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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.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Croatia hols-add fotos

Croatia hols-add fotos

Adventures of once upon a time

The People's Republic of Yugoslavia – Opatiya and Rayika.

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! (Ah yes - I remember it well!)

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 one's left in the place, our co-voyagers (all 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 "Weiss biers" 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 – 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) finally our hotel, as I recall described as roughly a 24 star hotel!!

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), and was 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 prices 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 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!

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!

Amongst the most perfect English I have ever heard, outside of Oxford or Cambridge, and we felt ashamed of our recent doubts! (This isn't him, but the uniform was similar!)

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 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 for 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!

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!

(iwmpop) (Mr. le Marquis)

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)            -          Vauvert,France              -           Fin Octobre 2010

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