On my second day in Podgora I met Dunja, the owner. She was in her fifties, thin, with short black hair and a friendly personality but she also came across as a woman who was strong and capable. We exchanged words, hers were a mixture of Croatian, German and Italian, mine mostly English but we understood each others sentiment. Then she followed that with other words of which coffee was the only one I understood and waved at me to follow her. Down the worn stone stairs, out the gate and around to the side yard and a table in the shade across from the laundry room. She and her mother had invited me to join them for some “Bosnian coffee” and a shot of “Loza”. The Bosnian coffee was rich and slightly sweet. The water clear, homemade Loza, packaged in a recycled wine bottle was the Croatian equivalent of “White Lightening”. They wanted me to know that their Loza was a brandy made from grapes. “No plums. Bosnian Loza plum”.
I had just finished my second shot of Loza and was waving off a third when her brother from Germany arrived with his teenage son and daughter. Upon his arrival grandma ducked into the laundry room and returned with a fresh batch of Loza. This one was packaged in an old Jana Water bottle. The brother and his two children spoke varying degrees of english. With their language skills, a few Croatian/English dictionaries and another round of Loza we were ready for an in depth, well lubricated, cultural exchange.
They were Croatians who grew up in the country currently known as Bosnia-Herzegovina. When the former Yugoslavia crumbled and war broke out in 1992 they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. The fighting came within 10 kilometers of their village and a brother was killed by a Muslim but the details were not shared. The Bosnian conflict was very complex and as usual, initiated and fueled by politicians and politics, not the villagers living peacefully with their neighbors for years. It was associated with many horrific acts that resulted in charges of war crimes on all sides.
He said when the war ended in 1995, “Croatian, Serb, no welcome, only Muslim. We all had to leave”. Dunja relocated to Podgora taking on the responsibility of caring for her four year old son by herself and her frail mother. He relocated to Germany where he could find work. I asked him if he ever saw himself returning to present day Croatia. “I have job, children born in Deutschland. No, I don’t ever return.”
Soon I was finishing my fourth shot of Loza and no longer noticed the burn as it went down but politely refused the offer of a fifth. Then the brother said, “Come have pizza with us and listen to “Klapa”. He explained “Klapa” as traditional music found only on the Dalmatian Coast. “Not in continent.” A Klapa group is a cappella group with a guitar and/or mandolin added. Essentially every coastal town has a Klapa group. “They sing softly, no loud. Music you can sit with girl.” He imitated putting his right arm around an imaginary sweetheart on the bench next to him. (The Loza was having an affect on both of us now.) The songs tell stories about fishing, the sea and the girl that didn’t show and the sad fellow that sat there all night watching the moon move across the sky as he waited. It was my kind of music even if I couldn’t understand the words and the tempo had a rhythmic rolling feel similar to the rocking of a boat.
Fortunately the Klapa singers were performing on the boat tied up in front of the house. I wasn’t up for a long walk. Shortly after moving out front the pizza arrived. That meant it was time to put the Loza back in the laundry room and pull out the homemade wine. I got a kick out of watching the family talk and joke with each other as the pizza was passed around and cheeks were kissed.
Two days ago I felt 25 Euros was a fare price for the room. Tonight I feel I under paid by an immeasurable amount.