To get from Edinburgh in Zadar in Croatia, it seemed the only way I could fly (at least according to the fellow at the uni travel office booking my flights) was via Ireland, arriving in Zadar very late at night. It made for an annoyingly long trip when all I wanted was to see my b/f again, having been apart from him for 6 weeks. So at Dublin I checked in again, and the flight attendant helping me said, ‘There are a lot of youth on this plane. There’s a festival in Zadar.’ I wasn’t sure what she meant, or if I’d heard her properly, until I got to the departure lounge and found myself surrounded by fifteen year olds. As I stood behind them in the boarding queue, feeling conspicuously old, I wondered how on earth their parents could let them go to a foreign country when they were so young, unless it was like sending them from NSW to Queensland, given that the borders in Europe are so fluid.
And lo and behold, on the plane the young ‘uns became very lively indeed, and towards the end of the flight they were shouting, singing and harassing the male flight attendant. As the plane dipped into Zadar and the lights went out, they switched on the torches on their phones to make strobe lighting and continue their discotheque. I was able to turn off my hearing aid and keep reading, but the poor bloke beside me was not so lucky. The flight attendants were pretty tight-lipped as we filed out.
As I was arriving at 11pm in a foreign place, I had prebooked a taxi, and was relieved that the driver was a woman. She had short blonde hair and chatted on two mobile phones as she drove, switching between them. When she pulled up outside the city wall, I didn’t have far to walk to reach the AirBnB, but I was still anxious because it was so late. I had told b/f, who had arrived that morning from Germany, that I was concerned, but when I found the square in which the apartment block stood and texted him, there was no response. My fond feelings for him dissipated. I called, but he didn’t pick up, & I started to get angry. I sat down for a bit, waiting, & wondered if I would have to be there all night, & if it was safe. It didn’t feel safe, but this was beyond b/f’s conception as he wasn’t a woman & didn’t have to worry about being raped. Eventually I tried phoning again and to my immense relief he picked up. ‘It’s your girlfriend. I’m downstairs,’ I said tersely. Apparently he hadn’t slept on the bus from Munich & had been asleep since he checked in. I still couldn’t believe that he hadn’t stayed awake when I’d told him how worried I was, but I was too tired to argue & passed out. The next morning I was so pleased to see him & to be in a new city that I got over it.
We were in Zadar for a field trip of Kornati National Park organised by the University of Zadar, in association with the European Society of Environmental History conference in Zagreb. The field trip was on the Monday, so during the weekend b/f & I wandered the cobbled streets of Zadar and made much of the local red wine and Pag cheese in the restaurant next door, though we were drenched at one point by an unexpected downpour (not so different to a Queensland storm). I loved the city; it was small, clean and compact, its people unhurried. We found the Sea Organ, which makes sounds when waves rush in and out of it, investigated the Roman ruins, drank lemonade by the sea, slept in the heat, then bought beer and cider from the supermarket next door and drank it on the balcony of our AirBnB.
On Monday we made our way to the boat ramp for the tour of Kornati National Park, & I was very pleased to meet some Australian academics in the group. When we set off, the tour operators gave us a nip of something that tasted like pretty rough grappa. It went down with a burn, but I liked the novelty of it: shots for morning tea!
The Kornati archipelago is made up of 89 islands and was declared a national park in 1980. No one lives on the islands now, but during the war, the guide told us, children were sent there because it was safer than in the cities. There’s very little water and vegetation, due to deforestation. The rocks were of karst limestone, which settled in striking curved ridges upon the water. They were stark white against the astonishingly blue water.
I had asked b/f to bring my snorkel & mask over from Australia, but in the bay in which we swam, there was disappointingly little to see, aside from some sea slugs and a few schools of fish. There was plenty of algae, so the ecosystem was obviously unhappy. Beyond a chain slung across the bay were yachts; evidently an attempt to try to rehabilitate the bay by keeping them out. As we headed back to a café to rehydrate, b/f mentioned that we had disturbed a nudist when the group of us walked onto the rocky shore, & that she hadn’t look too impressed about having her morning disrupted. I hadn’t noticed any nudists, being too excited about getting into the water for my first swim since summer. We sailed on to Nature Park Telašćica where we watched some archaeologists from the university carrying out a dig. We climbed a rocky hill and explored a church, and admired the long stone fences that curved over the hills like a spine.
After the tour, as the sun went down, b/f & I returned to the Sea Organ to check out the nearby Greeting to the Sun, a large flat disc that lit up with neon colours. The place was crammed with families and was very cool. We walked back through the markets and the air was still mild. I’ve always loved those European summer nights.