Society Orientalist Brett X and I are in Croatia and we have some sad news. After a lovely time in Austria and a wonderful time in beautiful Slovenia, we have come to Zagreb only to be denied access to Brett's second home- Serbia- by the Yugoslavian Embassy. Despite the fact that we have letters of invitation and all the documents that we understood we would need when we were in the US they are telling us a different story now. They are telling us we have to send applications to Serbia and wait a month for the reply. This would mean spending a month in Croatia without a passport so we are going to skip it. We are both sorry, Brett especially so.
We are probably going to spend a lot more time in Croatia now and tour the coast and its natural parks before we decide whether to sly to Turkey from here, go to Bosnia, or take a train through Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria to get to Turkey.
Last night we had our worst accommodation experience so far. We arrived in Zagreb when it was already past 10pm so it was no surprise that the pickins' would be slim. Brett asked around in the train station for advice on where to find a place and a man who thought Brett might be a Croat introduced us to a woman who rented rooms. She was right out of the Communist version of Night of the Living Dead so we were surprised when she quoted a rate of about $100 for two beds. Brett haggled with her and eventually she agreed to lower the price by a little more than half and off we went together to who knew where. She took us to the Tranvia advising us there was no need to pay since the controllers don't work nights, then we rode in silence till she got off and we followed trustingly. She led us through depressing looking streets that were fairly crowded with friendly seeming people often very attractive, scantily dressed in the Balkan fashion and some-like our host- in dire need of a dentist. We arrived at a massive building which looked too much like a slab of concrete to be at all like a home and we waited for an eternity in a lobby that looked like it had seen better days for a tiny little elevator. We rode up and were happy to see our new home. We entered a tight hallway containing a shrine to blondes on the wall that brought my focus back to the woman's terrible dye job. We were assigned to one large room and were told we could use the bathroom that was in the hall. She gabbed on and on and on in Croat with Brett and I was left to examine our surroundings. There were hideous paintings - I think they were paintings - of the Alps and the seashore on the wood paneled walls and strange mix-matched furniture. Eventually she informed us that we had to leave at 8am; apparently, she could only sleep once we were gone, and she wanted to go to sleep at eight.
She finally left us alone and I went to wash up in the bathroom without a sink. When I got through, I went out to see Brett all upset. "What's the matter?" I asked, and he told me he had just seen our host walking down the street. That seemed natural enough, until he told me she had our passports, and she had locked the door! "What the hell," I thought, still pretty calm. I had seen many strange characters while travelling, and hostels are where you find the weirdest of them. I had never come to any harm of it so I figured this was the same. Brett did not agree. "I hope she isn't going to get some thugs to kill us!" he said. Jesus, I thought, maybe she was. She was creepy as hell, and why would she lock the door and not tell us where she was going? I decided not to get to paranoid, but still felt worried about the door, and the possibility of a fire. It was strange and uncomfortable, but we managed to get to sleep, convincing ourselves that everything was fine and that she was a prostitute.
In the morning we banged on the door and found our hostess was there and looking better than ever with the base and hot pink lipstick worn off her sagging face. She returned our passports and let us go. Welcome to Croatia...