Dave the motorhome is absorbing the full force of the Mediterranean sun in Nin, Croatia. Charlie is taking advantage of this sacrifice by kipping beneath the van, at least he will do once it’s cooled down to remove the need for sweatless panting.
Last night we got a peek into the psyche of a nation, through the looking glass of a football match. Months ago, as we slowly made our way through the West of France, we witnessed a Rugby World Cup match which our host nation narrowly lost. A short silence followed the final whistle, at which point the French to a man clapped their team from the field. Precisely at this point, we feel sure an equivalent reaction in England, at least where we live, would be an array of swear words spat at the screen as inebriated ‘fans’ rapidly switched alliance from team and country to the old relentless pessimism. I’m being too hard on my compatriots of course, it’s just that we witnessed a similarly magnanimous display from local Croations in disappointment at Euro 2012 defeat last night.
A tiny old TV was showing the game to a single watcher as we left the campsite, audience size maybe correlated to the lack of a licensed bar? A short walk found a far more animated spot, a compact local restaurant turned into a sports bar for the evening. The chairs had all migrated from the sea view terrace, gathering around the wall featuring the huge match.
The waiter needed a lesson in gruffness from his Parisian colleagues, his politeness, finding a chair for us and offering Charlie water was touching. He asked whether I wanted a particular brand of lager. Me not understanding the question he pointed at his football shirt: ‘you want this beer? ‘ If it’s good enough for the Croatian national team, it’s good enough for me. Everyone was drinking the same stuff; we joked the place had probably never had so many punters. The inside was packed with red-white check shirted men and boys, the outside we shared with the women (checked hats, shirts and wrist bands) and boys more interested in the table football than the man-sized stuff. With the exception of a German couple arriving at half time, we were the only foreigners.
The match went badly, Spain outclassed Croatia throughout, piling on the pressure relentlessly. At one point Croatia manage a break and force a save with an on-target but straight at the keeper effort. The place erupts, a short, stern chap by the window lights a pink flare and earnestly sticks his arm into the room for a minute, filling it with smoke and obscuring the screen. We loved it. He’d fire up another couple of the smoke sticks before we left.
Spain finally broke through, a clever two man break leaving the keeper floundering and us trying to suss why it wasn’t in contravention of the offside rule. The room went quiet, but no obscenities were uttered and supporting encouragement soon resumed. To no avail, the match ended and, although no clapping this time, the Croations showed their mettle. As we left the music pumped out and another flare was underway.
Parachuting flares, pink shooting stars from the nearby island, slowly came back to Earth. My feeling is Croatia is a country on the up. Independence, a war which crushed age old enemies, free market reforms, pending EU membership and a huge empty country with less than 5 million occupants? Assuming centuries old ethnic and religious hatreds, and jealousies over territory and prosperity can be kept in check, this country is going places.
The air here is thick and lazy. It refuses to move around, even in the shade it takes effort to suck the stuff into our lungs. An early morning walk was called for to avoid our usual mad dogs and Englishmen staggering under a midday sun. 9am doesn’t count as early it seems, the sky was already ablaze as we meandered along.
Nin is a small town, only 1200 people. It sits on an island within a lagoon, famed for the medicinal properties of its peoloid. It’s what? The tourist office has gone a bit off on one with its literature, it’s mud. The tourism industry here is rampant. The mud, it is claimed ‘offers the continuation of the thermo therapy of various rheumatic illnesses’. It goes on, many words, no meaning (they gave Ju a fantastic Campsite Guide though, well worth asking for). The tiny 9th century St Cross Church is repeatedly called the ‘Smallest Cathedral in the World’, usually in quotes, perhaps for fear of future finger pointing? It’s ‘can’t swing a cat’ empty space made for great acoustics though; we’ll post a video when we get wifi (edit: found free wifi in Split).
Wifi. The campsite wants £5 a day for it. The cafe we bought drinks from wanted £1 for 30 minutes (what’s next, glass rental?). They don’t miss a trick, but I’m loathe to play the tourist, hence the video upload delay. There’s a guy sat on his stationery scooter sporting a ‘Parking Attendant’ T shirt on the beach road, charging to drive past him, like the bridge troll of old, the easiest money make there is. He wasn’t there yesterday, perhaps a scam, or he was reserving his seat for the match? While I’m whinging about money, some campsites here charge to ‘register’ you. One bill had separate lines for the van, two people, a dog, tourist tax and day 1 registration fees. It’s midly annoying bureaucracy, impossible to work out for yourself in advance how much you’ll pay. The ACSI sites are simple, although some charge tourist tax extra, some don’t.
Whinge context warning: a pint and large wine last night was £3. Croatia, along with much of Europe, has a very long way to go to catch up with English prices.
It’s 3pm. We ended up out in the midday sun again, sweltering our way back from a ‘thank the gods’ air conditioned shop. Ju’s grabbing some local pastry, a folded slice with a mild soft cheese. The mud calls, which Ju reckons we can wallow in for free. Sounds fun, I’m off.