Our trip from Brussels Charleroi to Pula, Croatia goes smoothly. With minimal baggage and being on the third row of the seats in the Ryanair flight, we are among the first at the immigration queue. The Croat immigration officer takes my child’s dutch passport and my Kenyan passport. He holds onto the blue document scanning page after page.
Ahhh…,I’m having a déjà-vu moment. I probably expect questions about how much money I’m carrying, where I will stay, how long I will be in Croatia and what I will be doing while there. I have handed over my dutch resident permit hoping that it will in some way ‘rescue’ me from the embarrassment of being ‘the-one-made-to-wait-by-the-immigration-desk-answering-strange-questions.’ No such thing, both documents are thoroughly scrutinized. No matter that I live in the Netherlands and I’m visiting Croatia, a country recently admitted to the European Union.
Finally,…a question. Not the question I expect however.
‘Would you please write down your father’s name?’ the officer in the glass cabin asks as he pushes a folded piece of white paper under the slide towards me.
I write down my late father’s name wondering what this is about and how they will make the connection that I’m truly his daughter. Apart from the last common name, there’s no indication of any such connection and my birth certificate which would provide evidence of such information is not on me.
By this time, the whole plane has emptied out and all the Caucasians have whizzed by, happily, with their passports swiftly stamped.
The second officer in the window asks which hotel I’ll be staying at. I fumble with my wifi-less iPad to show them where I’m booked at. They stamp my passport and let me in. I’m officially in Croatia.
I take my bags at check-in and get outside to look for the shuttle bus to the center so we can get to our hotel cum apartment.
A burly guy hovers around the crowd of waiting passengers. He has a steel hard look about him, and I look away not expecting him to walk towards us but he does, announcing that he can take us by taxi to our location for 150 kuna. I bargain to 100 kuna and he obliges, we are soon at the apartment.
Over the next few days we discover Pula and the people who call it their home.
We quickly identify favorites; the supermarket near our apartment, the city centre that bustles with energy not seeming to sleep and Verudela beach.
We spend whole days basking in the hot sun and jumping into the Adriatic Sea when we feel sufficiently heated up. A few old white women at the beach have chosen to bask topless, I quickly look away when I realize I’m the only one staring in shock.
At the city centre, I observe the people. There’s the flirty waiter who persistently asks to come to the place I’m staying at, yet hasn’t even asked what my name is. Incredulous to say the least. I continue buying the delicious gelatos that my daughter loves and ignore his winks.
Some people we meet on the streets have permanent scowls on their face, some stare at us curiously, others regard us with vapid indifference. The elderly women smile at my daughter and pat her head or admire her braids. It is easier to chat with the youth. I get talking to a couple of Slovenian tourists over the Yugoslav War and the Balkans region. They state that their country was virtually unscathed in comparison to Bosnia which bore the full brunt of war.
A group of young Croats stop us in the streets, ‘Click click?’ they enquire. I agree to take a picture with them.
We are scheduled to have a boat tour around Istra. For the most part we encounter choppy waters and angry winds tossing our boat to and fro. While I’m queasy and want to lie down, some passengers squeal in delight and enjoy the motions. The fish lunch is a good break.
Our boat tour on the Melissa cost 405 kuna, and we had a two hour stopover at the beautiful town of Rovinj. There are a couple of boat tours going as well to Venice. Excursions Heju provides many other options.
It is worthwhile to take this trip, it would be great to go on a good day, weather does make a difference and would be better to sail in calm waters than choppy seas.
There’s no end to merriment when we get back and we revel in the party-like atmosphere. Many artistes give daring performances in front of hushed crowds. When the performance ends, a few people toss coins into the hats passed around. Others quickly disperse in search of other forms of entertainment.
Pula has been quite interesting but it’s time to set off for Dubrovnik…