Six hours after leaving Zagreb Croatia the bus rolled to a stop at the edge of the Adriatic Sea. As I stepped off the bus I was immediately confronted by a line of women with signs reading, sobe, room for rent. The women all chanted the same statement but in various languages. It may have been in the only language the woman knew, or it may have been in a language that she thought would be the most lucrative, I don't know. But a room was just what I needed. After a little bartering and a phone call to her sister, one of the woman and I agreed on a room and a price. The woman's husband escorted me from the bus, across the promenade with the sea on our left and Diocletian's Palace on our right but after that it got complicated. We veered right left right through a maze of narrow and twisting white stone alleyways. Even with the best satellite assistance I would never have found the room on my own.
Reading about such a sleeping arrangement with the cautious eyes of a non-traveler probably makes it appear like the perfect set-up for disaster. (Or at least the eyes of many Americans.) “That man is going to lead you into an alley where he and his friends are going to gut you like a fish and take your money, valuables, passport… Sure that could happen but that's not the vibe I was getting from Croatia, from Split or from the non-english speaking man that towered over me like a well tanned giant as we wove our way through the alleyways.
After fifteen minutes of walking I found myself on the lower floor of Maracia's home, my host and sister of the woman with the sign. She showed me my room and assured me, “it's all yours”, referring to the TV and second bed. She repeatedly said if I needed anything just ask her. “I live on the second floor, just upstairs.” After hearing that I had to laugh a little to myself. If anyone is taking a chance it's Maracia, inviting a strange man into her home from a country known the world over for violent crimes and gun ownership. Sweet dreams Maracia.
… As I slowly tried to retrace my way back to the waterfront I came upon a restaurant with a small sign that said “fresh grilled fish”. Back home the establishment would not be referred to as a restaurant. It would be referred to as, “the guy in shorts and flip-flops with the big grill and six tables in his backyard”. But I was hungry and the guy in flip-flops was pleasantly engaging despite not speaking english and was quick to offer me a drink. I wasn't sure what the drink was but I was assured that the yellow liquid was a product of Croatia. It resembled a urine sample and you could claim that is a product of Croatia too but I prefer to think it wasn't that. It was sweet, slightly viscous, with a bit of a burn, like bourbon.
When the young lady presented me with my grilled whitefish with head, eyes and tail attached, the man in flip-flops excitedly shouted, “Bon Appetit”. The fish was delicious but to receive a full fish and having to carefully pick the meat off the bones is rare in the states. But I found the dissection a fun challenge and it spoke for the freshness of the fish.
… I first saw the beautiful waters of the Adriatic Sea in the fall of 1994 when I flew from Bari Italy to the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, (GW). The GW and another ship were doing an underway replenishment so they were only 30 yards apart and traveling at about 15 knots each. I found the brilliant blue and white waters churning and streaming between the hulls of the two ships as beautiful as any man made fountain.
Today I took a small boat into those same waters with the purpose of swimming in them. The boat took seven of us to caves, grottos and secluded harbors as well as the popular tourist island of Hvar. In one of the caves a small hole in the ceiling provided the only direct source of light. It was fun to swim from the black water into the ray of light. It was also the only spot in the cave that gave you any indication of the depth of the water or what was beneath you. It was a long boat trip, eleven hours, but it was time and money well spent.
When I finished college I couldn't tell you a thing about the Adriatic Sea or the people and countries that surrounded it. Today when I think about the Adriatic a collection of memories, sights and sounds flow forth. I associate it with being a young lieutenant and the excitement of beginning my medical career, as well as now, the next phase of life, when I have the time to pursue non-career related dreams. The unique thing about my collection of thoughts and memories related to the Adriatic Sea is that they are all positive. I hope that streak continues, next stop Omis Croatia.