It's been a while since I wrote anything so waiting at an airport for an hour is a perfect opportunity to put pen to paper, as it were. A few weeks ago I arranged with my friend Lou- you may remember her from such larks as Zagreb Visit the First - to once again test the patience of the poor people of Zagreb. Tickets and accomodation arranged, and the week before the visit, I leisurely wrote an email to a historian from Split.
Now I wasn't expecting an immediate response from the man because Split history has been rediscovered all over the place over last few weeks. In fact it's caused a bit of a stir; mediaeval walls in town, and Greek remains on the Riva. The latter is being turned into a taxi rank and archeologists have been looking at the other foundations. Let's say it's been controversial.
I got a lovely message back saying I was welcome to come to his 8am lecture at a local hotel and then to join his architectural students to look at the newly restored Roman remains of the Palace. This Saturday. The Saturday I'd be in Zagreb with Lou.
I pondered over this and agonisingly decided that history of Split was irresistible. I messaged her and told her all about it, and thank goodness she knows me well - history is obviously a bit of an obsession. We simply arranged to have a sunny coffee in Split before she went on to Zagreb. What could be nicer?
After a couple of beers and 10 mins before she had to be in a taxi to the airport, we had a brainwave - some mean type might suggest it was 'alcohol related'. Why didn't I come to Zagreb for a night, just for the ride? I mean, the flights were paid for, all I had to do was get back to Split for Saturday. We looked at one another, and in true cartoon style, I left a Clare-shaped blur in the seat and sprinted up the hill to home.
I was in shorts, sunglasses...you know, dressed for the Riva. I grabbed trousers, other shoes, scruffy jumper, passport, makeup bag (which I promptly forgot), phone battery, hairbrush (spare was already in handbag) and a pair of knickers off the washing line as I ran past. The place was already upside down as there had been a sunglasses related emergency earlier. So frankly this second whirlwind hadn't helped the state of the place. As I write this, I'm already dreading getting in.
Still, I legged it back to the taxi rank at Sv Frane (jedan dva jeden dva as my helpful butcher yelled as I ran past) and scrambled into the waiting car. I clearly cause nothing but entertainment for my good neighbours of Varoš.
We passed an uneventful trip to the tiny airport. I munched my emergency burek and giggled with Louise about the apartment with a hot tub. I'd never flown from Split and I was aghast at the beauty of my city in the setting sun - my forest hill looks vast from above and I was happy to remember the brisk bright jog from the morning. A morning where the day had calmly spread out before me, the most exciting thing being buying sunglasses and turning pink as I researched klapa from whichever cafe I decided to write at. As we decided our Zagreb 'plan' of action, we thought about my return trip.
I'd need a ticket if I was flying back. And it would need to be a flight because I couldn't get the bus which takes about 5 hours. Air Croatia said there was an early Saturday flight to Split which gets in at 7.20. This meant that I could also attend her friend's gig on the Friday night. Perfect. I booked it for the princely sum of £35.
Who doesn't love getting up at 4am after a midnight finish?
So we arrived in Zagreb relatively late and met our patient host on a dark unknown street, in front of a grafittied iron door. He warmly welcomed us and showed us to a stunning apartment on the top floor. Lou's baggage had already given the airport bus driver a hernia but this young man grabbed it and carried it up the several flights of stairs. Crikey. Knowing that finding food after 1030 here is a challenge, he hurriedly explained everything and we were spectacularly inattentive - I mean, how hard can a state of the art steam jacuzzi bath be to work?
He walked us happily into town - us for food, him to get a tram home - and chatting merrily, with blyth disregard for where we were going arrived at the main square where we said goodbye. The first place was closing, the second option was a fast food pizza slice...we then struck lucky with Trattoria Leonardo which served excellent food til midnight. Excellent. I was famished! That burek had been gobbled up a long time ago! Pizza and beer was probably not a good late night option but, then neither were snap travel decisions - as I realised I had pretty much nothing with me. At all.
We rolled in a pizza shaped direction home. So far so good, until the familiar streets become less so and much, much quieter. I squeeeeed as I saw the national bank of Croatian (some artist had turned the fountain outside blood red during President Bush's visit a few years ago) but Lou is used to this kind of unhelpful behaviour. We've gone the wrong way a few streets back; giggling over our host who'd distracted us earlier, we consulted the map. No problem, five minutes later we arrived at our snug home, and decided that hot tub larks were probably best postponed. Before passing out in my sea themed room, I had a small altercation with the heating coming on and off *switch OFF* done.
I woke up to bright sunshine and a fervent desire to shake my past self. Closing the shutters would have been helpful! Clad in my bedspread (no pjs) I had words with the coffee machine and rapidly became fast friends. Although the more cultural attractions of Zagreb called me, we decide we couldn't leave without flying the bath - after all it had been the deciding factor of the trip. A last minute change of plan on her part meant we were only staying here one night. It was now or never. After a final look at the instruction booklet, trial and error soon had a bath of water, a room of steam, and two naked ladies.
We mourned the lack of champagne to complete our rock and roll lifestyle. As well as the absence of some essential oil to enhance the steam.
Wobbly bits well and truly wobbled, a slightly scalded hand (she needed to see where the steam was coming from), and with no farting - not from me anyway - we completed our toilette. I've never been so clean and relaxed! Breakfast called and we needed to move into our new place sooner rather than later. We strolled into town and into our favourite spot.
The sweet Mario at Gajbica remembered us! And we scoffed his tasty bacon mushroom egg special and marvellous fruit juice concoctions. Lou also bought some healthy cake for her singer friend who we'd we seeing later on. Ah yes. The gig. So, I asked, what was the thing with the gig, where was it? We hadn't really worried about it; there was no dress code, it was her best friend, at a casino...
Images of Las Vegas, or London's finest popped into my head. I had on my finest grey hiking and cycling jeans, sensible warm green jumper, and no make up; this was mildly troubling. I felt undressed for breakfast, never mind an evening out. First things first - accomodation. We went back to the apartment to collect belongings, and met up with our cute host and another feat of strength involving the suitcase. Waving cheerio and vidimo se, we went off with Lou's wayward suitcase to find a tram.
Rattling through the city on one of the more old fashioned trams is a brilliant way to travel. Not so convenient to clamber up several steps with baggage, but the driver was patient. We arrived at the next place and met our new hostess. We had a natter, chuckled about our language learning, booked my early taxi to the airport, and admired our new flat. The terrace outside was pleasant and relaxing would have been nice. I looked in the mirror; some mad scruffy woman looked back and laughed at me.
We scampered out to see what we could get in the way of suitable clothing. Make up - check; a smart cream Italian openknit sweater - check. Lou had tried on a frock but nothing was working so with rising panic, we decided more information was required. Doing what any normal English girls would do, we had a beer and checked out the venue online.
Feathers. Teeeny frocks. Sequins.
We started to laugh hysterically again. Where on earth did one buy feathers from in Zagreb? Sensibly Lou messaged them about dress code. I mean, my new top was lovely but were my jeans ok!? As a reassuringly prompt exchange took place, where they explained cocktail dresses would be preferable, as long as you weren't in flip flops, you'd be let in. We stopped panicking and went to buy glitzy jewellery.
We ambled home via a rather good local restaurant and ate too much. It's always hard for Lou to leave Croatia and her good friends here so we were quieter than usual. But we perked up as we went to try on new make up (wrong shade) new jewellry (dear god), hair (recalcitrant) and surveyed the results. We looked good - if we'd been going to a pub or ordinary gig venue we would have rocked the joint. On arrival at the cheesiest casino you can imagine, we perhaps felt out of place.
Two ladies. Cake. A casino virgin (me). The cake wasn't allowed in as it didn't have a passport. I envied it.
But then we met her friends and they were truly lovely. We were glad to be there and all discomfort fled. The evening passed without a hitch as we played spot the super model, assessed the plastic surgery, and generally took the piss. There will be a lot of photos of two random English ladies sat at the front table with the stars of the show! I regretted that my favourite black lace frock was in Split like Cinderella but I was happy to feel comfortable in my own unbotoxed skin. Lou's friends did the necessary photos, tv interviews, and casino bits. I didn't envy this naturally angelic looking lady with the beautiful voice. All she wanted to do was to be at home with her baby. Such is the reality of showbiz glitz.
Their set was wonderful and worth the trip, and sadly I had to leave early as I had to be up at stupid o clock. But I would have loved to hear more of a perfect guitar/voice combo of two people who work in perfect loving harmony. All the running around, giggling over pushing boobs into unsuitable frocks, insane amount of taxis, and lack of museums - their music was worth it to face the hot tub and dance!