Croatia: Breaking up is never easy but this time we’re through

Croatia: Breaking up is never easy but this time we’re through

Croatia: Breaking up is never easy but this time we’re through

When we left Croatia in early 2018 (after living there a year) I knew I didn’t have to come back. There are a lot of places in the world that we haven’t seen and I’m not a believer in revisiting places over and over again.

I also think that when something is “over” that you shouldn’t be going back to it, whatever that “it” is.

When you’re in love with something – a place, or someone you’re having a relationship with – you see the positives. People might find fault with your perception but you’ll keep on believing what you believe because you really want to see all the positives. That’s good: until something happens that fundamentally changes your perception.

For me, the first step in losing my love for Croatia were the circumstances that led to us leaving in early 2018. Croatia wasn’t entirely to blame for that, it was bad luck combined with immigration laws that are frankly a bit backwards.

Then, just a few months later, there was the Croatian newspaper article.

Croatia Breaking up is never easy but this time we’re through

Roughly translated as: they left Canada to come to Split, then they ran away

The newspaper had contacted us about an interview but we had ignored it. We’d shared our story over the years on the blog about falling in love with Split, about moving our furniture to Split, and then about how we left Split. But we didn’t feel that the story could be properly summarized in a short newspaper article. We also knew that the average Croatian would hardly sympathize with a story about a bunch of expats and their complaints about strict immigration laws. They also wouldn’t know about our background story and how, after having lived and worked all our lives in Canada, that we just weren’t ready to just stop travelling to live 10 months out of 12 in Croatia. I summed up Croatian permanent residency laws here and the reasons that we just weren’t ready to commit to Croatia at that time.

In short, we didn’t want our story told. We knew nothing good would come of it.

So it was an unpleasant shock when we suddenly had our Croatian friends tell us that we had made it on the front page of the above Croatian newspaper.

And it didn’t take long for the inevitable to happen: Croatians leaving nasty comments on the blog. You’ll see some of them on this post, but the majority I deleted because they were all along the same vein. Such as: “why do you think you can just come here, do you know how hard it is for Croatians if we wanted to go to Canada?”, “you are spoiled foreigners”, “go back to where you came from…”. None of them addressed any of the issues in the article (which in actual fact wasn’t as bad as expected). In fact I doubt many of them actually read the whole article or even tried to understand it.

It left a bad taste in my mouth.

We’ve never said anything bad about Croatia except that its immigration laws are difficult and that we (because of where we are in our lives) were not ready to commit to spending 10 out of 12 months out of every year in Croatia. All we’ve ever done was to promote Croatia through our blog.

But like I said off the top: you see the positives until something fundamentally changes your perception. A few things had previously made me question if Croatia was a place where I could see myself long-term. But it was the reaction to the newspaper article that really cemented my feelings. It made me realize that I no longer had feelings for Croatia. I had moved on.

 

Lissette and on her love for Croatia

Lissette didn’t feel the same way. She always loved Croatia more than I did and leaving was harder on her than it was on me. We previously wrote about our memories and feelings about our year in Split.

So, over the last 2 years, whenever I’ve travelled to visit my son in Montreal or my mom in Mexico, Lissette has come back to Split.

This time she had a realization. Revisiting hasn’t brought her closer to Split. It’s in fact helped her let go of Split. The truth is that you can’t go backwards, you can’t be holding on to something that you logically know isn’t meant to be. Her love wasn’t enough to make up for some of the other shortcomings associated with making Split – and Croatia – home.

Lissette always has a talent for coming up with the right song for the right moment

 

 

And then Croatia strikes again…

So it was that we left Dubrovnik last week, leaving Croatia for what will be the final time.

It’s a 2 hour bus ride from Dubrovnik to Kotor (Montenegro). Departure from Dubrovnik was delayed by 1 hr and 40 minutes. I’ve often written about the shitty Croatian buses.

Driving south, we finally arrived at Croatian customs. It was to be our most memorable border experience.

One by one, passengers got off the bus and handed their passports to a customs agent in a little booth. Then our time came. The customs agent  – a gruff middle-aged man – riffled through our pages, entered things into his computer. He did it again, grunted, then told us to leave our passports with him and step off to the side. That’s when we started to get worried.

All the other people on the bus stepped up to the customs booth and were quickly stamped. Soon we were the only 2 waiting by the customs booth. We waited and waited and waited…

Finally a young female customs officer came up to us with our passports. “We have a problem”.

She explained that our stay in Split had not been registered with the authorities. Croatian law is very specific that every person be registered with police, accounting for every day they stay in Croatia. Most travellers don’t realize that and never see it because hotels or Airbnb owners will register you when you check in. But in the end it’s your responsibility as a traveller and if you’re not registered with police you’ll be subjected to heavy fines.

In our case we weren’t showing up as having been registered in the police database.

We explained that our Airbnb owner had registered us. Lissette thankfully had the business card of our Airbnb owner.

The customs agents went off to consult.

And while this was going on the bus driver came and told us that if we didn’t get our situation settled soon the bus would leave without us. 30 feet away all the other passengers were waiting impatiently, giving us dirty glares.

It took another 10 minutes but the customs agent came back and announced that everything was fine. They had spoken to our Airbnb owner who had sent them a text confirmation of the registration of our stay. Someone at the government office in Split hadn’t entered it in the system.

I mean is it really a surprise? It’s the typical Croatian bureaucratic ineptness that prompted us to leave the country in the first place. So I guess it’s kind of a fitting end…

We had delayed the bus more than 40 minutes. Everyone hated us when we got back on the bus.

And that’s how we finally got out of Croatia.

We’ve said goodbye to you before Croatia…but this is where the story ends. This time we’re through.

17 Comments

  1. I always wondered what happened to all of your belongings that you had shipped to Croatia from Canada? Did you have to sell everything? I read the article about everything you went through to get it there, just wondering.

  2. well you know, you are officially a celebrity??? But in all seriousness, sorry to hear. you know I didnt enjoy my incredibly brief time in Croatia. nevertheless it must really hurt because you took Split into your heart. I feel like I need to say ‘there are plenty more fish in the sea’…

    1. Not the first time we’ve been covered by a local newspaper, we had the same in Serbia and somehow got a lot of hate there too despite it being all positive. That’s the beauty of writing about the Balkans 🙂

  3. Oh wow!! This was quite a read. How nice to find your names and your photos and blog appear front page without consent! Sometimes when the time is up for being in a country, one starts to get feelings and then signs and its just time to go. We had a similar experience after living in Sri Lanka for a few years. We were about done… for many different reasons and then while in the U.S. the ISIS bombings happened. It was all very clear it was time to move on.

    Here in Vietnam one needs to register with the police too. Usually hotels or guesthouses do it, and even if one rents, the landlord takes care of it.

    How charming to get “hate” comments…. yikes.

    Peta

    1. You’re right Peta, I didn’t really touch on the consent thing. But I guess having blogs we’re all public figures.

      Yes, I recall your Sri Lanka experience. Pretty traumatic, more than ours.

      Keeping tabs on visitors is really a Commie concept isn’t it? Cuba, Vietnam, the ex-Yugoslav states…

      Thanks for taking time to comment Peta 🙂

  4. I think you’ve said it all with the simple phrase, “You can’t go backwards.” It’s easy to romanticize the places you love and gloss over the negatives but returning is very helpful in putting it all into perspective. And now … look out Spain! LOL!

  5. Whoa! That’s a story and a half, especially about the newspaper article and follow-up comments. It’s so stupid when people post rude comments. What’s the point? Delete, Delete, Delete, Delete.

    Must be something about Croatia. When we were traveling by train and crossed the border from Slovenia in to Croatia we didn’t have any problem with customs. They boarded the train, looked at passports and moved on. But, when we were leaving the country the customs agent looked at our passports, moved on, but then came back and asked for Abi’s passport again and she walked away with it. There was no English spoken so we really had no idea what was going on. After a few minutes she returned and handed it back to him, no explanation. The only thing we could think of was that we had Portuguese visas in our passports, but then why didn’t she take mine? Or, maybe more likely, is that Abi’s country of birth, on his American passport, is Iran. No idea, but it was an intense few minutes so I can totally empathize with your situation.

    Isn’t Croatia in line to join the EU? That would certainly make travel in/out of the country simpler.

    Not a pleasant way to say good-bye to Split, but I tend to believe everything happens for a reason, so maybe it was the final push you needed?

    1. Hi Patti. Croatia is in the EU (since 2013) but not in the Schengen (they’ve been talking about it but I’m not convinced it’ll ever happen).

      One thing: racial profiling is alive and well in Croatia. When we were travelling from Sarajevo to Split, there was a boy from Pakistan on the same buses. He got a grilling at the Croatian border then was allowed in the country. In Imotski, where we had to change buses, we saw a police car cruising around the police station looking at people. We all got on the bus and a few minutes later a couple of police officers got on. They targeted the Pakistani and took him off the bus. 10 minutes later he was back on, clearly frazzled..We felt bad for him.
      They’re looking out for immigrants and I’m sure Abi’s complexion caught their eye (although when leaving the country, and not when entering confuses me…)

      Lots of great things about Croatia but when it comes to bureaucracy they’re backwards Patti.

      1. Ah… right. Thanks for the reminder about being in the EU, not the Schengen.

        I looked it up on my site and I misspoke. Abi’s passport was “looked at” when we entered the country. It wasn’t long after border patrol that everyone had to get off the train, get on a bus, travel for 50 miles (ish), get off the bus and on to a brutally hot tin can train that had been sitting in the sun baking. It was quite the “Welcome to Croatia!” We did enjoy our 3-day stay in Zagreb though. 😉

        1. Ah yes, I remember that story. Welcome to Balkan travel. Had the same experience going the other way, the line was undergoing work…

  6. It is kind of a cliche ….even bad advertising is good advertising, so don’t despair. Sorry to hear your Croatia travails. Like a bad divorce you won, they lost. BTW, your comment “who does that anymore?” guess what: Israel! but for justifiable security reasons. They actually know who is coming before they do, and you must have your entry paper to be registered. Besides, I think you both would like the Spain options. keep us posted.

    1. Ah, yes of course. And yes, you’re right they have a very justifiable reason.
      I’m sure there are other countries but the Balkans are one of the few regions we’ve seen it. Besides Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro all require registration. I’m not sure why…

  7. Well if they register you… they must pay taxes on the nights you stay.

    I’ll bet you DID pay the tax, they just decided to pocket it and “forgot” to register you?
    At least not until questioned by the border agents, then they quickly remembered to
    register you.

    1. How it usually works (because we actually did Airbnb as hosts for a bit) is that you pay the city a monthly fee for permission to rent. The registration is done online by the hotel/Airbnb host (it has to be done within 24 hours of arrival) so theoretically it goes straight into the system. They can print out a confirmation for you as soon as it’s done.

      So our host had the confirmation, which they forwarded to the customs agents. It had the proper submission date. So how was it not in the system?

      One of the world’s great mysteries 🙂

  8. Ouch! Yeah, nothing like a confrontation at the boarder to make you seriously dislike a place! Interestingly, last time we left Split, a year ago, we had the same problem: no record of where we’d stayed. And during that month we’d spent a couple of of nights in Zadar, and a couple nights in Dubrovnik, and I KNOW that both times our host got our passport info.
    We left from the Split airport, and the customs agent in the little booth had no record of our stay. After considering the situation for a few minutes, the agent waved us through. We were, of course, about two hours early for the plane, so there was no time pressure, but we had no idea what to do.
    Perhaps the failure to record guest registrations is not so unusual in Croatia!

    1. Yes, maybe Paul!
      Firstly, who in the world does that anymore? It happened to us in Cuba back in 2011 (they probably still do it). The only place I’m familiar that they do it is the Balkans.
      Secondly, if you’re going to do it, make sure the system doesn’t have all these holes in it. We could have been stuck at the border, we could have had to pay huge fines (imagine, we there almost 3 months). And we are put in a situation where WE’RE responsible and everyone is pissed at us. And how about you if they had given you a hard time? If you had a hardass like we did you could have been forced in a situation where you either miss your flight or pay a big fine.
      I kind of think it’s all backwards…

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