The Marie Celeste Hotel
I picked up Keith at Marco Polo airport. I managed to miss him as he arrived through the (two) arrivals exits, despite watching out like a meerkat. Ah well, I slightly redeemed myself with a coffee for him as we met in the car park.
We set out on a road that seemingly took ages to connect with the autostrada but once we had, progress was fast. Slovenia was reached. We didn’t stop (apart from for fuel) but it looked very pretty, alpine and green. That’s a prize-winning travelogue! Within a couple of hours, we were in Croatia. But whoa, passport control. This was a hard border with queues, passport checks et al.
Croatia joined the EU in 2013 but is not a member yet of Schengen. The motorway was good but marked with signs showing it was paid for by the EU. The currency remains the Kuna. They are required to join the Euro but debt to GDP ratio has remained constant since 2013. It is expected to join the single currency in 2025 (ERM in 2020) but unless the EU changes its rules, this seems unlikely. Only 30% of the population support shifting to the Euro.
One of the first sights we saw in Croatia was a few nodding donkeys of oil production and certainly petrol was much cheaper than in Italy (€1.25 vs a scary €1.85). We passed Zagreb and then after a couple more hours, we finally turned to get to our B&B. We drove through villages where old men in white vests stood, hands on hips, watching carefully as the ‘strangers’ drove through.
Our B&B was a rather weird experience. It’s a big property; a vineyard with a large building centred on it. The Receptionist/Owner/Security guard greeted us. We soon found out she spoke not a word of English (Why should she, I hear you say). First of all, she took us upstairs to our rooms. All very comfortable, clean and full of wrought iron and dark, solid wood furniture. The rooms overlooked the hill and vineyards. We then struggled a bit asking for a reservation at the restaurant. She eventually understood but our request was met with an unshifting ‘non’. She did recommend another which was only about 3 minutes’ drive away. The restaurant was vast, with probably 200 covers, maybe more. We’d booked ourselves into a wedding venue. To verify, I touched my third finger as a question. She nodded with a smile. It’s possible she was accepting my proposal for marriage, but I think she got my message. Anyway, no food at the inn. I also needed some ice for my chill box of medicines. I think she meant I was asking for an ice cream. Holly and Charlotte will understand my uncanny ability to speak fluent pidgin with a mixture of English spoken loudly but with a foreign accent and the word order jumbled up imaginatively. Actually, Marija, my Russian tutor would have been proud of my first attempt at a few words. She understood a bit as I suspect our vocabulary was matched numerically. Anyway, I managed 'what time for breakfast' and ‘I need to buy some wine’. I didn’t exactly 'need', but the word ‘want’ escaped me and it was taking so long to communicate, I soon did need!
But within minutes, Keith and I were served with a major plate each of charcuterie, local cheese and bread. We sat outside and watched as a thunderstorm passed through, supping our (very tasty) wine from a few metres away. But it was like the Marie Celeste. We were the only guests in a biggish wedding hotel.
Keith had been up since 02:30 so we went to our rooms early. Only €30 a room so mustn’t complain – it’s all lovely.
560 kms today, about 5 and a half hours. Car OK. Will update tomorrow. Big run tomorrow, then explore and relax a bit.