Rosa and Jarred’s Croatia travel diaries, Part 4: This is odd

10and5’s resident existential astrologist Rosa Lyster and photographer Jarred Figgins are currently traveling through Croatia. Check in as they give us weekly updates about Grasevina, stuffed bears, sea urchins, and more.

The bus drivers in Croatia like to play music a lot. They like to drive fast through snow storms, they like to smoke , they like to set off exactly, exactly on time and God help you if you’re not on the bus at the appointed minute, because they will certainly leave without you, and they like to play music that I think is too loud for a bus.

It’s a lot of Croatian pop music (much more cheery than you’d expect), and then a lot of what people refer to as Radio Hits. Lots of songs where when you hear them you don’t think anything except, “I know this song. This song is on the radio a lot.” It takes a little while to realise that there is a something a bit weird going on. You kind of sit there with your head against the window listening to an Adele song at unacceptably high volume, and you think about how much you don’t like her songs even though she seems like a bit of a legend to hang out with, and then you realise that this is not, actually, an Adele song. Instead, it is an extremely extremely faithful cover of an Adele song. It is a song that is trying its absolute hardest to trick you into thinking that it is a real Adele song and is nearly getting away with it, but not quite. It’s unsettling. We heard many faithful imitations of Avril Lavigne songs, and Amy Winehouse, and Atomic Kitten, and the Sugababes, and some really bang-on Alanis Morrisette covers. The compound effect of all this is to make you feel like you are living in a world that is just slightly off. Just slightly to the left of centre.

This is not in any way a criticism. Really this is one of the things I love most about Croatia – the way this kind of underlying weirdness seeps into things. It is an eccentric place. People do normal things with a slightly deranged glint in their eye. This is not to say that people seem unstable – I saw less visibly odd people in Croatia than anywhere else I’ve ever been. It is more to say that they don’t seem to care very much about being ordinary. They seem to care more about being left alone to do whatever it is they want to do, without criticism or observation, and that they are happy to extend that same courtesy to the people around them. It produces a very particular feeling, which I don’t know how to describe except to give examples of other things that produce that identical feeling:

  • A little girl we saw rollerskating in the square. She had long straight hair going down her back, some small dungarees, and an expression of absolute serenity on her face as she just cruised slooooooooooooooooooooooooooooowly round and round the chairs and tables like one of the aliens in Mars Attacks. She was standing extremely straight, her hands at her sides, and we did not see her move her legs at all. It was like she was being pulled around by magnets. Impossible to say what she was thinking.
  • Graffiti that said things like CATS and DOGS and MATE.
  • The words “FUCK OF” in chalk at the entrance to an exercise park for old people.
  • A yacht in the beautiful still harbour on Vis Island that had all these plastic babies tied to the mast. Who did this? Why?
  • A man in dungarees and a stripey T-shirt who took a serious shine to us, and who followed us around for a day or two, staring with these giant bonkers eyes and being exactly like Bob from Twin Peaks. I tried hard not to think he was scary, but I did not succeed.
  • Cars and washing machines in fields.
  • A pregnant cat that rubbed against my legs for ages and, which made me feel weird for days. It was like something from a witch’s curse: if you are on an island on Good Friday and you get touched by a pregnant cat, strange things will start to occur around you.
  • An old lady dressed head to toe in violent orange, who sat outside her house for 12 hours without seeming to move. She was facing deliberately away from the sea. Her hands were folded in her lap.

These are just the facts. She really did sit there for 12 hours, that old orange lady. The man in the dungarees really did stand too close behind me in a church, and then when he went outside to light the candles for the procession he stood there with a giant flaming torch in his hands and STARED at us and I remember thinking Jesus Christ but that is ODD. I loved it.

All photos by Jarred Figgins @ormsdirect

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