I am all for cross border co-operation. The flow of people across borders should be welcomed. Croatia has, since the beginning of the year, found itself in the largest border-free zone in the world, the Schengen area. We can now travel from Dubrovnik to Denmark, from Konavle to Catalonia without stopping to show our passports or ID. This is even better news if you live in the north of Croatia, but down south it is a different story as we are surrounded by non-EU countries.
“Let’s go for lunch across the border on Sunday,” said one friend and we quickly scooped up eight of us for the excursion.
As I was the only “second class citizen” and needed to show my passport at the border I realised a few things.
Firstly, I am going to a) need a new passport quickly, b) stop crossing borders or c) finally get Croatian paperwork. Whilst the rest of the group waved their ID cards I collected stamps, four in total.
Clearly at this time of the year this is something that doesn’t happen very often as the female customs officer on the BiH side went to hit my passport and her stamp exploded into a few pieces. “Don’t worry, just let him go,” said a colleague behind her as he stubbed out his cigarette. She ended up pushing the ink pad into my passport with her fingers!
Now it is out of season. The roads were empty. However, I foresee a nightmare on all the borders around us in the summer. Queues will be endless. The day-trippers to Montenegro and Mostar will spend more time on their buses than seeing the attractions.
So onto our destination. One of the best and busiest restaurants across the border, and right in the middle of nowhere. Snow on the mountains to one side and green fields to the other. Knowledge is power.
We knew that it would be full, especially on a Sunday, so we had booked early. However, as we arrived the parking looked like Ilijina Glavica! I think there were maybe three cars in the packed parking without DU number plates, and they were probably the waiters.
It was strictly booking only. And after we had finished our opening rakija the place was full. Every, and I mean every table was packed and everyone in the restaurant had crossed the border to get there. There is no better cross border co-operation than lamb and veal under the bell.
“Do you want to see a menu?” asked the waiter. I looked around. Every table had “ordered” the same meals.
How there are any lambs or calves left in this village is beyond me. Wine popped open, salad was munched, pršut and cheese disappeared. And then came the main course. Yes, the meat was mind-blowing (it always is) but those potatoes. My mouth is watering just writing that last sentence.
The owner, as he always does, came over and checked that everything was OK. A nice touch and a sign that he knows what he is doing, always there but never present.
And then came the bill. We basically paid the same for a three-course meal with wine and coffee than we would for a pizza in town. Dubrovnik is expensive, I don’t think that will come as news to anyone. And the restaurants across the border are cheap. So the gaping difference in prices is there for all to see.
However, you also can’t compare one to the other. It is a bit like comparing oranges to apples. Often we hear how coffee is cheaper in Zagreb than Dubrovnik. Of course it is, and only a moron would actually make that comparison. There are so many reasons why it is cheaper, and yet people don’t seem to know any of them.
So I will continue to cross the border, and eat pizza in Dubrovnik. However, when the warmer weather comes that border is going to have tailbacks to the sea and probably my passport will have fallen apart by then from the sheer weight of ink!
Read more Englishman in Dubrovnik…well, if you really want to