal force, she glides through and with a few narrow misses comes to a graceful stop in front of a table lined with thirsty visitors from foreign lands, their speech both harsh and supple.

Something about traveling, observing the people that walk in and out of your life in mere moments and the striking memories you somehow retain despite the lack of contact or purpose. And those that you lose.

Writing has become a practiced therapy, one that allows me to unwind from the rigors of movement, traveling from place to place, never having a permanent place to rest my head. My interim homelessness has allowed me liberation, and the ability to see the world from a different angle.

An angle that often presents itself while moving, looking out of a bus window or walking down the street with a heavy pack on my shoulders and lost in thought, I have these chilling moments of absolute lucidity, where an idea surfaces from the choppy waters of my mind and becomes calm. If I am walking, I typically run down whoever lies in my path, except for light poles – they don’t move.

The last two nights landed us in Makarska, and under the stars we found respite. Luck, often absent, gave us two blown up air mattresses and a deserted beach, the rest we managed to sort out with a sleeping bag and some piled luggage. With a soft breeze off the Adriatic, we slept for two nights on the Makarskan beach. It was an unbelievable experience. The first night yielded perfect weather, a clear sky and warm early hours. The next, presented flashes of lightning, quaking thunder, and a thick blanket of rain from which we sought refuge in a cafe down the way.

At midnight, the wind began to pick up, enough for both of us to wake up from our deep slumber on the Adriatic. Groggy from the passage through REM, we shook awake at the first rumblings of thunder and the increasing wind. Protected by a great wall of basalt that stretches into the ocean, our spot on the rocky beach was assumed to be a bastion of safety. Though Nature had other plans.

Tiffany arose and was gone in moments to find us shelter with her headlamp aglow, while I sat there like a fool trying to wrangle the straps on my sandals while stuffing my sleeping bag into my 70L with little success.

“Tiffany!” Goddamn bag. “Tiffany! We gotta go! Now!” Screaming into the wind was like yelling into a pillow, no dice.

Our inter tubes, like parchment in the wind were threatening to blow down the beach. With some serious effort I managed to lay a couple small boulders on them as anchors and with one last heave, zipped up my bag and threw it on my shoulders. Cursing at the sandal that was only half on my foot and the heel digging into the only sharp stone on the beach, I turned around quickly to a panting Tiffany who effortlessly threw on her pack and pointed South to the caffe-bar down the way, its faux palm leaf room rustling dangerously with the rough gale.

Limping and furious, I resumed my taunting of whatever Storm God I could get out on my lips whilst the wind was nearing hurricane strength. Despite all this, the environment was spectacular. I realized with sudden clarity that even with the pain underfoot and the inconvenience, that this was a moment I would look back on with love.

And so it was, the moment we took shelter, the sky as if on cue opened up and poured. A deluge, harder than I have ever seen it rain. The storm was furious, but our haven warm and dry. At the base of a bar I slept like a baby, the sound of rain hitting the roof with hard strikes. The nice gentleman that was working the night shift graciously allowed us in and granted us shelter. We never got his name, his hospitality was enough.

In that moment, under the bar and during the night I felt entirely homeless. A man without a place to call home, a complete fool for thinking the clouds over the sea were not thunderheads, and so in love with this new and exciting life I found myself in. None of these thoughts were enough to stave off the exhaustion however, and I fell fast asleep.

The next six hours were not exactly the best I ever had but what the hell, that’s life, and this experience will remain one of the most colorful I have had yet in Croatia and in the world. I wanted adventure, so I get what I asked for.

I am leaving tomorrow for Sarajevo, there perhaps I will find some measure of fulfillment off the beaten track with home-cooked meals, good conversation, and sound company. I think for now, I have seen what I wished to see in Croatia. This place is far too stunning to be left alone for too long and I know for certain that I will be back, there is far more to explore and learn.  I think that the winter would be a better time, and I hear Plitvice Lakes are stunning while covered in snow and ice.

The most difficult moments are often the best memories. Something to keep in mind if you are looking to grow, open yourself up to new possibilities by experiencing the unknown and confronting your fears.

As for now, its an old Roman ruin I must explore and some octopus pizza calling my name.

All my best from the Dalmatian Coast,

BF.

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Move.

A self imposed sentence, isolation in a world of too many people standing still and too few walking through. I find myself in paradise, though with gentle thunder tailing my weary feet, I walk on past the stately palms and the warm water without a backward glance. I want a challenge, I want to bask in my sweat and feel the fierce gale off a mountain. I want soil beneath my feet, pavement be damned, it is to this Earth I am bound.

I meditated on my purpose here, anywhere. After the tenth breath I knew full well that I don’t need such trivial things to drive me forward. It is the people, the nature, those delirious moments of astonishing beauty that drive me to the edge of weeping and then cast me back with the force of a tidal wave. That is what grants me the energy to drive onward; press me harder and I will walk until my legs are shaking and my mind drifts to the other side.

I fully accept the path I have chosen, and after a million steps in one direction then perhaps I will know what it is to live. Travel the world, cast away your riches, and seek the true faith – yourself.

Croatia has been one beautiful moment. Nearly one thousand kilometers of travel. Roman ruins and beaches that make your jaw drop as the sun begins to set and shines like a golden mirror across the Adriatic. Modern derelictions, unlocked and tucked into the rocky hills and crowded epicenters filled with cheap goods and rich laughter. I have met the right amount of people and seen the correct number of things and in my final moments here, before I begin the rough journey into the interior, I am sitting on the coast drinking light beer and contemplating how in the world am I supposed to put these incredible experiences into words. Perhaps I need something stronger.

Not likely, a clear head and a sober step has become a good way to travel. Photographs will do the talking for me.

Sarajevo bound in a few days, a city which survived the longest siege in modern history is beckoning me to her. Over the Balkans, past tarnished towns and rough road, into the hinterland I am headed. A chance meeting in Zagreb led me to a new friend and now a gracious host in this beautiful city. Rebuilt and stunning, I am itching to leave the coast and go inland. Something draws me to the mountains, away from the water, and into the Earth. 

Keep moving, 

BF.

Endless Sun and a Fist Full of Weasels.

I do not think a broad description of Croatia would do this spectacular country the justice it deserves. Seduced and in love, I have been willingly coerced into writing an sweeping treatise on the beauty, the people, the food, the drink, and the experience of my Istrian adventure. So get comfortable, pour yourself a glass of wine or a pint and celebrate the land of my ancestors and perhaps your own.

Like Norway, I arrived in Croatia with a thunderstorm tailing my steps. The sky darkened, and I with an overstuffed pack weighing heavy on my shoulders made a split second decision to either walk to the BnB in which I would be staying the night or take a cab. It took the cab-driver standing on the curb a total of three seconds to realize that I was indecisive, aware of the encroaching storm, and an American. It was the hat, he later told me in broken English – the crushable cowboy hat I bought from Duluth Trading Co, vented and comfortable,  which makes me look very American.

Before I knew it, my bag was stowed safely in the trunk of a Citroen C1, and myself riding shotgun with the window open enjoying the warm Istrian air. A wooden rosary and a picture of Michael the Archangel encased in plastic twisted around each other and swung in unison around a turn as the cab-driver started speaking indiscernible Croatian, his gold ringed hand resting lazily on the five-speed stick, and my eyes taking it all in. I am in Croatia, this is unreal. Lines of fig trees and their adolescent fruits, the roughened bark of the sycamore and spiky pomes of the chestnut tree stood along the avenues.

The address I had scribbled on a crumpled receipt said Ulica Marsovog, Pulja 13. Nearly as impossible as my cab-driver’s dialect, was apparently the location of my lodgings. With a look and an expression of bewilderment, my gold adorned motorist slammed on the brake and cursed.

U-turns in Croatia consist first of frustrated expletives under the breath and then a violent turn of the wheel, typically a nice little impact with the chipped curb comes next and then a renewed round of cursing, barely a glance behind before the gas pedal is slammed down hard and the pull away at an impossible break neck speed. Passersby will get a show, and perhaps a colorful series of hand gestures coupled with a vocabulary lesson in advanced expletives. So far a colorful experience.

At last, as the sun was disappearing under the horizon we found the desired location. The faded number “13” stood beside a half-opened gate and beyond a vast garden, verdant and colorful. This was the place. The meter rung 140 Kune, an exorbitant amount in this affordable country, and the most expensive purchase I have made so far in my travels here. I paid him, and walked through the gate and away from the approaching rain clouds.

Thunder and lightning and true darkness, with the television blaring in the next room I sat at the kitchen table with a full plate of heirloom tomatoes, a loaf of bread and a glass of homemade wine. Spicy on the palate, but warming to the heart, the vintage was a welcoming surprise. My host did not speak a lick of English however the language divide did not stop us from erupting into laughter after a considerable series of hand-signals that would make a mime sweat. It was a strange, but apt introduction to Eastern Europe.

Later that night, a close friend from the states, Tiffany, met up with me. Exhausted from travel, upset plans, and adaptations that only come from the journeys we take in foreign lands, we were tempted to pass out, but not before walking in the rain through the nearly deserted streets of Pula to grab a “zima pivo” and a pizza. That cold, golden half liter of Istrian fable was enjoyed in the proximity of the ancient Roman forum, among stone walls, scalloped balconies, and wrought iron porticoes. Cobble stoned streets worn smooth from millennia of foot traffic shone like mirrors after the short-lived rainfall.

My first impression of Croatia was of an antediluvian modernity, a constantly contradictory appearance that is both beautiful and charming. Thousand year old stone above illuminated shopping malls, sycamore lined promenades with caffe-bars in the shade and motorcycles parked symmetrically down its length. Generosity and honesty is a common occurrence here, at a word these people will give you the shirt off their back and instead of a complicated list of directions, will act as your personal guide to your desired destination.

Everything here is so damn cheap, I love it. There are stands for homemade beer that are poured into mismatched 1 liter water bottles and then sold for a scrapping four dollars! Wine is sold the same way. Fruit trees line the streets, where unripened figs dance lazy in the wind and apples, though tart, hang seductively out of reach. After Norway, I look at the prices and realize with shock that a nice shirt costs 40 Kune ($8.00) and a half liter of beer runs me no more than 15 Kune – about $3.00! The croatian currency is the Kune which according to my couch surfing host is the word for “weasel,” whose pelt a hundred years ago was worth quite a bit. Right now, I got a pocket full of weasels and a whole country to explore.

Fish, though whole heartedly delicious and amazing, may be the most unflattering meal you can order in Croatia. Grilled whole after being fished from the sea, and put on a silver tray in front of you, its abysmal eyes stare up at the encroaching hands ready to tear it asunder. I made the first mistake of using utensils, later I found out that the only proper way to eat fish, is to use your hands. Rip off the scaly epidermis to reveal a buttery and meaty under layer, rife with vicious little bones that must be picked out of your mouth like sunflower shells. The skin is rather salty and actually really delicious, though not recommended for the first bite as it is a little tangy.

So much has happened in the week since I have left the North. The southern territories sparkle with life, and the beaches beckon you to their watery depths – the Adriatic is almost therapeutic though extremely salty and I cannot get enough of that clear water. The people are so healthy, browned by the sun, and always wearing these endearing smiles. An oddly enough, almost all the middle-aged men look like Uncle Marc – I often do double takes when they pass me on the street. I have so much more to explore, though for now, this passage and a few choice pictures shall suffice.

Onward,

BF.