Saturday, 22 August 2015

International incudents

The bus station in Trieste is utilitarian and efficient. They can sell you a map of Istria, but not one going as far as Rijeka - our next destination. Sandwiches must be bought at the stylish railway station next door - unlike American greyhound buses, there's no on-board catering. We are assured our bus will be equipped with a toilet. (That proves to be true, but only up to a point).
Waiting for el bus to arrive we strike up with another snazzy chap, German, and a very experienced traveller. He has been all over the place, recommends India despite the dirt and smells. He's taken against a bus driver over the way who was rude to him. Our bus arrives, there will be only be about a dozen passengers. We load our bags on board and leave on time. We cannot find our route on the Istria map but our lady driver surges in, up onto the Karst plateau, and on to the motorway. We turn off at Plovnoc or somewhere - the bus station us by some caves. We queue to get into the compound but drive straight out again. A moment later, two bemused passengers ask to be allowed off - that was their stop. The lady driver seems annoyed about it but let's them off.
We pass into Slovenia ... passing through stunningly beautiful countryside, over mountain ridges, though forests.
Suddenly she pulls the bus over to one side.
She says in a loud voice - to the experienced German traveller - that his feet are awful, she can see - and smell - them, and this means she can't drive. She insists he move further back in the bus, and he - lincredulously - has to agree. He mutters to us as he stomps to the back - how RUDE the bus drivers are.
I go and try out the loo. It's down inside a small deep pit, under the seats. You have to be a gymnast to get in or out. No paper. No water. No flush. I climb out again - and Andrew says he'll use it but the assistant driver - an amiable older bloke - rushes along and bars him from going anywhere near it. Forbidden.
Leaving Slovenia we stop at a huge barrier - a police woman comes to check the passports of all those on board. The German seizes the chance to demand that we have a toilet break - the lady driver refuses. The German stands his ground. The assistant gives in. We are halfway between Slovenia and Croatia, where another huge barrier brings us to a halt, about sixty yards from the first one. A young male cop climbs aboard and checks our passports again, jovially stamping them with a little mechanical printer such as used to be the badge of office for local librarians when I was a nipper.  He gets off, and the lady driver accelerates into her native land of Croatia, while the German growls in fury. About a mile further on, we pull off into a service area - for the blessed toilet break. It seems we are only five miles from our destination, but honour is (sort of) satisfied.
Here in Rijeka, the town has a long and varied story - currently, I would say, it is rather in the dumps, but they're trying hard (nice public photo exhibition all along the Korsa which is the main swanky street), and a bit of Roman, and a huge harbour (though not deep enough or something to attract a lot of shipping). We have walked about, had a smoothie (very nice), looked at all the fishing boats, had a drink, seen the old market, had supper in the sunset, and retired to our hotel. Tomorrow may be quiet - with a lot of shops shut. But we gave to plan our 8-hour bus trip on Monday - down to Split. Sandwiches, sandwiches. In Croatian these are possibly called Zdjnks or Trgdjks or Polnkjzns. We have only one day to find out.

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