The bus was somewhere south of Sibenik when the driver decided to make another of his increasingly frequent stops to pick up those looking for a ride. The bus pulled up to a small stop where a family of five awaited. The father was a short, stocky man with dark hair and a look of seriousness on his face. Though it was early evening, the family were dressed for a day at the beach rather than a bus ride to Split. After they boarded, the bus headed back down the highway. The backup driver, who was riding in a seat to the right of the driver, began to issue tickets and ask for payment from the man. What happened next was incomprehensible to all involved. During this process, some sort of disagreement occurred between the man who had just boarded with his family and the backup driver issuing the tickets. Money never changed hands. The oddest thing about the conversation is no one raised their voice. Most likely they were debating whether the man would pay. The conversation lasted at least 10 minutes, until the bus finally pulled over. At that point, the man and his family exited the bus.
The man issuing the tickets then followed him off the bus. They once again engaged in another long winded conversation. The bus driver soon joined them. His presence only served to prolong the matter. The back and forth among these men went on for quite some time. Another ten minutes passed as the bus idled by the roadside. We were stuck in the middle of nowhere and the conversation among the three men had arrived at the same place. There was nothing anyone on the bus could do but wait. I noticed that the other passengers did their best to ignore whatever disagreement was taking place. I figured the disgruntled passenger was arguing over some petty point or minute amount of cash. In my experience, the lower the stakes, the longer the wait. Finally, both drivers returned to the bus. After half an hour had been wasted on a family that had not traveled more than a few kilometers and paid nothing for the considerable delay they had caused, the bus went on its way once again. Split could not come soon enough for me, but we were still over an hour away from arrival.
Instantly Identifiable – A Picture of Vivid Brilliance
South of Zadar and north of Split, there was one place along this part of the journey which I looked forward to with eager expectation. A week earlier I had caught a glimpse of Primosten, a small town which looked like a fairy tale town from a kilometer away. White stone houses with orange roofs rose above the azure waters of the Adriatic that surrounded the town. Near the pinnacle of Primosten was a dash of greenery. Amidst a clump of trees, the steeple of St. George’s Church could be seen shooting skyward. Primosten was one of those rare places where reality outpaces imagination. It became instantly identifiable in my mind. I wanted to see the town again from the highway to confirm that it had been a miracle rather than a mirage. My expectations were met.
Primosten not only was shining beneath the last rays of sunlight, this small town of just 2,800 inhabitants was a picture of vivid brilliance. Getting a photo of it from the bus proved to be a feat I would fail to accomplish. Primosten was postcard perfect, but that may have been precisely the problem. I could not get an image that would match this enhanced version of reality. From a bus window, Primosten looked like the poster child for Croatian tourism. Later, I searched for more information on Primosten. Surely the guidebooks would not ignore such a stunning set piece. In my mind, this was Croatia par excellence. Of course, I was suffering from love at first sight. To my surprise, there was very little coverage of the town.
My trusty older edition of the Rough Guide to Croatia limited its coverage of Primosten to a couple of paragraphs. It stated in so many words that Primosten was the perfect destination for those who were looking to rest their weary bones, but it also warned that the town looked much better from afar than up close and personal. The hundred or so houses whose white walls blazed radiantly in the distance were said to be of more recent vintage. The guide made it sound like there was a paucity of historic sites or anything else of more than mild interest in Primosten. I found this depressing. Primosten sounded like the epitome of a seaside supermodel that exposes itself in a one night stand. I am sure there are plenty of suitors lining up to find out the truth and have a bit of fun in the process.
Infernal Glow – The Ultimate Memory
There were certain satisfactions that I cannot deny from this bus journey, Primosten was one of them. The setting sun that bordered our bus for almost an hour was another. Any passengers who cared to look out the window were repaid for their troubles on this trip with a spectacular sunset. The kind a foreigner finds once in a lifetime, but that Croatians see with regularity. Dusk was dawning upon the eastern Adriatic and drama soon took hold of the sky. As the sun began to dip towards the horizon, the sea turned into a mirror reflecting the sunlight which had transformed it into quicksilver.
Islands floated darkly in the distance. The clouds looked as though they had been touched up with shades of light and shadow by the masterstrokes of an impressionist painter. The sun slowly transformed into a ball of fire, burning through the clouds as its infernal glow expanded. When the sun sank towards the sea, its reflection upon the water stretched a fiery hand toward the setting sun until the two became one. That scene made for the ultimate memory, one that would stay with me long after this journey ended.
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