Crossing the border the second time was smooth as silk. Immigration could have given me trouble on the Slovenian side for my crazy stamps from the day before, but they just asked where I was going ans stamped me OUT. Customs just waved me by. Across the same river, the Croatian immigration lady just asked where I was going. When I said, “Hong Kong.”, she just lowered her glasses and said, “That’s heavy.” the Croation customs man just chatted a little and didn’t even ask if I had anything to declare. I’ve had more trouble going from Vermont to Canada.
Before leaving Slovenia I stocked up at my favorite Slovenian supermarket chain, Spar. Two reasons: I didn’t know if I could change money easily, and I had been warned that good Croatian supermarkets were rare. As it turns out, changing money here is easier than in the EU: every bank gives the official rate, no fee, and they are open until 7:00PM.
If Slovenia was like New England, Croatia is like Appalachia. Beautiful mountains and farmland, but decades of poverty and strife show in the run-down farms and homes (not all of them), the rusty cars and ancient tractors, and neglected concrete apartment buildings in the one city I have visited so far, Karlovac. The roads are poor and there are no picnic tables. I love picnic tables. Wi-fi seems easy to find so far, but G-mail has decided that checking my mail from Croatia is suspicious activity, and their verification process involves text messages. Anybody know how to contact Google?
At lunch I found an empty rod & gun club with tables under a pavilion (of sorts), a big stone pig-roasting setup, and a deer stand on a tower, all in a nice grove of trees. They had a crucifix and rosary hanging, and bare-breasted girly photos as well. I found a 50-Kuna bill blowing in the breeze there, worth about $14. It was looking like rain, and this would have been a good place to camp, under the pavilion, but it was early so I pressed on.
I am in Karlovac now, in a room in a private home, $12. A hotel room is $25 to $100, a beer in a downtown bar $1. There are lots of bars, almost all with outdoor seating. The people are friendly. A fellow at the cafe, 30 years old, works in a brewery full time for about $550 per month, which he says is average for non-professionals, truck drivers, store clerks and the like. Rent is cheap, $200 or so unless it’s a nice place. Few people under 30 have cars. German, Italian and Austrian tourists bring a little more prosperity to town from April to October.
I’m still deciding about a route. I can reach Turkey via Bulgaria, a non-Shengen country. It seems slow going in Eastern Europe but I’m gaining on my planned schedule anyway. And I’m enjoying every day. I’ll put off deciding for a while, and see what develops.