and on the theme of dictators…
i was in split in croatia last week. cracking city. nobody will ever tell you that, but then nobody’s really been there. town centre is built within the walls of emperor dalmatia’s summer palace. considering that the roman boss could pick pretty much anywhere he fucking well liked in the civilized world to build his palace, goes some way to help describe how pleasant croatia actually is.
what happened next, unless you’ve read books and stuff, is quite unclear, but it seems that for the next 1600 years bits kept falling off, and the new local authorities kept building bits on- and believe me, there were plenty of them- turks, venetians, austro-hungarians. jesus, even the british were in charge fore about six months in 1812. then there was germany and stalin and mussolini and war and communism and war and then the united nations shouted ’there’s another unesco heritage site for you, you twat.’
the effect is remarkable. you can walk half drunk out of a plush cafe, straight into a sphinx, ask a broken column for directions, which are inevitable wrong, before taking a piss in exactly the same corner some bloke had a piss in 1600 years ago, except unless your on your way to a fancy dress do, you won’t have to pull your toga up. then you look up and marvel as the stars twinkle down at you through a big round cavern- the former roof of a pre-christian temple. to the left come the slightly unrepetitive beats of a chris clark track. you follow your ears, and before you know it you’ve entirely forgotten about history and romance and marble and armless statues and all that shit and are giving it some for the benefit of croatia’s natural beauty.
did i not mention croatia’s natural beauty?
many eastern eurpoean countries that are famed for the quality of their female stock- czech republic, poland, ukraine, russia. and a few that are not. hungary and bulgaria spring to mind- but only because of televised shot-put competitions in the 1980’s.
Croatian women win. hands down. pan european champions chaps. no doubt about it.
the only danger i experienced during my short stay was whilst walking along the rocky coast line. concrete paths have been ‘poured’ over the craggy coasts to give an apparently wheel-chair friendly feel to the sea side. the problem is the hordes of attractive young ladies that tend to sun themselves in visible places. you find your attention caught, your eyes wander, the head turns. and then so does the path. i narrowly avoided twisting my ankle once, but only because i’m really cool. people like you had better watch out.
i come back to split.
rented a ground floor apartment in a 17th century house just outside the city walls from a lady who also promised to drive us to the airport at 4 in the morning for half the price of a taxi.and she did. there’s service for you. her name is nada.
i got busy questioning nada on the way to the airport, in an effort to appear friendly and keep the price down. ‘so’, i chirped up ‘what about the war’. the war is not everybody’s favourite topic of discussion in croatia, but like bestiality in wales, it’s touched most families and is pretty unavoidable.
nada didn’t really speak english, as much as speak some english words.
‘life much better in communist time’
yes- you see all the car (there are lots of nice cars now in croatia) they buy on credit- but really we live so good in tito time- now not so good.
did you always have tourism business?
no- before we have shop- and then we have cafe.
what about during the war?
in war we have cafe.
was it hard?
‘war…oh…hard was yes…my husband, he serbian.’
‘yes…we have small cafe…war start…they come and say ’close cafe’..it not your place have business.’
’you? are you serbian?
no- i croat. my husband serbian.
’are you catholic?
yes- but husband proslavnii (orthodox)- he serbian. but he born here.
he quiet man- lawyer. he no want no problem. he say nothing. but me. you know i different.
(it may be worth noting at this point that nada is a lady of substantial physical presence with a nose like a potato, hard small eyes and hands like a saturday prime-time wrestler.)
but i different. i no quiet, you know.
what did you do?
I say- it his home- our home- leave us alone.
who were these people?
croatian nationalist- they say he must go serbia because he serbian. go home to milosovic
what do you think of milosevic?
its good he’s dead. he have to die. now everything ended. when he live, people still talk. he bad, his family bad. best all his family die. best his wife die, his son die. good for croatia. good for yugoslavia. good for the world.
but in the war you kept the cafe open?
yes. my friends, my neighbours- they support us. it was not so good. it was war. people no have real money, but they come drink coffee every day. show they don’t care.
and what happened?
they come- nationalist come- and smash up my cafe. one time. two time. three time. say time to leave.
what did you do?
i clean up, buy new window, open up- but these people they now in prison.
i find them. i use court. my husband no want- he is quiet man, but me. no one want war with me…i know who they are. when war finish i find lawyer, i call police. now they are in prison.
what happens when they come out?
we see. i no think of that. i don’t care. they beat me.
they beat you?
yes. they beat me. they come into cafe and beat me.
i put gun, small gun in ice machine.
you hid a gun in the ice machine?
yes. when they beat me third time i shoot them…..i shoot them.
you shot them?
yes third time they beat me i shoot them. third time. that’s enough. i kill a man. it’s my past. it’s not good past, but i must live too.
at this point we arrived at split airport, far too early for our flight——-
if any one wants to stay with nada her number is +385 21 490 918. her rooms are exquisite.
i got back to mother russia and i’m having a cup of tea with baba tanya, and she’s telling me about how things are down on the boats (she runs a small boating station for the local council next to putin’s gaf down on the moskva). ‘well’, she says- ‘do you know who’s living down on the territory?‘, lowering her voice to a conspiratorial whisper, incase the kettle is listening or something. ’yeah’ i answer ’ milosevic’s son, marco- known him for years’. this was something of an embelishment. we have a passing acquaintance. i work on a territory in the keep of ‘the department of the affairs of the president of the russian federation’. the particular territory is traditionally used by the constitutional court for it’s judge’s summer residences, but in the last five years has become available to the highest bidder.
following slobodan milosevic’s fall from power and subsequent arrest, his son, marco, was spirited to russia and has been living in exile/ hiding since, in a very comfortable house just behind where i’ve been working for the last five years. used to share a fag with him in the morning. didn’t know it was him until one of the girls i work with, clocking that though his russian was good, his accent was heavy, asked him where he was from. ’i’m a banker. from cuba’. not an intelligent reply, considering that as the last bastion of the communist economic system cuba has very few banks, and even fewer ‘bankers’. even less intelligent considering his absolute incapacity to speak in spanish. a week later his dad died in the hague, and his face was all over the papers.
‘well’ she says, ‘saw him down on the river today- and he’s very good with children’.
marco milosevic was sprung from the loins of a madman who started one of the most brutal wars of the latter part of the 20th century with his mindless rhetoric, stirring dust that had settled for three centuries or more, and an evil professor of history who though it was about time the dust was stirred-mad martha. marco stayed out of politics, but commanded a monoploly on the black market in cigarettes in serbia-montenegro to the tune of $70m u.s. a year. (slobodan milosevic made tobacco duty in serbia prohibitively high. the ruse was simple. he smuggled fags from moldova, where they are extremely cheap. naturally the nations border guards allowed his cargo through unhindered, what with him being the president’s son and everything. and eliminating the opposition with the backing of the national armed forces wasn’t exactly complicated).
famed for having his own theme park in belgrade and picking up the pick of the birds in a canary yellow ferrari, he wasn’t the sort of character i’d associate with kids. hiding in the russian countryside must be a bit of a come-down too, i suspect.