Davor and I stood on Fulir’s balcony, overlooking the tiny shops and bar below. He was telling me a Canadian girl was staying here and also going to Plitvice Lakes the next day, and when she got back, he promised he would introduce us so we could take the bus together the following morning. He had tried to explain to me where the bus station was, but when I became exasperated because of my lack of map-reading skills, I just asked if him or Tin, a worker at the hostel I had befriended the night before, would come with me so I wouldn’t get lost. Instead of agreeing to that, Tin said he would drive me to the bus station to purchase the ticket.
It worked for me.
That’s when I saw Him on the street below. He caught my eye immediately. Perfect height (I’d probably recon around 5’9 or so). Perfect weight (the right blend between athletic and non-athletic). And completely different from the typical guy.
He wore plaid shorts, a dark shirt and shiny gold-framed sunglasses. He had a healthy serving of tattoos on his arms and legs, and a lip ring hooped through the middle of his bottom lip. His brown hair was cropped close to his head.
There was no way he was staying at Fulir. He just didn’t fit the mold of a typical backpack-hostel-goer. But, he walked up the ancient, red colored stairs, pulled a key out of his pocket and walked through the yellow painted door into the room I was staying in. When he walked in I caught a glimpse of a tattoo peaking through his hair on the back of his head and melted just a little bit.
After Tin confirmed he would drive me to the bus station so soon as he finished lunch, I went back to the room. I reasoned with myself that I just had to refer to my Lonely Planet book to figure out where I was going after Plitvice tomorrow, although I knew pretty well my destination would be Zadar –the first stop in my tour of Adriatic cities that would end a week later in Dubrovnik.
I walked in and set on my teeny bed, crouching my head so as not to hit it on the yellow metal frame. He stood next to my bed, unpacking some of his belongings onto the top of the locker.
“Hello,” I said, reaching for my book, trying my best to be nonchalant.
“Hi. How are you?”
English with a beautiful accent. I couldn’t tell what — a cross between Aussie, Kiwi and British maybe?
He had his sunglasses perched on the top of his head, and when he turned towards me, I was met with stunning bluebrowngreen eyes.
“Where you coming from?” I asked. I knew it was Typical Travel Talk, but I didn’t care. It was a way to make conversation. On appearance alone, he was pretty intimidating. The tattoos combined with the smoldering unconventional good looks was a bit much for me. But, I didn’t care. There was nothing for me to lose in initiating a conversation. If he sucked, then he sucked. There were 10 more beds that needed to be filled in our room that night, some of which had to be occupied by friendly people.
“Plitvice,” he said.
“Really? I’m going there tomorrow.” And, that was the gateway.
He opened up quickly, telling me all about his travel experiences and how he ended up at Fulir. He had been at a festival a few days before. He went to the park with this girl and they had picnicked and just hung out. They didn’t know if they were going to go to Zadar or Zagreb, so one got on one side of the road and the other across the street, and stuck their thumbs out. The car ended up taking them to Zagreb. I didn’t ask where the girl went. It didn’t really matter. He was cool and would be a fabulous new friend.
“I’m D,” I said. “American.”
“Jon. Australian. But I live in London.”
Jon, the Australian living in London, sat down on the dirty gray carpeted floor of our room and pulled out his laptop.
“I’ve got some information somewhere in an e-mail of some good places to go,” he explained. Then, he opened his bag and began pulling out all sorts of pamphlets adorned with gorgeous photos of islands and boats. I joined him on the floor and together we sat, talking about all of the beautiful places in Croatia I needed to see in my seven remaining days of travel. Zadar and the Sea Organ. A boat tour of the 100-plus Kornati Island area. Split. Hvar. Trogir. Dubrovnik. He gave me his pass to Plitvice so I wouldn’t have to pay (although I knew I still would buy my own pass because I wanted my own souvenir date-stamped with my memory, not his).
And then he excused himself to go and make dinner, saying he had to eat soon and then later, was going off with friends of his who were also in town.
For the next hour or so we passed each other by intermittently. In the kitchen. In the common room when I was looking at Tin’s photos, waiting for the ride to the bus station. In our room.
Tin was finally ready to take me to the bus station when Jon was sitting down to eat his meal, loaded with fresh finds from the farmer’s market.
The drive to the station was incredible. Tin had his car parked below the hostel. The entire area surrounding our hostel does not allow cars, but because Tin lives across the way and works there, he was allowed to have his vehicle.
“I’m going to take you on a tour,” he promised.
And, he did.
We rode around the old areas of Upper Town. I saw the schools he went to. The grand old homes he used to live in with his family. His ex-girlfriend’s house (which he had to duck his head when he drove past).
By the time we returned to the hostel, Jon was nowhere to be found. And I was hungry. At Davor’s recommendation, I headed to a restaurant with outdoor dining that was terraced up the length of a hill. I sat alone, writing in my journal, inhaling the secondhand smoke of every patron and eyeing the love-struck teenage couple who sat next to me with hickeys on their necks and just couldn’t keep their hands off of each other.
When I got back to the hostel, Davor introduced me to Amy, the Canadian. We instantly clicked, making plans to go to the market to grab some beers and enjoy a chill evening out.
Amy and I returned from the market with a one-liter plastic bottle of Croatian beer. It was massive and we both swore we would not drink much beyond that bottle.
We were sitting in the kitchen, and a girl had just gotten Davor to open up about the war (something most Croatians don’t really discuss) when a group of five or so Brits came to check-in. Davor didn’t have room for them, but they had sworn a reservation had been made. To accomodate them, he put them in the common room.
He was still giving me grief from my behavior the night before, so he quickly introduced Amy and me to the boys, telling them if they hung out with us a good time would be had by all. I don’t think I am ever one to blush, but damn. I am pretty sure I was by that point.
Amy and I went in to the room and sat with the boys, drinking a beer and chatting. They were 20. Just a few minutes earlier Amy had accused me of being a cougar, saying that the rule is 1/2 my age plus seven. Well, the Aussie from the night before just hit my cut-off. However, had it been two weeks later, I would have fallen into the official cougar world. These boys were sweet. And cute. And born in 1989. And soooo off limits.
The group of them went to dinner, saying they would be back later and we would seem them then. By that point, Davor had gotten quite drunk and had taken to inappropriately groping me and my new friend. When him, Tin and a few of the other local hostel owners came into the common room, turned on some mood lighting and started playing Michael Jackson, Amy and I decided it was time to exit the situation.
We were about to walk down the stairs when I noticed the door to my room was open. We popped in, and there was Jon, along with a few other people who were staying in our room, all about to leave. He hadn’t gone out with his friend after all … he was going to meet up with them later. I had thought most of the people in the room had gone to a gypsy festival and was bummed I had missed it, but there they all were.
So, I did what I do best. I started a party and invited them to a bar with Amy and a few other people we had met that evening. The group of us all headed out to the main street, sectioning off and chatting. Immediately, Jon and I gravitated to eachother, talking about our plans for the night.
Somehow we were able to find outdoor seating for eight of us. Jon sat at one end, Amy next to him, and then another guy separating the two of us. We all sat together for an hour or so before Amy and a few of the people decided to head back to the hostel. I decided to stay — four of them were planning on going to a club, including Jon.
“Don’t get too drunk,” she said. “We have to wake up at 7 to get to the bus on time and have a day of hiking.”
“Promise,” I said.
And, I didn’t get drunk, exactly.
Or, maybe the better way to describe how I was in the morning was “not hungover.”
There was one thing for sure when she came to knock on the door in the morning. After the night I was coming down from, I was punchdrunkcrazyallabout Jon.