07 April 2014

Doviđenja Zagreb

Well, I can't very well keep posting to a blog called:  Zagreb Diaries when I'm moving on from this city.  So this'll be the last post from Zagreb.  It has been an interesting ride, but it is time to pull up sticks and move on.

I'll start a new blog in the future all about my new adventures and I'll post the URL here.  For now, there's a lotta stuff I gotta do, and I better get to it.

Onwards and upwards!




09 December 2013

That time of year again...




May your holidays be filled with hot chocolate and marshmallows (or as they call them here, munchmellows)!




24 November 2013

I'm ba-a-a-ck

Whew!  I really needed that breather to get on top of things again.  I'm working on a rather ambitious project that has been eating up lots of my time and energy...but I'm not done yet and can't talk about it yet.  So bear with me as I sort out just a few more details.

There will be a new chapter ahead for me.  Still in Croatia, still mangling the language (on a positive note, a local told me that  I speak bad Croatian better than anyone she knows) and to quote Paul Simon:  "Still crazy, after all these years."






19 September 2013

Taking a breather....

Croatia is the type of place that is filled with millions of carrots dangling in front of us outsiders, and always just a bit out of reach, causing us to push ourselves forward.  Inch by inch, we keep reaching towards those carrots, and are forced to stretch ourselves in ways we never thought possible.  But those ethereal carrots keep moving just slightly out of reach.  And after several years, the constant effort of stretching and stretching coupled with the constantly moving carrot can deplete the energy stores of even the most enthusiastic and energy-filled person.

This constant stretching didn't just make my arms sore....they fell off! (metaphorically speaking)

So I need some time to hunker down, analyze, lick a few wounds, charge up my batteries, and then get back on the horse with some sort of plan that does not involve carrots (or any other vegetable dangled in front of me).   For the first time in my life, I have absolutely no idea what to do next.

I'll still be here in a sort of zombie-like form.    But I'm gonna need some time to think 'bout all this.  So I know y'all will understand if I take a bit of time off from updating this blog. I'm as interested as you are in what new ideas I come up with.

Until then, send me some positive energy, if you have some to spare...and if you don't, then let me send some your way right now.

As someone said once:  onwards and upwards.




08 August 2013

And in weather news.....it's a scorcher

Okay, so it looks like maybe this entire year will be the year of only weather-related posts.  Seriously, the weather is just so bizarre.  First we had that cold, wet, snowy winter.  Followed by a very cold, wet and grey spring.  And now, it seems to be the summer of outrageous temperatures.

Last summer we had a drought and yes, it was dry, dry, dry.  But this summer, along with a drought, we've got hot temperatures.  Like 42C hot (that's 107F).  It has been over 39C for about 2 weeks now (maybe longer, can't tell, my wrist watch melted).  And it doesn't get much cooler at night, so it feels like being in an over.  There's been this light dry wind blowing too, so it is like being in a convection oven.  Humidity is down around 30%.  Like the desert or something.

When it is this hot, there's not much to do but sit still and eat lots of fresh, cold, juicy watermelon.  And that's all I've been doing.

And an update on getting into the EU.  Well, the tv commercials promised no borders and no border stops and free movement across borders.  But at the last minute, lots of political stuff happened, and to make a convoluted story short, there are still border checks going into and out of Croatia.  If you are an EU citizen, or a Croatian citizen, then you can go into the EU lineup, and just show them your ID card or passport and they'll wave you right through.  HOWEVER if you are not from an EU country (um, like Canada) then you've got to go into the non-EU lineup (which is always longer) and they need to scrutinize and stamp your passport going out of Croatia and getting back in.

So not exactly free movement across borders.  Yet.  Apparently in 2015 the borders will come down and things will be faster and smoother.  The shopping across borders is seamless and free-moving though.  So we are allowed to shop till we drop all day long.  But funny thing, now that there are no shopping restrictions, it somehow took the specialness out of buying something over-the-border.

And now, back to more watermelon.  Can't get enough of the stuff.  Yum.

28 June 2013

More crazy weather

Since the last time I posted, we had a sweltering heatwave that lasted 2 weeks!  It was hotter than I can remember in June.  Then, suddenly, it cooled down again with vicious rain/hail/thunderstorms.  Lots of clouds.  Some funnel clouds spotted.  And getting kind of cold at night.  Like 12C!  It is kind of neutral right now.  But very very changeable.  I'm not sure what's causing this, or what the rest of the summer holds in store for us.  For now, I'm just going to think positive and hope for the best.

The next time I write...we'll officially be part of the Eurpean Union (July 1, 2013).  It is so cool to be here during this historical event.


31 May 2013

Hello, Springtime?

Yes, another posting about the bad weather.  I'm Canadian, and we love to talk about the weather.  And weather (well, good weather) was instrumental in luring me to Croatia.  Beautiful blue skies, sunny days, long summers, gorgeous springtime, lovely autumns, and mild winters all took my breath away.

But this year, the clouds just don't want to leave.  The temperatures are cool during the day and downright cold at night sometimes.  And the sun has been pretty scarce since about last September.  Each week the weather forecast paints a gloomy few days with the promise of sunshine and warm temperatures in the next ten days or so.  But as the week progresses, the forecast changes and there's always just a few more days of cold/wet/cloudy weather expected. 

Fingers crossed that it gets better.  Soon.  And that my next posting is about how summertime has arrived with great gusto. 

Hope it is nice in your part of the world.....


11 April 2013

Blue skies have arrived along with some slithery critters...

It looks like Spring might actually be here.  The skies are mostly sunny, and the temperatures are inching (or centimetering) their way up slowly.  We're seeing 13C, 15C some days.  And we're supposed to hit that magic 20C next week.

The fruit trees are still staying dormant though.  There's the odd flower here and there, but it looks like the trees are staying put for a wee bit more time. 

With the warmer weather, the wild asparagus has started to poke up through the long grasses, and I often see people out searching through the underbrush, along walls, and near the roadsides for some tasty bounty.

A word of warning though:  the asparagus starts to grow at the same time that snakes awake from their winter slumber.  And those snakes can be stiff and slow because the temperatures are not quite hot enough for them.  So what locals do when searching for asparagus is they bring a long stick with them.  When they spot asparagus, they first tap the stick all around the asparagus to scare away any snakes, or at least to be alerted to any slow-moving snakes who might be within biting distance. 

If you think people are a bit too cautious about this whole business....think again.  There is one particular snake in Croatia that everyone needs to be aware of.  I won't go into detail here...but you can search the internet for Poskuk. 

I heard about these snakes, and heard lots of stories about them.  But I didn't really think much about it.  I mean, how often does someone actually come across these things?  Until last spring, when out walking in the countryside along a rocky path, I almost stepped on one (I was standing with my foot approximately 5cm away from it).  I spooked it though and it slithered off crazily faster than lightning and just about scared the living daylights out of me (and the 7 other people in our walking party).  It was dark grey and white with a diamond pattern.  And about 90cm long. 

Now, if I'm out walking near anything resembling a blade of grass, I'm carrying a long stick. 


03 April 2013

Waiting for blue skies to arrive...

I've been waiting to write a post here all about the springtime weather, the sunshine, apple blossoms, etc, etc.  But as the days and then weeks went on, I realized that Spring was going to be a bit late this year.

I'm sorry to report that there are no blue skies or sunshine in the weather forecast for at least another week or two.  And if the temperature manages to get near or above 10C, we will all be overjoyed.  For now, we are all waiting for the endless rain and cloudy skies and cold temperatures to finish their unwelcome stay. 

It seems that the strangely wet, cloudy and cold (and also snowy) weather started up sometime in October....and never left.  That just ain't right.  And for the first time in a very long time, there were no tender new wild asparagus spears to feast on at Easter.  Not because someone went out and scooped them...but because the wild asparagus is still dormant (like everything else.)

So fingers crossed that the lovely sunshine and warm temperatures and apple blossoms find their way to us soon.


11 March 2013

More word fun!

There are words in the Croatian language that'll trip you up, no matter what. I don't even know what to call these language speedbumps...but they are sure to cause confusion whenever an English-speaking foreigner encounters them:

Smoking:  this is not a verb.  This is a noun.  It has nothing to do with lighting up and taking a puff.  A 'smoking' is the word for a tuxedo jacket.  Yup.  A guy wears a 'smoking' at his wedding.  Nobody can tell me where this word came from...but I am guessing that in lots of old British and American movies, the guys in tuxedos were usually smoking...and then somehow in a roundabout way, it made sense.  Somehow.

Keks:  sounds like cakes.  It refers to cookies (the kind you dunk in coffee, not the kind that live on your computer).  If someone asks you to bring keks to a party and you show up with a cake instead of a platter of cookies...there'll be raised eyebrows.

Torta:  no, it isn't a thin pie-like dessert item.  Torta is the word for cake.  If someone asks you to bring the torta for a birthday party...you'd better be bringing a birthday cake.  Otherwise, there'll be some really raised eyebrows.

Pita:  no, it isn't a type of Greek flat-bread that you fill with falafel and other yummies.  Pita is anything (sweet or salty) that involves a filling being rolled in a phyllo-type dough and then baked (sort of like apple strudel).  If someone asks you to bring pita to a party, and you show up with falafels....there's just going to be complete and utter silence.  And raised eyebrows.

Hulahopke:  okay, a while back, I told everyone how Croatians refer to the '@' sign as the monkey sign (for real).  And I mentioned how it always makes me laugh when I have to say it out loud when giving someone my email address.  Well, this next one is even funnier:  hulahopke is the Croatian word for that piece of ladies hosiery known as nylons or pantyhose.  I know, you are thinking to yourself:  so what, hulahopke, pantyhose, that ain't funny at all.  But wait, hulahopke is a Croatian word taken phonetically from the English word for hula-hoops!  Yup, nylons are known as hula-hoops!  So when you go to the ladies hosiery department and the saleslady asks how she can help you, you've got to tell her that you're looking for some hula-hoops!  And it cracks me up each and every time.  The best part, is that nobody can tell me WHY they are called hula-hoops.  I can only imagine that the motion one has to go through to get the things put on looks a lot like a woman doing the hula, or working a hula-hoop. 

That's all I got today.  I'll have more soon.





24 February 2013

Yup, it snows here.


Here's a shot taken just YESTERDAY.  That's snow on the ground.  Lots and lots and lots of it (we ended up with about 25cm).  This zima has been particularly cold, grey, rainy, and snowy.  What you can't see in the picture are the 35kph bura winds.  Brrrrrr.

A word to the wise:  if you are thinking of moving here, make sure your accommodations have really good heating for the winter months.  And if you've got a car....get snow tires.  You'll seriously be glad that you did.

And now, time for some nice hot kavu by the fire. 



10 February 2013

Mmmm, tastes like chicken.




Our little Peeper is almost 10 months old and growing like a weed.  Her most favourite thing in the entire world is plush stuffed doggy toys.  She LOVES them in a way that is almost supernatural.

Above is a picture with her latest acquisition:  Mr. Chicken.  He's got squeaky things in his feet, his head and a special one in his tummy.  Peeper goes insane with joy when she gets Mr. Chicken to squeak.  Mr. Chicken joins her corral of other toys:  Boo-berry, Mr. Ropey, Witchy, Piggy, Donut and Squirrel.

While she goes through yet another teething period, I make sure she's got lots and lots of things to chew on so she'll never need to chew on our shoes (which BTW sit about a meter from her bed and she never touches them!)

08 February 2013

Sorry Mrs. L

Sometimes language difficulties are funny.  Sometimes, not so much.  Recently, I had one of those not-so-much events.

First off, a bit of language explanation.  The words for hot and cold in Croatian are:  toplo (hot), hladno (cold).  I don't have trouble remembering toplo because they have these toplo springs here (hot springs) and the word toplo just naturally sticks in my brain as hot/warm.

But hladno is another story.  In my brain, I associate hladno with hot.  No matter what, there it is.  I think it is because in English, we don't have too many words starting with the letter 'h' and hot is one of those words.  Also, whenever you see a water tap in English, they'll have an 'h' for hot, and a 'c' for cold.  So again the 'h' means hot for me.

So, a few weeks ago, my kindly, nicest, friendliest neighbour, Mrs. L, came by for a quick visit and I made us some coffee.  I personally like to drink my espresso with a little extra hot water and I always ask people if they want extra water in their coffee.  Mrs. L said she'd love some, please...but some hladno water.  So, I went off and poured extra boiling water in her coffee.  And she, thinking I had added extra cold water to cool the coffee,  took a huge slurp.  And just about had a heart attack.

I was mortified to my soul.  Poor Mrs. L was very gracious about it, but it was just one of those moments that drives home how very important it is to learn, understand, and be aware of this language in a more fluent way.  I'm getting there (not as fast as I'd like, but I'm going in the right direction). 

I just gotta figure out how to remember that hladno is cold.  Somehow.




04 February 2013

Orange. Crunchy. Loved by rabbits.

The Croatian language has lots of words that are identical except for one letter.   For example:

ljudi (people)  /   ludi (crazy)  This one gets me into trouble quite a bit.

pisati (to write)   /   pišati  (to, um, urinate)  This one also gets me into trouble every time.

mrtva (dead)   /   mrkva  (carrot)

This last one made for an awkward moment when I was talking to someone about the economy.  I thought I was sounding pretty intelligent, saying that the economy around the world was dead but I believed that it would recover soon.  But turns out I was saying that the economy was a carrot.

Sigh.

It did give me a great idea for a new invention for expats with language issues:  a remote control device that can be carried in a pocket on a key chain.  When a major language boo-boo occurs, the expat can press the remote control, triggering a tiny wormhole to open up, transporting said expat back 26 seconds and allowing the expat enough time to use the proper word in the conversation or avoid the word altogether.

Hey, a girl can dream  ;-)


07 January 2013

YouTube Haircut

I decide to make 2013 the year of bold firsts.  And I have already accomplished my first bold move by giving myself a haircut after watching a few how-to videos on YouTube.  For real.  I think I mentioned it before, but I have very curly hair that is rather unruly and I haven't been able to find a hairdresser in Croatia who specializes in cutting curly hair.  And it is a specialty.  All you other curly-haired folks out there are nodding your heads in agreement right now...because you know exactly what I mean.

So my hair had gotten rather tumble-weed-ish, and I decided that it really couldn't be that hard to cut.  I checked out a bunch of videos on YouTube, took out my trusty scissors, and about 20 minutes later, I had a pretty passable layered curly cut.  Not bad for my first try.

It has given me confidence to try some more new things this year.  Who knows what'll be next...


-

31 December 2012

Sretna Nova Godina!



Doviđenja 2012....a year of many firsts and many new life lessons.
Dobro Došla 2013....a year which will bring a welcome list of new and amazing things.

My wish for one and all:
May the new year bring you health, happiness, and much joy.  And may there always be something wondrous lighting the path ahead of you.

Sretna Nova Godina!












17 December 2012

Ho Ho Ho




Here's a pan of fresh baked Christmas cookies right out of the oven, and they are gluten-free too! 

Wishing everyone a holiday season filled with lots of laughter, love, good friends and good cheer.  Sretan Božić y'all  :-)







01 December 2012

Shiny things

So it is December 1st, 2012.  There's a nip in the air.  There's snow in parts of Croatia (and we might get a few flurries tonight in our neck of the woods.)  Christmas is coming.  There's about a million things to do.  And all I can think of is this:  what the heck do I do with all my illy coffee cans?



I switched over to illy brand coffee about a year ago.  Before that, I was a Lavazza lover.  I exclusively drank Lavazza coffee for almost 12 years.  Here in Croatia the Lavazza was a bit stronger, but I adjusted my tastebuds and continued loving it.  But then it got harder and harder to find.  I ended up going directly to the distributor in Zagreb at one point and bought an entire carton (48 boxes) so I wouldn't have to go without my precious coffee.  But it kept getting harder to find.  The shelves at Konzum and Plodine and Mercator started filling up with lots of instant cappuccino mixes, and there was less and less space left for old-fashioned espresso coffee.  I actually started rationing my Lavazza!

Jump ahead to last year when I admitted defeat, and decided to try the illy coffee.  It was love at first taste.  I couldn't believe that I'd been denying myself the pleasure of such a beautiful tasting coffee.  So I switched and never looked back.

The illy I like comes vacuum packed in these nifty shiny cans.  With screw top lids.  So they are reusable.  At first I used them for things like pencils and pens.  Then for dried beans.  Then thumb-tacks and elastic bands.  But now I've got about 25 of these sitting in my kitchen pantry and I don't know what to do with them.  They are just too gorgeous to throw away.

For now, I'm just stashing them in my cupboards and hoping that I come up with some useful idea.  Maybe there's a secret illy-coffee-canister-horder-society out there.  If they contact me, I'll let you know.




28 November 2012

Yes, another picture of my dog.

When Little Miss Peeper, aka Snuggle Wagon, came into my life, I was assured she would be no bigger than knee-high-to-a-grasshopper and would require just a handful of food each day.  I met her mother several times and her mom was seriously about the size of a 4 slice toaster.  Nobody knew who the daddy was though.  Well, it turns out her daddy must have been something kind of tall, because at just 7 months, Miss Peeper is already 46cm tall at the shoulder.  And she's got another several months of growing to do!

Here's a funny question I get from locals all the time:  does the dog understand Croatian or English?  Well, she certainly doesn't listen to anything I tell her to do in English or Croatian.  So I'm guessing that she speaks the universal language of dogs:  snacks.

And in case you are wondering...yes, she really is this shiny.  


17 November 2012

Čvarci time again and again and again!




If you like to make your own čvarci (like I do) then you'll be interested in a little tip that I figured out over the last couple years.  Pork fat can be frozen!  Nobody told me this piece of information, and I'm guessing because nobody knows it.  You see, every winter, people make sausages out of their pigs, and they take the pork fat, cut it into little squares and heat it up in a big pot and make čvarci.  They cool the remaining hot fat into lard which is used for the next couple months.  But the čvarci is cooked on the spot, and eaten over the next couple weeks.  Sounds okay, except in my experience, there's too much čvarci all at once, and everyone kind of gets sick of it.  And then it is all gone until next year.

I couldn't make myself fry up huge batches of čvarci anymore.  It is a lot of work, and I had way too much on my hands.  So a couple of years ago, against everyone's advice, I took all of the raw pork fat, weighed it out into 2.5kg portions, and then froze those portions in individual vacuum packed bags.  Then, when I felt like having čvarci, I'd defrost the raw fat, and fry up a small portion.  It came out great.  I had čvarci (and the associated cooking lard) in spring, summer, fall, and even now leading up to winter.  It is great!

If you decide to give it a try, I'd love to know how it turns out for you.  Dobar tek!






20 September 2012

Fall has arrived

The nights are crisp.  Mornings cool and misty.  In the daytime, I can walk in the sun without a hat.  The sky is clear, blue.  Must be Autumn. 

I've been experimenting with lots of new ingredients to make new gluten-free meals that are tasty and nutritious.  Now that the cooler weather has (finally) arrived, I can get back into the kitchen, spark up the stove, and let the experimenting begin again. 

This year will be the year of chickpea flour.  Who knew it has so many magical properties???


14 August 2012

Summer time...



I can't believe how fast little puppies grow!  Miss Peeper, our little furry wonder here is already knee-high, and learning to do all sorts of helpful things, like bark at grasshoppers, eat sandals, dig up weeds and drag them to onto the terrace, bark at ants, bark at plastic bags.  She's at that floppy stage where she gallops about, long ears flapping in the wind.  I have to say that there is nothing cuter than a puppy chasing a butterfly!

It has been an incredibly dry summer in most parts of Croatia, and the word 'drought' has come up again and again.  There are bush fires almost everyday.  And water restrictions in some parts.  And crunchy dry grass.  And for the first time, I've seen cracks in the dry dirt...like something out of a movie! 

Things continue to be busy for me, and I'm working on some big projects that I'll talk about in a few months once I get past some hurdles and have a few successes to report.  Otherwise, I'm enjoying the last of the summer, and waiting for the late figs to ripen.

Hope y'all are lazily sitting somewhere in the shade, having a lemonade....





27 June 2012

Arf arf arf!

I am a busy busy person.  When I wake up, I am already behind schedule.  I don't have time to do most things on my 'must-do' list, barely time to get to the 'gotta-get-to-it' list.  And hardly time to do things like eat and read and sleep.

So what does a busy gal do ???  She goes and gets one of these:


27 May 2012

Rationing cherries

You may or may not know that the weather has been rather freakish this past winter and spring.  Spring came really really early, causing the fruit trees to all blossom early.  I wish I had taken a picture to post here to show you how beautiful it looked with trees all covered in soft pink and white flowers.  And it looked like there would be a bumper crop of everything because there were just so many many blossoms on all the trees.

Then the frost hit in mid-April, and there was snow.  So lots of those blossoms, didn't make it.  Including lots of the blossoms on the giant cherry tree that grows in the small back garden behind our building.  Normally, everyone in the building can reach out and pick cherries right from their balconies (me included!).  But this year is different.  This year the tree is sadly quite light in the fruit department.  No sagging branches with sweet cherry bounty.  No bowls full of huge burgundy fruits waiting to be eaten with gusto.

This year there are approximately 35 cherries ripening outside my balcony.  Thirty-five.  I know.  I counted them.  And I've been watching them.  Noting their size and colour, so that I can pluck individual cherries at the peak of ripeness.  I get to eat them one, or maybe two at a time.  In essence, I am rationing my cherries.  Very carefully.  And I savour each and every one.  Making sure to enjoy every note of cherry deliciousness from every cherry.  Because they'll be gone much much too soon.  And I'll have to wait an entire year to (hopefully) get more.

I am hoping against all odds that the fig trees have been spared and that come August, they'll be  producing buckets and buckets of sweet nectary figs of all shapes/sizes/colours.  I have to be patient and just wait for time to tell.  But if I'm forced to ration my figs this year, I seriously do not know how I will manage. 

09 April 2012

Easter egg hunts & asparagus

I think I figured out how the whole Easter-egg hunt came to be (and if this isn't true, then it is a really good idea).  This past Easter weekend, I had the opportunity to pick wild asparagus for the first time ever.  Wild asparagus grows all over the place in Croatia....in wooded ares, usually under trees, near walls and under bushes.  It is INSANELY difficult to spot.  I'll try and get a picture when I go out again today and post it here, but mainly wild asparagus is really really thin, and brown and thus nearly impossible to see against the brown leaves on the forest floor or against the thin shoots coming up from the bushes at this time of year.

To be able to spot the asparagus, you really need to sort of scrunch down and try and see them at eye level.  Pretty difficult when you are an adult.....but I thought to myself that a small child would be at the perfect height to spot the asparagus.  And if you gave the child a basket to carry into the forest, they'd be able to carefully carry the tender shoots.  All that is left is some sort of incentive for the children.  I mean, I was a child once, and I can't imagine any circumstance that would motivate me to go combing through the underbrush looking carefully for asparagus............except maybe the promise of chocolate.  Yup.  That would have done the trick for me.  And therefore I got the idea that maybe the original Easter-egg hunt went something like this:  kids were handed baskets and told to go hunting for asparagus shoots and to try and find some chocolate eggs hidden in the brush.  Kids could eat the chocolate they found.  And kids would be rewarded with extra chocolate depending on how much asparagus they toted home in their baskets.

Makes sense to me.  A win-win situation for everyone involved, yes?

Sretan Uskrs to everyone!

31 March 2012

Help! Where to buy ladies shoes in large sizes???

I have big feet.  And I wear what is considered a rather large shoe size in Europe (although it is quite common in North America).  I wear a ladies US 10/11  which translates to a European 40/41/42.

Here's the weird thing:  I'm having a heck of a time finding anything for women above size 39.  What's even weirder, if I'm looking for a casual shoe or a running shoe, they will bring me a man's 40 which is HUGE.  A man's 40 is like a man's US size 10/11, which is waaaaay bigger than a ladies US 10/11.
What I need is a ladies 40/41/42.

So, I'm walking around in some pretty old shoes, because I can't find things in my size. 

So, if there's anyone out there who lives in Croatia, or visits Croatia often, and knows where women with large feet can buy shoes.....please leave me a message here.  I would be very very very grateful.

Hvala puno!

15 February 2012

Thinking of moving here?

I get lots of queries from people who are thinking of moving to Croatia.   Many have only visited Croatia for a week, maybe two, during the high season, staying in a hotel or renting a vacation home by the sea.  Some have visited once or twice for an entire summer...but stayed for free at a distant relative's apartment or summer home.  While the experience was probably fantastic...it was, nonetheless, artificial.  Life in Croatia is like life in any other place.  You've got work to do, bills to pay, sometimes it rains, or snows, sometimes it gets cold, sometimes the heating breaks down and can't be fixed for a couple days.  Sometimes your car won't start.  Sometimes you've got to go to the doctor or dentist or chiropractor.  Sometimes you sprain an ankle and can't walk up the 45 stairs to your apartment.  Sometimes your company shuts down and leaves you unemployed.  Sometimes taxes go up.   Real life.

There's an additional aspect to life in Croatia that visitors may not be aware of, and it is this:  there is a distinct difference between life in the summer and life in the low season.  Lots of places that are lively and crowded during the summer can actually be extraordinarily quiet during the low season.  Yup.  Especially the islands.  So if your only experience of Croatia is Dubrovnik in July, or Mali Losinj in august, or Rovinj in June....and your idea is to move here and work at a cafe for the year while you bask in the sun...you'd better think again.  many of the cafes, bars, shops, and even some hotels are only open from May-September. 

So, before making any permanent plans about moving here, I strongly suggest the following:
-take an entire month off work.  Yup, you read that right.  An entire month (two is even better)
-rent a place in Croatia in the actual city/town/village where you believe you want to live.  Don't spend a month in Dubrovnik, and then move to Zagreb.  The places are completely different.  Also, if you want to live on an island, then rent a place for an entire month on that island to see what happens during the winter months
-here's the kicker though:  rent a place for a month during the lowest of the low season.  In Croatia, I'd have to say that January or February is about right.  Don't come in the spring or summer or fall.  It is very nice during those months.  Come in January or February.

And stay exclusively in your rental place.  DO NOT travel more than 30 minutes outside of your rental place.  DO NOT go to other countries, or other parts of the country.  Trust me on this:  you cannot judge what it is like to live in Croatia by spending 3 days here, and then spending the rest of your visit in Italy, France, Germany, and a side trip to the UK.  

During your one month stay:
-buy groceries and cook real meals everyday
-buy cleaning materials and clean your kitchen, bathroom and do some dusting
-do your own laundry every few days
-go to the market
-visit a doctor,
-visit a dentist,
-get an eye exam,
-go to the bank to gather information on how to open an account and what type of account you can open based on your status
-go for job interviews
-get a shirt dry-cleaned
- get a hair cut
-check out apartment rentals with an agent
-call on any local friends/family members during the middle of the work-day often to see what they're up to
-check out language classes
-get yourself a public transit pass

You can't do all of the above in a 1 or 2 week visit.  People need 3 weeks to acclimate to a new situation, so it will really be in the 4th week that you start to really feel like you live here.  The 4th week is when you will know if you want to move here. 

Also, hope that there is terrible weather during your stay.  I mean terrible.  The logic is this:  if you can like living in a new place at its absolute worst time of year, then you'll love it during the best time of the year.  But the opposite is not true....you might love a place during its best times....but absolutely hate it during the low season. 

After your month spent here really 'living' like a local,  you'll know if you want to live here full time.  Or if what you really want is to just visit for a vacation during high season.  Nobody can tell you the answer.  Everybody is different. 

I hope this helps anybody out there who is contemplating a move to Croatia.  Come on over.  Slam the doors and kick the tires.  And take 'er for a spin.  And let me know how it goes.

08 February 2012

Cat with a personality disorder

There are two types of cat in Croatia:  fluffy cute house-pet cats, and mangy one-eared alley-cats.  The alley cats tend to be pretty fierce.  I've learned never ever to sneak up on one to try and pet it.  Nope.  And to never corner one.  And certainly to never go near its food.  And if encountering one rummaging around in the garbage bin...that I should  back away slowly and then run.

Recently, an alley-cat has been hanging around our neighbourhood and it appears that in addition to ticks and fleas and crazy eyes, this cat has a personality disorder.  I only studied human psychology back in my university days, but I think that I can safely say that this cat has borderline personality disorder, and probably narcissistic personality disorder, and um, he seems to be talking to invisible other cats. 

I also firmly believe that he swore at me and gave me the equivalent of the finger when I caught him lapping away at the cooked lentils I had put outside to cool.  I went outside and yelled at him to get away, and with not one word of exaggeration, he looked at me with his non-mangled eye, sneered, and went back to eating the lentils.  So I had to swat at him with my slipper.  And all he did was jump off the table, growl and hiss at me, then strut off slowly while making nasty meowing remarks at me.


I was shocked.  Who knew cats liked lentils?

03 February 2012

So many new things, so little time

You may have noticed that I'm not posting as often as I used to.  You might think that I've settled into life in Croatia, become completely fluent, and have pretty much really become Croatian to the point where I just blend in.  And that I therefore have nothing new or interesting to write about.

You couldn't be further from the truth.  Seriously.  The absolute direct opposite is what's going on in my world.  There are so many interesting things to talk about, so many weird and wonderful happenings, so many stories about people, places, history.  So many stories to tell.  So many cultural and societal observations.  So many things in my daily life.  So very very much.  That I cannot even begin to write it all down.  I've just been sitting here for over an hour trying to write one simple blog entry, but every time I got one sentence down, I was reminded of something else equally if not more important/crazy/interesting, and so I deleted my original sentence and started a whole new idea, only to again have it sidetracked with some other more interesting/crazy/important/hilarious story.

So bear with me as I try to get myself organized.  There just isn't enough time in the day to do everything that needs doing.  What with constant grammar lessons (note to any English-only speakers  learning this lingo:  the grammar lessons NEVER end.  Ever) and hunting down fresh home-grown food, and cooking every single morsel of food that I eat from scratch, and then doing dishes after every meal without a dishwasher,  and doing laundry without a dryer (especially fun during a cold snap), throwing logs in the fireplace every 20 minutes, and a bunch of other things that I don't even have time to write about....well, there just ain't enough time. 

I've been told to think about writing a book about my experiences, which sounds like a fantastic idea.  I'll just add it to my 'to do' list, and see what happens.

But for now, there's 2kg of fresh whole calamari awaiting me in the kitchen sink.  And if I want to eat dinner tonight, I've got to get to it.

14 January 2012

Bok bok, my sweet little pumpkins



I knew this day would come eventually, I just didn't think it would happen so soon, and leave me feeling so empty.  I'm talking about the day that my winter-supply of squash finally ran out.  This evening I roasted and ate my very last squash.  And it came out perfect:  sweet, chestnutty, all yummy and delicious.  I baked it exactly the way I like it...just a little browned around the edges, with a bit of sea salt.  And after letting it cool to room temperature, drizzling generously with olive oil.

Back in September, we brought home 25 of these little beauties.  All of them the  Hokkaido variety.  Each one eaten with gusto and gratefulness.

Now, I count the days until I meet my precious Hokkaido once more.

Just 240 days to go.  May the autumn harvest be bountiful.