As the proverb says “Old habits die hard”. I’m sure that I could live in Dubrovnik for one hundred years but I’d still hold on to a few habits from my English past. I guess they’re too ingrained into the fabric of my soul to forget. And when the summer comes and many friends and family visit I’m reminded on a weekly basis of my roots. Some of them are so “black and white” to Croatian habits. Just the other day I had to laugh as I was faced first hand with an opposite view. The temperatures were in the high thirties and it was really a stinker, then an ever so slight breathe of wind blew through the house. The English section of the group exhaled in joy “oh, what a lovely breeze”, whilst the Croatian section jumped to close a window because “there was a horrible draught”. I was left in the middle, enjoying the breeze and aware of the dangers of “a draught”. I have a foot in both camps and therefore would like to put myself forward as the next ambassador of the Republic of Dubrovnik to the UK.
When is hot cold and cold hot?
Anyway five o’clock came and again the English section of the group were twiddling their thumbs anxiously as if waiting for something, ah, my mistake it’s teatime. Even though the temperatures were still blazingly hot they simply couldn’t wait for a steaming hot cup of tea. The Croatian section looked on in amazement, and I even heard “what do they drink when they’re sick then?” Then after the tea it was time for a cold drink to cool down. Again an eye-opening experience. Of course, and as I expected the English group took freezing cold water from the fridge and then filled their glasses with a tonne of ice, “ah, lovely nice and cold”. Then the Croats refreshed themselves. And of course, they added water from the tap to their drinks to “warm” them a little, “if it’s too cold my brain freezes.” This brought stunned looks from the English, “why the hell are they warming their drinks”. Warm tea versus warm water, that made it a draw 1- 1 in the shocked looks competition. Ok, time for something to eat, I already knew that this would be fun, and probably a battle that the English section would lose. “Oh, you cook with a lot of salt” came the complaint from the English section. Whilst, “add a little more spice and salt” was the cry coming from the Croat section. It was time to compromise, “I’ll put a little salt and then you can add your own later”. Then, as it very often does, the question of meat and sauces reared its ugly head. Just for the record and so that it’s clear the list of meats and sauces the English eat together is as follows: lamb with mint sauce, pork with sweet apple sauce, turkey with cranberry sauce, beef with horseradish sauce and chicken with bread sauce. That’s it, I know it might sound strange but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it, you can’t beat a lamb with mint sauce, believe me. Anyway the meal, with or without salt depending on your nationality, concluded but the fun continued.
What would you most like after a good meal? I’m guessing that 99 percent of you would like to “take a nap”. And of course the Croatian section landed on the couch and I could see their eyes dropping slowly, “if I could just lie down for five minutes I’d feel better.” On the other hand the English section, now full of minerals and vitamins, were lacing their shoes ready to go for “a nice long walk.” Again I was stuck between a rock and a hard place, I would happily have “killed my eyes” and I also fancied a stroll. Maybe if I could walk and sleep at the same time I could have it all. So again I compromised “why don’t we go to the beach?” My idea was that the Croatian section could sleep in the shade whilst the English section could swim in the sun. And that is pretty much how it turned out; the English slowly went red in the sun whilst the Croats sipped espresso in the café bar, yes in the shade. So came the evening. And with the evening came the wine. And with the wine came equality. Strange how alcohol crosses all borders and all boundaries. I’m not saying we’re alcoholics, well not yet anyway, but after a few glasses of good wine the veil drops and tongues are loosened. After the first glass the windows flew open and nobody complained about the “draught”. The second glass and nobody could be heard saying that the wine was too cold or even too hot. The third glass and there were no complaints that the snacks were too salty or even too sweet. The fourth and fifth glass and equality hit, everyone, no matter of nationality, was thinking of only one thing, a soft pillow and a comfy mattress. The Roman author Pliny the Elder is probably someone you’ve never heard of, but you’ve certainly heard of one of his phrases, in vino veritas. Yes, Pliny you are right, in the wine there is the truth.