Dinner with Mladen

We didn’t plan to stay on Korcula Island; we’d booked a nice VRBO guest house in Orebic…but after driving from Split with everything we own packed into the car, the owner’s mother took one look at our dogs on arrival, and said, “No!” She didn’t speak English, but she made it blindingly clear that we weren’t staying on her family’s property–not with those beasts. I was outraged. We’d booked 4 months in advance. I called the son, and, creating a very awkward hour or so delay, I said I would not leave the driveway until I saw our complete refund processed. After that, it was getting late in the day, and we had to scramble to find a dog-friendly place with parking that was immediately available for the entire month.

It turned out to be in Brna, which involved getting a short car ferry over to Korcula. The Airbnb listing had just been posted, we were the first guests.

Brna (Pop. 300) is a small fishing village on the southern coast of Korcula, an island in western Croatia.

Brna was very quiet in May: there were two bars open (one for old folk’s & one for young’un’s). This was where I first heard Sarah say, “I hate being stared at like I’m an alien.”

Everyone wondered what the hell we were doing there (including us)…

The “University,” as we heard it called. I slyly snapped a pic with my hand held waist-high as we walked by.

The Airbnb owner, Mladen, a nice man in his 70’s. He lived on the ground floor, and stayed the entire month although the rest of his family remained at their main house in Split.

He left the door open to his apartment and we passed Mladen as we were going up the stairs. He seemed very nice. Although he had a gruff exterior manner, he was engaging and quick to smile and laugh once he got talking. His English was great. He’d traveled the world as as a merchant marine for several decades. He carried a cane and had a limp, and we privately wondered if he’d been injured fighting in the Balkan war (the “Homeland war,” as Croatians call it). His brother lived 5 minutes away in Smokvica, and together they kept a small vineyard. Like many Korcula residents, they make their own wine. Korcula is known for their wines, especially Posip, a refreshing white wine that, to me, tastes similar to Pino Grigio.

He gave me a bottle from his stash. Sarah took one look at it and said, “What’s that? Did you save your pee?”

The view from our balcony.

From then on, we called it: “Mladen’s piss.” It was actually really good!

Below the house they had a kick-ass BBQ set-up:

I asked Mladen if we could use it; instead, he offered to cook us a fish BBQ dinner at his apartment…

BBQ fish…YUM!

We had a great time!

In addition to the fish, Mladen served bread and cheese, a cucumber and tomato salad, roasted potatoes, and vegetables. It was delicious. Over dinner, we had a wide-ranging discussion about everything from life in Croatia to where his favorite ports of call were, where we were planning to go, and how we were loving being in Croatia.

We asked about his home and family in Split. Then the topic veered into what Croatian social norms are, and he said that he preferred the American model where your children assume more responsibility at 18 and 21, and, especially that they usually move out to start their own lives after college. He said that in Croatia, “I’m looked at as a failure if I don’t house my 40 yr. old son, his wife and kids, for life.” His solution? Go to Brna, where he could find peace and quiet.

I might have had too much to drink…

After dinner (it was nearing midnight) he offered to drive us around town. How could we refuse? He took us to the old folk’s bar, where we met Julia, the owner. My Croatian is limited, but she didn’t seem at all pleased to see us just before closing time, especially inebriated… After the nightcap, it was back into his car, zooming around the tiny harbor. On the way back, Sarah’s phone fell into the back seat. We couldn’t find it in the morning, and we panic-searched all over the tiny apartment for it.

Then we opened the door, and saw that Mladen had left it in a box for us, outside:

Outside Caffe Bar Riva, the “Old Folk’s” bar.

He was a very nice man, and very hospitable. It was a fantastic diner and a mini-immersion for us. Experiences like that are ones you remember!

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