The tram filled with revellers, and when we departed it cruised among the cracked buildings, over worn down and dented roads, and through a city that seemed a lot like a museum to the inhabitant of an environment with an eternally renovated infrastructure. The station is in the hotel and upmarket quarter, and when I walked though an extended garden that ran several for blocks, away from opposite the station entrance, people's lives were occurring in twos or threes moving between places, one group a band of youngsters with guitars trouping upto the bandstand to play among the pale yellow light of the lanterns of the tree-lined tracks of the strip. Meeting a gaggle of french girls and an Englishman, I sated myself on some company after the genuinely unnerving 3 hour walk in the dark and established that we wanted the same train(I had given in, you can't win them all and I feared that Croatians were simply too poor or suspicious, or perhaps bitter also, to stop for a stranger (or probably they just weren't used to it and didn't understand) but either way, luxury awaited me...but at 7am!
So another night of unsatisfactory sleep, this time on the marble floor of the station, took my 3 day sleep tally to around 7 hours (below the 8 hour "legally sane" sleep threshold, according to my brother's information anyway) and proved the case that hitchhiking is exciting but prone to being rather tiring and unpredictable.
The train took those lucky enough to be on it, through perhaps the largest lawn in the world, the land south of Zagreb an enormous carpet of grass, either bare or peppered, sprinkled or hoarded with medium or small trees and shrubs. With vast valley floors and far-off mountain faces rising up from it, the region had the appearance of a greened over wild west, the epic scale of the curious fauna a dramatic sight and fairly rejuvenating. Deeper to the south, soil flushed red, sun-dried and rich, stones popped out of the ground and crags bore their naked shoulders from the rugged peaks, and the train took bends around the contours like a roller coaster, tipping ones face down upon the red tiled houses and farmsteads here and there in the valley just below.
Looking up from my dozing expiration, now clean from a patented stand-up wash procedure in the toilet(with its lock double checked), the sea ran alongside the train, azure blue and white houses, shacks and factories flickered its sight and honed the mind to coastal life and imminent departure. Checking the zips of my bag and snail-shell "house" that is the 3-man tent i had strapped onto my moist and respiring back, i leapt from the train driven by hunger and chutzpah at the overcoming of the distance, 8 hours in advance of Kieran's arrival.
Zadar, a sea-port, had the black shadows of 1pm, and as I walked among houses and squares to to a supermarket, a man sat on a bench so brown it appeared he had turned the colour into a quantity. Sweating, I ate some hot herbed bony fish with a tub of fresh potato and onion salad, for only one pound eighty from the supermarket and headed into the centre. In a park, an old man regailed me from his pigeon feeding with a cluster of indecipherable linguistic signs and I nodded and grinned at his friendly meanings, and further on ferral or semi-ferral cats scuttled and slinked, limbs tight and leggy like twisted socks, on invisible missions among the flower beds. Boats bobbing in the long plate of harbour water, walking by them I saw the tied-dye shapes and movements of the sparkling undulations of sunny water against glassy hull, a mesmerism to tired eyes irrespective of jaded senses. Zadar had me in its arms, and i moved automatically from tourist information, to public toilet, via restaurant menus and a quick change and wash. The vitality of the day had even the blue sky irradiating light and in the old town, the shining paving stones of the streets were as exquisitely smooth as a cathedrals walls, tight thoroughfares creamy, cool and with surprising views and turns, dead-ends revealing lively restaurants and the flamboyantly coloured rosettes of municipal gardens. Vines wafted their green sprays over the old walls like fans, perhaps keeping their modesty for now before an evening clothing change.
And perhaps the women here are better looking than at home? They certainly have a snaky physique twisting up and around at the bottom and into the back, dark sad eyes and lips inflected in seductive half-sneers. Looking over the top of my computer as I write this, a man and woman sit at a bar backed by the cricket-loud light of the rippling water, coating their edges in glowing yellowed wool and giving their silhouettes a cut-out angelic aura. "Fancy another drink?" I imagine the man says.
In my bag, a 2 euro bottle of wine from Split (thus Croatian, or by the other name Hrvatskian), and I will now go to meet Kieran off the plane. Am going to suggest us taking the ferry out to a local holiday island tonight, to make use of the tents and start off this leg of the Grand Vacance with a relaxing and novel beginning, after the motorway madness of recent days. So, I shall leave it here and bid you good bye, or as they say in these parts "Dovidenia!".