Stranded in Drage

The guys and I left Zadar in the morning, after enjoying the buffet breakfast at the hostel, and went our separate ways.  Given the forecast for rain, I booked a room in a village called Drage only 35km from Zadar, expecting to have to stop and shelter from the worst of the rain on my ride.  Perversely it was a sunny day with only a few spots of rain, so I made good time and arrived at my accommodation two hours early.  I had to ask at a couple of places before I found the right building, because the Croatians seem to be as relaxed about street names and numbers as they are about ferry schedules.  
Cool shapes in the clouds, just before it started raining.
Despite the website saying there was someone there who spoke English there wasn’t, but I was invited to sit in the sun and wait.  A beer was placed in front of me and I was joined by a lady and another couple of guys, one of which spoke some English.  It eventuated that he was Tomislav, the owner of the property, and the other guy his brother Neven.  They spoke about a nearby island, Murter, and I thought they were just suggesting I go there on my way the following day, but when they got up to leave, indicating I should follow, it became apparent that they were meaning to show me around the island that afternoon.  

We went to a café where another friend of their’s joined us, it being a Sunday afternoon, and had a drink in the sun.  Afterwards we went back to the rooms where I was able to unpack and change, before they took me to a neighbour’s place to share in a dinner of Prsut (salted smoked pork) and homemade red wine.  The pork has to be the best I’ve ever tasted, and makes me want to investigate preserving my own meat when I get back to NZ.  It is made by coating the leg of pork in a mixture of salt and paprika, then pressing it and smoking it, though in which order these things are done I’m not sure, then hanging it to dry.  

Once everyone had eaten, one of the men went and fetched his accordian and began playing the same sort of music as the men in the restaurant in Zadar.  I had thought it was a tourist thing in Zadar, but no, it appears to be something people just generally enjoy.  Everyone joined in the singing, with strong and tuneful voices and harmonies.  It was great to see the enthusiasm they had for it, and it was obvious that they sing a lot for they were pretty darn good for drunk amateurs.  Makes me a little sad New Zealand culture is so embarrassed by singing in public.

The next day I woke up to a very strong wind rattling my shutters.  The Bura winds had arrived.  The Bura (or Bora in Italian) is a strong wind from the north that commonly comes during winter.  What a change from the day before!  Hoping it would die down as the morning progressed, I packed and got ready to leave.  When I went to pay however, the manager, Tommy, insisted I stay till the weather was better, that I could stay for free and they would feed me while I was stranded.  Eager to be on my way, I politely declined and went to check the weather forecast and book accommodation in my next location, but after an hour it became evident that the winds were here to stay, and so when they brought over a meal of meat and potato stew to where I was sitting and some jam and chocolate crepes I admitted that there was no way I would be able to leave today and gratefully accepted their offer.

I took the opportunity to write on some postcards I’ve been carrying with me since Slovenia, when the manager came over to invite me to accompany him to his cousin’s place who either was Australian or had lived there, I couldn’t determine which.  As seems to be the way here he expected me to just drop what I was doing and come, but I made my excuses and returned to my room for a jacket and emergency cash. 

It was only a short way down the road, but given the weather it was nice to be in the car.  We arrived and were welcomed inside and it turned out that Mariela his wife was an Australian born Croatian woman who had only returned to Croatia seven years ago.  She was lovely, and it was wonderful to talk to someone in English after a day and a night of struggling to understand everyone around me.  She is also the first Croatian I’ve had a decent chance to talk to and of whom to ask questions.  She appeared equally happy to talk to someone from downunder, and so we spent a pleasant afternoon chatting.  By trade she is a graphic artist and illustrator and she makes money selling paintings and other arts and crafts to tourists in the summer season.  She explained that in this area lots of people only work during the tourist season and can’t find any work during the winter.  She and her husband and three children also grow a lot of their own food and I was lucky to share in their lunch that included their own beans, carrots and potatoes in a very tasty stew.  Mariela also took me to her studio to see some of her work, it was very good.  She was kind enough to give me a couple of postcards and a little ceramic fish with the name of village on it, left over stock from the tourist season.
Mariela accompanied me back to the rooms before it began to rain.  It was extremely windy even by Wellington standards.  
Pottery fish from Mariela.
When we got to the rooms the main building was empty, but as we were saying goodbye the manager came around and told us to come with him to his mother’s place where it was warmer.  Her house was just behind the main building and she had a fire going in the kitchen providing the promised warmth.  I was thankful Mariela was there to translate for me because it was hard going trying to understand, especially as Tommy’s mother explained she likes to talk loud, she’s not angry, it’s just the way she talks.  And she wasn’t joking.  It sounded like they were arguing the whole time.  Over Turkish coffee we watched the news and the first topic was the Bura winds and the damage they had caused across the country.  Apparently they had gotten up to 220kph and were tearing off roofs and knocking over trees etc.  I was very glad I hadn’t decided to try my luck cycling to Sibenik in the morning.

It was getting towards dark and Mariela had to leave, but the other man who was there and who’s relationship to the other people I still haven’t figured out, nor his name which I think is something similar to Bari, invited me to go with him to the nearby hill to look out over the village.  We drove to the foot of the hill and had to walk the rest of the way.  At the top it was probably the strongest wind I’ve ever been outside in.  The view was pretty spectacular, but it was difficult to get a photo.  He then proceeded to drive me around the nearby towns and show me the sights. In the dark.  It took him longer than me to realise how pointless this was.  I did appreciate his intentions though.  Everyone here has been very kind to me and seem to be keen to ensure that I was fed and entertained.  I must be a real novelty.
The village of Drage from the hilltop.
Vulinka Pension where I have been staying in Drage.
When we returned I was immediately offered dinner which was grilled pork chops and potatoes with bread, cheese and olives and cake for desert.  All very tasty.  Bari offered to take me to the nearby town of Biograd na Moru afterwards, but I was just mentally exhausted from the day of concentrating, and had passed through the town the day before on my way to Drage, so I begged off to go and relax in my room for the evening.  I hope that tomorrow will bring calmer, better weather.


Popular Posts