Dubrovnik has been on my bucket list for years and the opportunity to go there presented itself this summer.
In 2017, my Austrian friend, Maelle, packed up her flat in her home town near Vienna and moved to a tiny little village on the Adriatic coast, south of Dubrovnik: Mikulici. She invited me to stay for a week while I was in Europe this June.
There were 2 or 3 buses into Dubrovnik per day and, on my 3rd morning in Mikulici, I was woken early and “told” to go to Dubrovnik on the 6:30 am bus. I raced out of bed, puffed and panted up the hill to the bus stop and got there just in time for the bus.
The views during the bus journey along the Adriatic coast were spectacular. At the terminus in Dubrovnik, the driver told me that the last bus back to Mikulici would leave at 8:15 pm from the bay that we were standing in.
After a fabulous day in Dubrovnik in a total camera frenzy because of all the amazing medieval buildings and the views from the city wall, I got back to the terminus in plenty of time but there was no bus to Mikulici. I checked with the staff member at the ticket desk. She sent me to the wrong bay. 😦 At 8:12 there was still no bus. I started getting worried. I went back to her. She shrugged her shoulders, muttered at me in Croatian, and sent me to her colleague at the next window who told me to go to a different bay. I waited. Still no bus.
By now it was gone 8:15 pm. I had started working on Plan B: I would find a cafe with internet and book myself into an hotel in Dubrovnik for the night. But then I was prompted to talk to the woman standing at the next bay about the bus to Mikulici. She said: “Come with me please.” She took me over to a bus full of passengers on the other side of the terminus and spoke to the driver in Croatian. The driver’s English was pretty good. He said to me: “Your bus gone. But I know driver. I call him and tell him to wait.” Sure enough, he called his buddy and told him to wait at a particular stop about 45 minutes south of Dubrovnik. He then told me to get on his bus and he would take me to meet my bus. After 45 mins, we pulled up behind the bus to Mukulici where my new driver and the other passengers on the bus were patiently waiting for me.
Mikulici was near the end of the route and no one was left on the bus except me and the driver – or so I thought.
“Where you stay?” the driver asked.
“With my Austrian friend,” I said.
“What is address?” the driver asked.
“I don’t know,” I said. “She lives near the bus stop.” (Actually everyone lives near the bus stop in Mukulici because it is such a tiny little village!)
There was a paved road part of the way to Maelle’s cottage. She had to park her car outside her neighbour’s house (weirdly the neighbour was another Austrian from Vienna!) where the paved road ended and then walk across a very rugged rocky patch of land on the mountain side to get into her back garden. That was tricky to manage even in the daytime. At night, the chances of stumbling on a rock were very high. Plus the coyotes were out in full force and howling away once night fell.
As I stood up to get off the bus, I was surprised to see a young woman get off the bus before me. She had been sitting quietly at the back of the bus. The driver spoke to her in Croatian. Something like: “This crazy foreigner doesn’t know where she lives or how to get there. Can you help her find the house where she is staying?” “Yes” she nodded and, satisfied that I was taken care of, the driver continued on his way.
In perfect English, the young woman said to me:
“What is the name of the friend you are staying with?”
“Maelle” I answered.
She looked confused. I only understood why later. I had met Maelle six years ago just before I moved to Vienna. She introduced herself as Maelle. She had combined her two given names, Maria Elisabeth, to create the name Maelle and, with that, a new identity for herself. It turned out that I was the only one who called her that. Our group of friends all knew her as Maria. As Maria is a popular name in Croatia, everyone in the tiny village of Mikulici knew her as Maria too! No-one had heard of Maelle….
I pointed to the paved road going down the mountain opposite the bus stop: “She lives at the end of this road.” I said. The Croatian woman kindly switched on the flash light on her phone – my phone had died as a result of excessive picture taking during the day – and angelically shone the light for me all the way along the paved road and the rocky mountain path until we reached Maelle’s back garden. Then she said “Goodnight” and disappeared into the darkness.
Grateful to this Croatian angel, the bus driver angels and all the others who help to guide us on our journey home.
Appreciating the miracle of global communication via technology.
Author of “The Sex Goddess: Debunking the Mythology of God & Sex”
“The Miracles of Earth are the Laws of Heaven” – Johann Richter