Travelogue “CROATIA IN ITALY”: Love in the air and pasta on the plate

Tamara Hodak

italy

It`s Wednsday, I went out. My cellphone starts ringing.


“Tamara, do you want to go to Italy on 15th of February?”

“Yes.” – I said.

And that was it. That is how I make decisions usually.

By the morning, I found out where am I supposed to go, with whom, how and why. Three girls from Zagorje, Tihana, Marija and Petra, needed two more people for the trip.

I called Jelena.

“Jelena, do you have a week off?”

“Yes” – she said.

“Ok, we are going to Italy.”

And that was it. That is how I usually… =)

After only a few days of making deals, we bought bus and train tickets and left Zagreb at 05:30am. We met at bus station and were looking forward to 26 hours trip to south Italy. Tip for traveling: Come up with ideas what to do during trip that last this long or take a plane.

italy

It was raining until we got to Ljubljana. Weather in Trieste was a little bit better. Funny thing is that we haven`t met Italians in Trieste. Only Croats and Slovenians. Of course, every single one of my trips must start with shocks. So, after 4 and half hours of sitting in the bus I was looking forward to getting to the toilet more then 4 star hotel that was waiting for us in Fasano. I run into the bathroom, there was no toilet seats, you had to squat do the the business. Even better, I don`t have to touch anything. There is 10cm of space under every door which is enough to see if anybody is in front. I was watching shadows passing by and all of the sudden – FACE! A guy bend his head under the doors to see what was going on inside. I jumped and the confusion made me punch the doors with my leg. It doesn`t make any sense, I know. But you are not able to think properly in that kind of moment. What would your reaction be? I opened the door to see wtf is going on. Two women were standing and looking at me with confused facial expressions wondering if I`m mentally stable. I got girls to guard in front of the doors. After the incident I decided that I am not going to leave any of them out of my sight. Not even while I blink. We took a short walk, did a photo session and moved on.

italy

After a few hours break, we took a train to Bologna. This was my first train ride. While I was still in Croatia, guys who went to Turkey with me, asked if I am going to panic like I did when I was traveling by plane for the first time when we were together. I didn`t. Seats were big enough (or I am small enough) to lay down and fall asleep. Concerning the fact I don`t like to stay in the same spot for too long it was a little bit hard to spend all of that time in the seat. We played Uno, we were watching movies, listening to music, talking, sleeping… Everything, just to spend time.

We arrived to Bologna. Lockers for our baggage cost 4 euro for a couple of hours. Little bit expensive, but we had a few hours break again and no other choice. We got out of station and tried to come up with a plan. What do we need? Food, water, coffee, toilet, wifi, bed, shower, ATM, exchange office, everything… Women. First thing to notice was that there are not so many coffee bars like in Croatia. But McDonalds are everywhere. Wifi works based on your cellphone number for only 7 countries. Croatia is not among them. Thank you, neighbors.

Searching for any way to contact my mother to let her know that I did not become subject of white enslavement and that I still have all of my organs, we found wifi on some bus station. Italian stations are full of homeless people, immigrants and beggars. You don`t feel safe because we witnessed a fight of a few beggars and dog attacking his homeless owner. We bought food and went back to railway station to wait for our train.

italy

Midnight, we are entering the train. I was looking at a seat size. Dimensions were perfect for me to lay down and fall asleep. Suffer, you tall people! There was group of young people in coupe next to mine. According to voices, my conclusion was that there were 10 guys and one girl. Because you could hear group laughter followed by one person screaming. It didn`t matter, my seat was comfortable enough to get some sleep after all.

07:30am, we arrived to Fasano, city in south Italy. Anita and Mariagrazia, members of Italian team, were waiting. Taking to concern that I do not know my own name when I wake up, the answer to the question “How are you?”, were dark circles around my eyes. Even though I was extremely happy because we were in Italy. As soon as I got to hotel I forgot how tired I am, how bad I want to sleep, how much I got wet because of the rain, but I will never forget the guy from toilet! So, the hotel is on the hill and I has terrace with the best view ever!

italy

“Where sun shines forever, that is were Macedonia is!” – Dado Topić said. Macedonian team arrived shortly after us. Bertan, Davor, Bekim, Nikola and Kiki – nice team with whom we could talk in Croatian and Macedonian.

“Tureja liepa” was the song that made an impact. Lithuanians showed us the song as a part of their intercultural night. After that, the whole hotel was singing it. I`m not overreacting. Literally, somebody was singing it in every single part of hotel. Domantas, Gabija, Matas, Ugne and Alius – they were always in good mood.

Everyone heard of Zorba, but this was the first time we got a chance to see what it actually looks like. Incredible! Odysseas, Panagiotis, Amarylis, Efi and Sofie – team who presented their traditional dances in a great way.

As chocolate addict, I must admit that Rom chocolate is Romanian gold. I even did training with Romanians. It was weird to explain how I got all the bruises when I got home. Cosmin, Cristi, Florin, Paula I Petronela – tim with a huge potential with whom we will continue to cooperate.

Sangria was great. And mum Marian is the queen! Marian, Fran, Vicky, Anna and Andrea – Spanish team with great traditional dances which we all wanted to learn.

Italian team was home so we learned about their culture more then we could about others. Anita, Valeria, Angelica, Mariagrazia and Maria Vita – wonderful team who made our stay in Italy amazing.

First day was what it looks like in every project – nobody knows anyone, we are all getting to know each other, playing games to remember names. I met my team the day I met everybody else. I could barely remember names of my girls, not to mention other participants. But I tried.

Food made me extremely happy. I like to eat, so I did not care what are we going to eat. I cared about how much I will eat in that week. Appetizer – pasta with something. Main meal afterwards and you eat it in two bites. Dessert is for the end. Food was delicious but we, who come from Lika, like to eat a lot. Still hungry, I`m leaving the table while looking around is that a problem only for me or there are more hungry people. I see 2 meter tall guys, it is impossible that it was enough for them if it was not for me. The second day pasta with something again, two bites or main meal and dessert. Hotel is on the hill, next to a zoo, shop is nowhere nearby. I was thinking to myself how am I going to survive a week. The third day, a group of people started complaining about the food. Somebody did not like to eat pasta every day, others shared my thoughts. After explaining everything to the organizers, we got more food if we wanted. Happiness! Two plates of appetizer, three of main meal and dessert. What can I say… =D

Intercultural nights are always the most interesting part. Every team needs to present their country so everybody brings food and lots of alcohol. I do not like alcohol so much and after short tasting, I started with the food. Greek sarma, Romanian Rom, Macedonian chocolate ratluk, Lithuanian cake, Spanish sangria… (Scene from cartoon where your jaw drops to the floor.). A few glasses of alcohol makes people get to know each other better. Sometimes it is enough to not be able to look at each others eyes. In the most positive way.

italy

Our hotel was located next to the zoo safari which we visited. It was an experience I have never had before. We all jumped into a van and took a ride among the animals. You can even go with a private car. The first thing we saw were goats, deer, horses, I have no idea. They were not bothered by us much and looked at us confusingly while we were stuffed on van windows trying to take pictures or touch them. I live in the national park so I was waiting for tigers and giraffes. Only those do not live in my area. When we approached tigers and lions, we got a warning to close the windows. First thing I did was opening the window and shouting “kitty, kitty, kitty…”. You get a chance only once in your life to feed a lion with your own arm. The same thing I tried with a donkey, camel, giraffe, monkeys, flamenco, rabbits, chicken, peacocks… Nobody was interested. I guess they feed them well.

Program was well organized. From the beginning until the end, organization of our stay and activities was good. Every day we played games as an intro to activities. Blind game was great. Somebody had to take you around the hotel with your eyes covered. It is so hard at the beginning. Specially if you have partner who leads you on a hotel terrace and says: “Enjoy the view!” Thanks, Cosmin. Or if you are lead by Nikola and he lets you hit every wall, barrel, chair, doors, anything he think it would look hilarious. Justyna, I feel sorry for you. It becomes interesting later when you relax. We learned a lot about obstacles blind people face every day.

We worked in groups as well. One of the most interesting games was making remake of “Wannabe” by Spice girls. We changed the words to make a song about our project. Almost nobody had a good voice, we missed tones, melody, lyrics… Everything. But we were happy because we did something together.

The most important part of project were dances. Through workshops we had to show each other traditional dances and teach others how to remember steps.

italy

Spain is famous for their culture and dances. It was hard to remember the steps, but we were all laughing while trying to follow the rhythm and remember the order of steps. I cannot say we were successful, but it was a new experience. It helped us a lot to get to know Spain. Spanish team presented us a few dances. I have to admit that it takes a lot of practicing to become good as they are.

Macedonians had Bekim, he sang “Jovano, Jovanke” and “Zajdi, zajdi”. Well, that was something! Specially to Croats because we already knew the songs. We danced in circle. Steps are easy, it was only a little bit hard to remember the order. Nevertheless, Nikola was leading. Everything was fine as long as we followed him. At the end we sang “Makedonsko devojče” all together.

Lithuanians were singing as well. I already described the impression the song made. They showed us a few dances which were easy to remember. After we got all the steps right, we wanted to get back to the song. We were more interested in learning the lyrics and singing it.

Polish showed us something really posh. Their dance reminded me of old castles and royal dances. Steps were easy, but without coordination of the leading couple, the rest of the team does not know what to do. If the first one goes wrong, everybody else will too. Regardless of that, it was one of my favorite dances.

Greek had masters. Its not easy, that is why we all learned only basics. Everything else, we left for Odysseas and Panagiotis. They really tried and managed to present us Greek tradition.

Italians had backup. Local group of dancers showed us how Italy lives. Pizzica is the name of the dance we all danced. It is important to know the basics because there is a lot of room for improvising. You dance in circle or in pairs. It is pretty fun.

Romanians put their traditional clothes on me. By the time we finished dancing I was so hot. But it made my impression better. Steps are easy to remember as long as you keep counting.

People get carried away sometimes. It makes you come up with lots of ideas, this was one of them.

italy

As it usually happens, Croatian were not so well prepared and we had to improvise. Again. After long thinking, our conclusion was that we are in the shadow when it comes to traditional dances. None of us was an expert and we did not know more then dancing in the circle, two-step, three-step dance and Zagorski cug. Lets be real, with all the interesting dances other had to offer, we were not so amusing. So we had to come up with plan B. “We will play alka!” – first thing that came across my mind. Mario, thanks for the idea. We spread a rope over a congress room, put a paper circle on it, took a broomstick from cleaners, jumped on each others back I tried to get bull`s eye while running. It was fun.

Final night is always the hardest. Everybody is aware of the fact that we are going home and that they will not see some people they met ever again. Unless they continue the work with NGO`s and organize project where they will invite people they want to see. I already started to work. In December, Perpetuum will have a project where participants will be people I met on projects. Happiness up to the heaven and back!

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People decided to sleep a little bit or not sleep at all because some of us had to leave during the night. Croatia say goodbye at 06:30. Terrible. In the moment when you have the biggest wish of not leaving, you must go. Same story every time.

That was not the the end for Croatian team. We had one night break after we got to Trieste and before the bus back home. We arrived to Trieste at midnight. All the hotels and hostels were closed. On our way, we contacted one hostel and asked if we could arrive an hour after closing. “Only if you pay in advance.” – they said. Yeah, right. We decided to get to hostel hoping that somebody will be there. But, not even one person stays there during the night. Good old Google helped us search for another open hotel. There was only one nearby. We were unlucky, it was booked. Receptionist spoke Croatian and it took him only a few minutes to find a room in other hotel. Entering the rooms so tired, all we could think about was shower. When we almost fell asleep, some guy in the room next to ours started making noises. He was shouting, crying, screaming, turned on tv sound, punching the doors, running down the hall… I locked the doors and decided to think about the food for breakfast just to stay calm.

We forces ourselves to get up in the morning, had a breakfast and went home. Everything is the same in Zagreb so I cannot wait to participate in another project. Poland, 13th of March! Woohoo!

Use the chances while you can. Travel and meet new people and cultures. If you want to be part of projects like this, contact Perpetuum.

Photos and videos:

  1. https://goo.gl/yuU8mA
  2. https://goo.gl/2p96sQ
  3. https://www.instagram.com/tamara.pj/
  4. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQENzQSmip2j_cXlmP51NsA/videos?sort=dd&view=0&shelf_id=0

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