May 22-23, 2002
Unfortunately, I've missed the best of Croatia due to time constraints and a cumbersome train system as found in Pula. Arriving by boat to Croatia from Italy is probably the best way to see the country's jewel towns and islands toward the South. I came from Slovenia by bus with a nasty driver who shouted loudly in Croatian to people who didn't speak Croatian fluently. I figured I'd make it easy on landing there by going to the town with a train station and hostel.
It wasn't so easy. The hostel was full and somewhat remote. I ended up staying at an also somewhat remote hotel where sports teams were staying from Russia, Albania and the Ukraine. I felt like a bumbling tourist (which I that moment I suppose I was) trying to figure out how to work the tiny Eastern European elevator with two Russian athletes in jumper suits behind me. I couldn't turn around or my small backpack would hit them, so I'd look over sideways to them, "Privet" and then push some buttons. One reached over, "Hello" and pulled some door-locking sensor over and up we went. The place was pretty quiet. Only at breakfast did I see other hotel guests: one large one for Russian's in jumpers eating in silence and the other room filled with retired people whispering.
The way to find the train schedule was to visit a travel agent who then called another who thought they might know better and then another until they gave up. I went to the station and found no signs, so asked one person working in what looked like a police office there. He produced a handwritten list of times from under a pile of papers on a desk. Hmm. It worked out better to take the bus anyway. A guy at an Internet café tells me that since the railroad was built in Croatia, little money has been put into it and so it suffers.
The naval base blocks off a large portion of the viewable coast here, where "observation is forbidden." The town isn't so bad, but not so unusual except for well-preserved Roman ruins. You'd be walking down the street and then you'd see a Roman amphitheatre in better condition than the Coliseum. A little further there's some arch and a square with a Roman temple. An archaeology museum's yard is littered with pieces of columns and parts of statues from the era as if someone just knocked over Caesar's palace.
I've probably described the place as pretty grim and while I felt constantly fatigued or head-achy (I think it was the leaded gas they still use or people smoking on public transport) part of the foot dragging was due to the intense walking in Slovenia. My athlete's foot came back in hard bumps around the toes… not stopping, I walked them into bloody lumps (don't worry Mom, it didn't hurt much and they toes went back to normal in just a few days).
The guy at the travel agent was friendly and so the guy who ran the Internet café was very friendly. Now to time get out of here. Not wanting to wait for the train, I'll catch a bus to a point of more frequent departure.