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A little trip through life

Come and take a little trip with me - through my life and with a few other people as well.....You can listen to the music if you don't like the photos....!
Jan/ian (Mr le Marquis - Iwmpop ) Personal Slideshow: Ian’s trip from Le Creusot, Burgundy, France to Nîmes was created by TripAdvisor. See another Nîmes slideshow. Create your own stunning slideshow with our free photo slideshow maker.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Travelling around again....


Oh those Communists......!

Adventures of once upon a time

The People’s Republic of Yugoslavia – Opatiya and 
Riyeka.
A satellite image of the Adriatic Sea.Image via Wikipedia

The first time we went to this 
(still) charming part of Europe,
 was completely by accident.
We were living in West Berlin 
at the time, and had been 
there for a couple of years 
(see earlier articles) and like 
most of “West Berliners” we 
loved the place, but needed 
the occasional trip out of the 
closely guarded confines of 
the Western part of the city, and having to deal daily 
with the Eastern countries way of living, we had lost a 
great deal of our natural suspicion for the 
Communist countries.
An unexpected period of holiday from work left us with 
the choice of going somewhere, or staying in West 
Berlin, again.
As chance would have it, my wife got hold of a brochure 
from one of the West Berlin holiday companies, an 
organised coach holiday company, and we finally 
deciphered that we could go off on holiday to 
Yugoslavia’s Adriatic coast without visas and other 
time consuming paper work.
It was a Thursday, and a quick phone call to the 
company told us that there were places available on 
the Saturday (very early) for 10 days holiday, at a price 
which we couldn’t even get out of West Berlin for, with 
our own car transport.
Transport, hotels, various visits for 10 days were to be 
had for the very reasonable price of 99.00 D-Marks!
I ordered, and was told to be at the main City Coach 
Station at 04.30hrs on the Saturday concerned 
(2 days later!)
Used as I was to starting work at 0400hrs, this gave me 
a “long” lie-in on the day in question, and we were 
there as ordered! In Germany it was always better to 
follow the orders “schnell-schnell!”
The month was October, so well out of school holiday 
time, and on arrival, we found ourselves surrounded by 
what seemed to be hundreds of Pensioners, all hell-bent 
on getting onto a coach and going somewhere!
Thankfully there were quite a number of destinations, 
so finally we found ourselves installed on a “luxury” 
coach, together with some 60 or so “over-sixties”.
We were told not to play radios, games, not to make 
noise, not to eat crumbly bread on the coach, and not 
to comment on any activities at the various border 
control points we would be crossing! Did we all have 
our ID cards/Passports or other documents, was there 
anyone on board actively being looked for by Eastern 
Communist authorities?
We did what the Yorkshire people always do (my wife 
being a Yorkshire lass) and we “said nought”.
Off we went, and arrived within 10 minutes at the first 
control point, West Berlin into Eastern Germany. 
After controls where we lost only one traveller (!) on 
we went, and finally came out into Western Germany, 
somewhere in the area of the Franken, in Southern 
Germany. At both borders (and at all subsequent border 
points) the coach driver opened his “reserves” and 
distributed liberally half litre bottles of good W. 
German beer to the border officers, which enabled us 
to be controlled and sent on our way much more quickly!
Our first stop (overnight) was planned in Austria, I 
don’t recall the name of the place, and in fact I don’t 
think it had a name, but the Hotel was of good quality, 
typical Austrian tourist at the side of the road, with 
geraniums falling out of every window, even the toilet 
window!
We had the pleasure (and duty) to attend the “heimat” 
evening, with accordions, zithers and “Harry Lime” 
theme music all evening, together with what was 
really Bavarian knee and backside slapping dances. 
Our pre-selected (by the company, not us) menu 
consisted of cold haricot bean, tomato, and red 
cabbage coleslaw salad, followed by the invariable 
“schnitzel”. We ate this (promising ourselves that 
this was the only schnitzel we would eat on this holiday) 
and washed it down with some excellent “frascati” 
Italian white wine, which was excellent!
We watched the knee, backside slapping dancers, and 
then realised (at around 10pm) that we were the only 
people left in the place, our co-voyagers ( being of a 
certain age) all having retired!
It is true, we had to get up again at 5am for breakfast, 
ready to leave at 6.30 am, so around midnight, and a 
few “Weissbiers” later, we retired at our turn.
The following morning, we set off for our destination, 
the town of Opatiya, on the Yugoslavian Adriatic coast, 
deep inside Communist territory!

After an uneventful crossing of the border point, into 
Italy, and then into Yugoslavia, where more bottles of 
beer changed hands, we eventually saw the blue/green 
Adriatic in the distance.
People we didn’t see on the roads, and very little traffic 
as well, but this pleased our driver, who did the route on
 a weekly basis, and was used (in the summer season) 
to lengthy hold ups at the border points, hence the beer 
exchange!
We presumed that some people DID live in Yugoslavia, 
and that we would see them later. We were pretty well 
fed up of multiple stops made so we could stretch our 
legs, but in particular so that the Driver and his hostess 
girlie could sell us “a last German hot sausage” and a 
“last real German beer” – at horrifically exaggerated 
prices!
We only took one, at the first break, and were 
thereafter termed “undesirables” and nobody 
wanted to speak to us! This suited us very well, 
not having a great deal to say to some 60 odd 
over sixties, who had probably spent the last 20 
years in Auschwitz or Bergen-Belsen – or even here 
in Yugoslavia - AS GUARDS!!
Finally arriving in Opatiya, we found quite a large town, 
beautifully situated on the coast, and (after having had 
all German bars/Ice Cream parlours/schnitzel houses in 
the town explained to us by our driver). We ignored the 
advice, and finally found our hotel, as I recall described 
as roughly a 24 star hotel!!
We had no problem booking in, since all the Germans 
had immediately disappeared to lay their large towels 
onto the loungers at the side of the swimming pool, 
ignoring that it was October - out of season - and the 
pool held no water, just dead Autumnal leaves!
In fact it was quite reasonable, and thankfully we all 
had the choice of eating in the large “dining hall” with 
everyone else (where the menu was pre-selected, as in 
the hotel in Austria), but was included in the price, or 
we had the choice of a restaurant at the lower level, 
where local dishes were served a la carte, payable, 
but if you were a Hotel Guest, then they made a 
deduction. We ate mostly there, since local wines 
were available and local specialities as well. 
It also gave us the chance to select other places 
in the surrounding town and country side, and with 
our little Fiat dustbin car rented for the week, we 
rapidly became more acceptable for one or two of 
our German co-patriots! After all, we were the only 
ones mobile!
The weather was great, but the sea had a slight chill 
to it, so we spent most of our time exploring the inner 
country side, and the town.
We quickly (as was our wont) made acquaintances, 
in spite of the language barrier, most natives able 
to speak either some German, or some English, or 
some French etc!!
It became our habit (once we had figured out that the 
were ridiculously low, and the portions exceptionally 
large) to leave the hotel/restaurant and take our 
coffee-cognac in the local bar. Actually, our cognac 
rapidly became “slivovic” (a local plum brandy)which 
is a very insidious drink, the first one is horrible, 
the 2nd one is reasonable, the third one requires a 
4th and so on……
This seemed to make us acceptable by the locals, and 
since we were in possession of a “magical” camera 
(a Polaroid instant picture thing, for which the films 
cost a fortune) we rapidly became “sociable” and for 
the price of a slivovic, we took instant photos of just 
about everybody!
The most impressing event was when we took a photo 
of one guy, who immediately disappeared, only to 
return 30 minutes later, with a guy in full dress 
ceremonial Police uniform! Oh gawd, we thought – 
it’s forbidden to take photos probably!
No – not at all! The young man, who had disappeared, 
had quickly returned home to get his Uncle, who turned 
out to be the Chief of Police at Opatiya! Photos had 
to be taken, in mass, but this seemed to be the least 
we could do, and in fact made us totally acceptable 
by all and sundry!
I finally had to explain that we had no more films, 
that we would have to go to the next big town/city 
of Rayika, to get new ones, and that we were very 
sorry..........
 
(Fish market riyeka)

This didn’t seem to matter, and a nice fellow told us 
that we could get a bus in the morning into the city, 
we didn’t have to worry about buying a ticket, it was 
his cousin who owned the bus, and was also the driver! 
This was all arranged, and then he invited us to go, 
that evening, with him and a friend to a lovely place up 
in the hills, to have something to eat.
Now all this was happening in a mixture of 
German/French/English, and even we were a little 
sceptical about going off into the surrounding hills of 
rural Yugoslavia in the evening with a couple of guys 
we had only just met! After all, according to our 
co-holidaymakers, there were still Bandits and 
Partisans living out in those hills - never mind the 
Communist spies!
However, outgoing people as we were, we met at 7pm, 
and in the falling dusk, off we went into them there 
hills, with them there guys, in a tiny vehicle, which 
had never seen the inside of MOT Inspection shed, 
much less the inside of a garage, probably having 
been pinched from the Germans in the last war!
It rocked and rolled us ever upwards, ever onwards, 
and it seemed like a very long time of upwards 
winding roads, in ever increasing darkness, before 
(with a screech of brakes which took off the last 
remaining traces of rubber on the tyres) it finally 
halted in front of a sort of ruin, which looked like 
a mixture of ruin and building site. No lights, only 
stars- nothing!
Our friends suggested that we shouldn’t worry, and 
they were right, it was too late!
We followed them round the back, and our friends 
kicked open a door. So this was what being kidnapped was like!
A wave of music, light, odours of food, chatter and 
conversation, light laughter, all hit us at once!
Waving us in, our host escorted us, amid back slapping, 
hand shaking hordes, to a table right at the front, 
directly in front of the band/orchestra/group, and 
beckoned us to sit down, pleese!
We did so, and were instantly supplied with small 
pitchers of Slivovic as our aperitif.
In fact it was served during the whole meal, the 
pitchers simply being replaced, together with the 
local and wonderful wines. A door opened at the 
back of the stage, and lo and behold – our friend, 
the Chief of the Police was there!!!!
The music stopped (which pleased us somewhat, 
because it was that sort of droning, never ending 
Muslim style music) and our Police Chief started to 
give a speech! Our other friend (the one we had 
suspected of kidnapping us) stood up and started to 
translate into English!
In the most perfect English I have ever heard, outside 
of Oxford or Cambridge, and we felt ashamed of our 
recent doubts!
The night progressed, so did the meal, so – 
unfortunately – did the music!
We found out that almost all the people present were 
able to speak English, to varying levels, and our 
translator friend was actually the English Professor 
in the nearby city of Riyeka!
We passed the most magnificent evening and early 
morning, and were quite disappointed when the time 
came to leave. I pulled out my money, and got a clip 
around the back of the head! A friendly one, but 
forcefully making me understand that one didn’t ask 
friends to pay when they were guests in one’s home!
The only problem that remained was the return journey,
with all the gifts of local wine, slivovic and various other 
edible products, because that journey had to be made, 
downwards, in the winding darkness, by the same driver,
 who had partaken of at least a gallon of slivovic! 
Never mind – we couldn’t walk, we didn’t know the way, 
there were no taxis, and anyway it would have been 
insulting to our new friends. We got in, closed our eyes, 
and in 40 winks we woke up outside the entrance to our 
Hotel!!
We made the plans to meet at the bus stop in about 
2 hours time and stumbled into the Hotel for a quick 
shower and the rest!
By god – we were tired, but happy! I wonder if I'll ever 
get the chance to return....?
So, you see, adventures were possible, and happened 
all the time!
Nowadays, those things simply don’t exist. 
Yugoslavia doesn’t exist, it’s now Croatia, and has 
been over developed- old vehicles fit for the tip don’t 
exist, everybody has a Mercedes or a BMW or a 
Japanese thing, local people keep to themselves, 
and Tourists are even more suspicious than before!
Sad times - but we had known the glad times! 
Later in life, when we lived in Southern Germany, 
we passed many long weekends in the area - it was 
only about 3/4 hours by car from Munich! We were 
never disappointed, except for the one time we 
followed the electricity cuts around for 3 weeks all 
over Yugoslavia, and - of course - being a Communist 
country, each day of the week was ruled by one 
choice of Meat - country wide, vegetables always in 
"miniature" format (fertilizer was too expensive) 
and - OH DEAR - that "turkish coffee!"
But that's another story......!
I’ll be coming back to the theme, without doubt, in the future!   (An account of the day in Rijeka is in planning!)
(iwmpop - Mr. le Marquis)  -  30600 Vauvert, France  -
republished Mai 2011)
The Adriatic Sea, Durazzo is located on the co...Image via Wikipedia
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