Ilka arrived in one hour with The Stick containing the software we would need to download to access the mobile broadband. Ilka also provided a passcode for 72 kunas worth of Internet usage. She explained that Internet in Istria was “very expensive,” and that we would have to pay for any additional usage. We told her we felt that she had been dishonest with us, a comment that she disregarded as if we were speaking the ancient Croat Glagolitic tongue again.
Now, it is not as if we can not have a holiday without Internet. This had become a matter of principle. The rental amenities also included a gas cooktop (with propane tank–remember, it was a small village), and we should no more have to ask whether there was enough fuel to cook one meal or seven than whether there would be enough Internet for one day or seven.
By this point, as well, we had discovered that many of the amenities promised did not live up to expectations. The fireplace lacked tools (and matches), save for a small shovel we found; the “activities and restaurant guides” were simply the leftover maps and outdated brochures from previous guests piled in a basket; the “DVD Library” was a single movie to be watched only in the bedroom where the DVD player had been placed; and the “fully supplied kitchen” was a single 6-inch sauté pan and a stock pot of such poor quality (as we would come to learn that night) that we needed an hours’ head start to boil 4 quarts of water for pasta.
The house was indeed fully renovated, however, its only saving grace.
While we waited, and waited, for the water to boil, Tony investigated The Stick. The software was only compatible with Windows, and we are Mac people. I sent a text to Ilka for help, and she replied with the technical support contact. We do not speak Croatian, and the technical support folks did not speak English or German. After racking up a small country’s GDP worth in data roaming charges on our mobile phone, Tony determined that the Mac software could be downloaded, if we had Internet access. We called it a night.
Easter morning dawned wet and breezy, but with the promise of clearing skies. By late morning we set out to explore the neighboring town before our lunch reservation at 14:30. The town was full of Mediterranean character, and lots of stray cats. It is said that Rome is the city of stray cats, but we saw more cats on this day than we did in a week in the Eternal City, many of them enjoying quite the life.
Try as we might, exploring every nook and cranny of Labin did not take the half-day suggested by our guidebooks. Even if the half dozen stores and the lone museum had been open, we likely could not have filled the time. We found our restaurant (in spite of Ilka’s map) and sat for lunch a couple of hours before our reservation, then went to Rabac, a metropolis compared to where we had been.
Rabac, though delightful, did not take nearly the suggested time to explore either, and we found ourselves back at the rental house in mid-afternoon. Ilka had provided another “map” of a path to the coast “about 1 kilometer” from our house, so we collected Cletus and went exploring for a couple of hours.
Ilka’s directions: “Take the road to the end. Next to the garage is the path.” We drove every road, paved or otherwise, within a 5km radius; we traipsed down every path, paved or otherwise, through private gardens and ancient Roman ruins, and never reached anything resembling a coastal path. Or the garage, or any garage or path for that matter. One of the two little boxes on the map was supposed to be a market; we did not find the market, either.
By Sunday evening the mood in the house was of frustration and exasperation. Ilka had been dishonest about the house and its amenities, both inside and out; and the guidebooks seemed to have oversold Istria as a weeklong family destination, as well.
We had taken my laptop into Labin, where Ilka had flippantly said we could go if we “wanted to surf the Web” and downloaded the Mac-friendly software to connect to the broadband at the house. By evening we had Internet, and in the morning we planned to scrap the rest of the week in Istria and find lodging in Zagreb for a couple of nights before returning home.
We Should Have Gone to Berlin. The Conclusion, to be continued…