We're back from two weeks in Eastern Europe, visiting five countries, most of which used to be Yugoslavia. We started in Zagreb, Croatia, meeting thirty other tour members. Day One, a tall gray-haired fella saw Bonnie's Provincetown sweatshirt, pointed at the writing and said, "That's where all the queers go."
Toto, we're not in Rehoboth anymore.
Bonnie handled it beautifully. "I know," she said, smiling, "I'm one and that's why I go there." She proceeded to tell him and his stunned wife our life story as we played tourist.
My first note home, from a back street internet café in Zagreb tells it well:
Here in Zagreb (and that was hard to write as the Z is where the Y should be on this computer keyboard). Fabulous old city (had to erase a z there) with Austrian-Hungarian architecture, bronze statues, squares, parks, open markets with meat, cheese and vegetable vendors, lots of outdoor dining, great beer, friendlz (damn) people. We are in a glorious old hotel, where the Orient Express used to stop. Streetcars everywhere, zoung (ugh) people in great clothes, and perfect weather. Mostlz (shit) the buildings are 19th centurz (you know what I mean). Off to cocktails on a terrace overlooking the main square and a Schnitzel dinner. Pivo! (thats the onlz word I know in Croatian and it means beer.) Faz...er…Fay
Next stop Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina (one country, two names). I knew it as a glorious Olympic City, ruined by the 1991-1995 war. The Eastern Orthodox Serbs fought the Roman Catholic CroATs (just some pronunciation help there), and then everybody turned on the Muslims. We drove past horribly pock-marked buildings, abandoned homes without roofs, and miles of rubble. The conflict ended a dozen years ago and much is still a mess. There are great signs of revival, but not enough to keep you from shaking your head and despairing over f-ing religious wars.
Bonnie's grey-haired crony Dave kept trying to be friends, introducing us to other folks on the tour, trying to make up for his opening gaffe. We began to feel like his pet lesbians.
Next up, the Croatian city of Dubrovnik, which means, for all you show queens, a quick chorus of Liza's "Ring Them Bells"…like Liza, we found the Balkans a ball. Dubrovnik is a medieval walled city, high above the Adriatic, with breathtaking scenery, white buildings and red tile roofs, pounding surf, people still living within the walled area and another contemporary city bustling just over the drawbridge outside. Within old Dubrovnik we saw elegant churches, statues, historic public buildings, coffee houses, restaurants and, well, of course, Polo, Benetton, etc. Dubrovnik was shelled mercilessly in the 1990s but much has been repaired, re-sculpted and renovated...simply beautiful.
Then, a day trip to the Republic of Montenegro, the world's newest country (unless one cropped up last night in Africa), having seceded from Bosnia only recently. We toured the exquisite Bay of Kotor, a fiord with a deep bay surrounded by almost vertical granite mountain walls. The walled city of Kotor had historic buildings, skinny streets, outdoor dining, great pizza.
Traveling to the gorgeous seaside town of Split (back in Croatia again) we came face to face with the Communist legacy. The young people all seemed hip to the art of business and tourism, welcoming us and being helpful. Sadly, their commie era elders haven't adapted. The perfectly located hotel had utilitarian, politburo ambiance and a surly staff grunting at requests, serving expensive cocktails and resenting having to hand over one ice cube and a thimble of liquor. The dinner entrée seemed made of the shoe leather Nikita Khruschev used in the 1950s to bang on the table at the U.N.
But we had a great balcony to see the sea. Turned out we were directly over the Petrol station and woke up smelling like, all together now, diesel dykes.
But steps away, inside the walled city of Split we saw amazing Roman ruins, and spent time overlooking the sea, sailboats, cruise ships and amazing mountains.
Driving North on the coast that sound we heard was the dollar falling again against the Euro. It sunk to an historic low for the third day running but luckily we were still on Croatian Kunas. In addition to computer keyboards transposing Y & Z, Croatian money transposes our decimal points and commas. 22,000 equals twenty two kunas (dollars) and 22.000 is something else entirely, leaving terrible room for souvenir purchase blunders.
I wouldn't say the food in that part of Croatia was awful, but either you had pork Schnitzel and boiled potatoes or pork Schnitzel and boiled potatoes. Excellent pivo, though.
By this time, we'd been in so many hotels, I got up in the middle of the night, feeling my way to the bathroom and couldn't find the commode. It was like playing pin the tail on the donkey only it was put the tail on the toilet. I think I peed in the bidet.
Ah, Venice. A water taxi took our group to our hotel on the Grand Canal. Venice is much more of a living city than I imagined, with narrow pedestrian streets and boat-filled canals. I'd always pictured the romantic classical buildings and crooning gondoliers. I didn't picture the advertising posters, motor boats carrying linens, beer and cucumbers and the sheer number of people - residents and tourists on the streets. Venice is famously sinking and I think it is from the volume of tourists.
On our last day, Bonnie stopped big Dave, saying she hoped that the Q word was banished from his vocabulary. He thanked her for not getting in his face about it and helping him not to be embarrassed. In fact, he thanked her for saving the trip for him after his big goof. They bonded.
Our water taxi came early and we were off, racing through Venice Bay to the airport.
We adored the trip. But I'm having something other than schnitzel tonight. And I'm glad to have my own my computer back. I was beginning to think of myself as Faz.
Contact Fay at: FayJacobsrb@aol.com
Fay's website: www.FayJacobs.com
Fay Jacobs, a native New Yorker, spent 30 years in the Washington, DC area working in journalism, theater and public relations. She has contributed feature stories and columns to such publications as The Advocate, OUTtraveler, The Baltimore Sun, Chesapeake Bay Magazine, The Washington Blade, The Wilmington News Journal, Delaware Beach Life and more.
Since 1995 she has been a regular columnist for Letters from CAMP Rehoboth, and won the national 1997 Vice Versa Award for excellence. Her columns are collected in the books, As I Lay Frying: a Rehoboth Beach Memoir and the newly published Fried & True - Tales of Rehoboth Beach.
Fay is Publisher and Managing Editor or A&M Books, the publisher of the 14 classic Sarah Aldridge novels.
She and Bonnie, her partner of 25 years, relocated to Rehoboth Beach, DE in 1999. They have two Miniature Schnauzers and a riding lawn mower.