Monday, October 08, 2001

And my final hours in Zagreb approach. After 10 days, it's time to move on to pastures new - or to meet with heroin addicted AWOL Croatian soldiers in Split, to be more precise.

As ever, the sun is shining in this most consistently warm of cities. Ten days of wonderful sunshine. After living in Scotland all my life, I admit such a concept was beyond the realms of my imagination. As was walking down the street and having wave upon wave of attractive girls pass me. No, no, Aberdeen girls, you're lovely too of course, but you really should start wearing less...

So since my last entry, Zagreb has of course been treating me well. All night sessions, international football matches, morning coffee with Croatian models and enjoying the novelty of being Scottish. Where will I start? Hmm, how about Friday?

Ok, so Friday I imagine the day was spent doing something or other. That's a fair guess. A morning would typically consist of me getting out of the very comfortable hostel bed at about 10am, and lounging on the balcony for a couple of hours. Usually talking to the hostel cleaner, Seka, who was very chatty indeed, and the hostel owner Vera and her very pretty daughter Leia. After being there so long I was beginning to feel somewhat of a permanent fixture, and was rewarded as such by daily coffee.

Friday night then had a couple of options. What was certain was that there was to be a night out with a few people - myself, Simon, Matthew, Antoine and Nina, plus her friend Ivana who turned up also. What was less certain was my exact plans. For the whole week I'd been building up this club - or disused factory playing underground techno. I was keen to go, but as only I was interested I didn't want to desert everyone midway through a night out.

So, the six of us met up in the city centre (by the statue of the Turk-killer on a horse) and went for a drink, before Nina had to retire home after one glass of "soda." Poor Nina. She's the main reason we came to Zagreb in the first place, and in 10 days we've seen her twice now. Not through deliberate avoidal by either party, but because of a series of missed chances, be it by day-trips, missed phonecalls or illness. And I think that on Friday she still wasn't fully fit. We tried to phone her last night, but missed her, so hopefully we can get hold of her today before we leave. If not, and Nina does read this - it's ok, don't worry. We've had a great time here, and if you ever come to Scotland we promise not to avoid you too much...

With Nina and Ivana out of the picture, us four males moved onto a different pub and hit the Tomislav. Oh, Tomislav, the drink of the heavens. Hmm, perhaps not heavens bu it's certaily something not quite of this world, because we're talking pure potency here. Tomislav seems to have ingredients not contained in usual pivo. Pure toxic excellence. So time managed to disappear in a haze of Tomislav as the four of us sat talking about... well, details are resigned to the mists of time. And suddenly it was 1am and suddenly I realised, "Hey, I'm a little drunk!" and that it was time to hit the disused factory. So I departed.

A quick apology first. To the poor unsuspecting 16 year old waiting for her tram. Matthew was with me, not to go to the club ("Matthew" and "club" are two words I cannot ever imagine in the same sentence, unless accompanied by the words "definitely not ever") but because he was cycling back to the hostel. He was drunker than me and his cycling was less straight-line and more perfect sine-wave. As we passed the tram spot in the city centre, we passed a blonde girl sitting waiting and Matthew said hello and struck up a short conversation. In English of course, but fortunately she spoke it well. She did seem extremely amused with us two drunken foreigners talking absolute rubbish, and at our concern at her being so young and out so late. She also appeared impressed (well, amused at least) with my perfect grasp of Croatian swearwords. She was saved however by the appearance of her tram, and so we all departed. Her to her home, Matthew to his hostel (apparently falling off his bike at least once) and me to the disused factory by the river...

I must make something clear. I'm not the sort of person who goes to pubs, restaurants or clubs by myself. I think once in Aberdeen I waited for Joe in the Hogs Head for half an hour, sipping a pint alone, and hated it. So to go into a Croatian club alone seems out of character. But I was just curious, to see what the Croatian underground techno scene was like, and after a number of Tomislavs I decided to satisfy my curiosity. And yeah, it was good. Really, really good.

It was in the dark and concrete basement of the factory first of all, so underground quite literally. I meandered in, and to my delight found drink was a mere 8Kn (about 70p). So, if you want, you can perhaps forgive me for the extremely patchy memories than now occur.

The music was good first of all. Ok, I thought it was good, it might not be everyone's cup of tea, or pint of Tomislav. Behind a purple curtain lay the concrete dancefloor, with thick conrete pillars scattered. Before the dancefloor was the bar. There was no toilet - except for the bushes outside.

Ok, so memories are vague, but I talked to various people, one of whom was desperate to sell me marijuana, and latterly danced a lot. I recall my dancing being exquisitely performed, silky movements and dynamic bodypops. "Bustin' a groove". However, if any videotape exists of the night, I really would rather not study it. Some hazy memories are best left as hazy. Later on, somehow, I ended up talking to some Croatian girls (perhaps they'd been admiring my dancing). They seemed rather intrigued that a Scottish guy had made his way into this clubnight, and were awfully concerned about my likely travelling through the Middle East. I know I talked to them until the music stopped - a rather premature 4am I believe - and they both departed, after giving me a kiss on the cheek of course.

Ok, so things get even vaguer here, but I know I managed to find my way home in the space of a "mere" two hours. So it was around 6am, and I decided not to bother sleeping. On th balcony of the hostel were three Croatian guys who I spoke to. They were there for the Croatia-Belgium footbal game on later that day, so I spoke to them a little. I was rather out of it at this point, so I canno imagine I was too eloquent. They disappeared, so I spent some time relaxing on the balcony (perched, I believe, rather dangerously on the side) then went downstairs to the outside benches. Memories begin to clarify a little now, and I know I was saying "Dobre utro" and "Kako ste" (good morning and how are you) to various passers-by in the street, most of whom replied cheerfully. Vera, Leia and Seka also appeared later on, but fortunately I was more compis mentis by this stage, helped by the coffee they fed me.

Ah yes. The models. Antoine, that previous night, had talked of two Croatian models staying on our floor. I'd not met them however. But as I was up and about early that day, Vera trusted me with reception as she popped out for 20 minutes. And during then, one of the models came downstairs to pay, which I dealt with, and Seka then made us coffee, which we drank together on the balcony. The dark-haired model was really rather attractive, and was very friendly too. The blonde one less so on both counts. They were in Zagreb to meet with some agency, and it appeared to be straight down the line modelling, not pornographic alas.

It's a story that perhaps isn't as good as it's synopsis sounds: after spending the whole night at an underground Croatian rave, I enjoyed a pleasant morning coffee with two models. In my autobiography I'll definitely spice it up a little.

Antoine also left that morning. Antoine was somewhat of a revelation, because he was French-speaking Swiss and I really liked the guy. He was a genuinely decent and cool guy. I know, I know, all that know me will know of my anti-Swissness, but he was a cool guy.

Anyway, so being without sleep, Saturday was a bit of a spaced out day for me, though I still made constructive us of it. After taking a wander back to the club (very intelligently I'd hidden my coat in a "safe" place that night, but had been able to find it later on, but managed this time) it was time for the football. Croatia vs Belgium.

The situation regarding the game was this: If Croatia won, they qualified for the World Cup, Belgium would have to play a play-off, and Scotland would be out. If Belgium didn't lose, then Belgium qualified and Croatia would have to do the play-off. Scotland would stll be out. BUT - if Belgium somehow thrashed Croatia and Scotland thrashed Latvia, then Belgium would qualify, Scotland would do the playoff, and Croatia would be out. Got that? Basically, I wanted Croatia either to win, or get comprehensively annihilated.

The city was buzzing. More than buzzing, it was totally charged. The red and white checks of the Croatian football strip everywhere, cars driving by with horns blasting, flags waving, a total excitement everywhere. We arrived at the stadium an hour before kickoff to be met by riot police, holding back the huge numbers of Croatians trying to pile into the inadequate entrance gates. After a considerable wait and considerable crush, we got into the stadium, and climbed the mass of steps and as we entered the stand that towered above th pitch, the match kicked off literally as we entered into our stand.

The Croatians sure were up for the match - both the players and the fans. The fans had quite a fondess for fireworks/flares too, which were thrown at the pitch with great regularity. I've never seen as many fireworks thrown at a pitch before - especially after an "event", ie the missed penalty, a missed open goal and well, anything really. Most were saved for the single goal of the very entertaining game that Croatia rightfully won, scored after 78 minutes by Boksic.

I didn't go out that night, instead preferring to sleep soundly despite the wild revelry by the mass of Croatians in our hostel, plus the few Belgians, including the really rather fat Jean-Ive who apparently snored very loudly that night, but was unable to wake my sleep.

Ok, yesterday very briefly, as I'm running out of time. A lazy day, but in the evening sat on the balcony chatting to two Germans (Stefan and Katarina) and later the two Israelis (Arnon and Renat) who we plan to visit while dodging bombs in Israel next month. This morning, a sad farewell to the hostel, although we return later to get our stuff and give them a bottle of wine as a thankyou. Later we'll hopefully see Nina, and I'm meeting Bozica at 7 for a departing drink.

That's it. Take it easy.

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