My name is Paul and I am from near Manchester (posh part) and I have been living in Croatia since 2003. Prior to Croatia, I wandered the globe doing an array of random, but satisfying things, which have included chambermaiding in Munich, being a laser crystals salesman in Moscow, a report writer in Tbilisi, an English, French, German and Russian teacher in Hiroshima, a wine merchant in Oxfordshire and an aid worker in Siberia, Rwanda and Somalia. Which makes me perfectly qualified to run a website about Total Croatia...
Why Croatia? Simple really. I was sitting on a rooftop in Hargeisa, Somaliland in January 2002, when I got news that my house in the UK had sold. I had already decided to quit Britain and was looking for a place to keep my books, that my friends could use, a refuge from my aid worker career. I went down to grab a (smuggled) beer from the fridge and my Kenyan colleagues were watching CNN, the only channel available to us. It was advert time and there is was, a stunning 30 second ad.Croatia - the Mediterranean as it once was.
Croatia. Stunning. Warm (or so I thought - after seven bura-filled winters, not sure I would agree), cheap and accessible (or so I thought - flights are a nightmare out of season). I did some preliminary research and I could afford the 2002 asking prices. A cheeky little house in an old town close to the sea would be perfect. I never imagined then that I would be a permanent resident and running a website about Total Croatia.I didn't know anything about Croatia, never mind about Total Croatia, or anyone from there, but a Canadian friend had been living in Sarajevo and so I went to stay with her, and she agreed to help. It was August 2002, and beers were being consumed on a balmy August evening (love that city), and she asked me where I would like to buy. On realising I didn't have a clue, she took pen and paper and started making a list, explaining a little about each place. Number 1, Dubrovnik, biggest tourist attraction, number 2, Split, gateway to the islands, that sort of thing. She wrote down other names, some on islands, some not - none of them familiar to me.
And after she wrote down the tenth place, she asked which one sounded best. I hadn't really been listening too hard, so I closed my eyes and pointed to the paper. My finger landed on number six.Hvar.
And that was the decision made. We left at 0300 on the Friday with her Bosnian boyfriend, Amko, driving, interpreting and being a general hero. We had to return Monday afternoon, so time was against us. As we took the first ferry at 0700 to Sucuraj, we stopped for a coffee. Amko, a man of many Malboro inhalations, but few words, finally spoke once the espresso had hit its mark."Jelsa is the nicest place on the island." More inhalation. And that was that, I decided that Jelsa was the place to be. My choice was made easier by the fact that there was only one house for sale in the town. We were told to be at the catamaran for 1800 on the Saturday to meet an older man in a straw hat, the owner. Antun spoke German so we had a channel of communication.
Random does not begin to describe the house. It came in two parts, separated by a public right of way; one half had toilet but no kitchen, the other kitchen but no toilet. It was habitable (not for a honeymoon...), 30m from the main square, we loved it. An offer was made and accepted the next morning, a lawyer persuaded to prepare a pre-contract on a Sunday evening (should have seen that coming...), 2000 euro withdrawal from the bank the next morning, and we drove back to Sarajevo in triumph on the Monday late morning. It is now back on the market for a very reasonable 79,995 euro, one careful recent owner.
A month later, I completed. My new home! On an idyllic, happening Adriatic island. I knew nobody and had only three words of Croatian to my name: punomoc (power of attorney), hobotnice (octopus) and the imperious potpis (signature) - I heard some Aussies on Brac were so impressed with the latter that they named their company Potpis doo!
And then the internet cafe started reducing its hours, ditto the bank. A restaurant closed and the realisation that Hvar in August is very different to Hvar in January began to dawn. What had I done? And then I walked into the library and so began another happier and more permanent chapter in my life. But that is another story...For those of you interested in an account of some of my travels, aid work and general bumming around, I have just started writing for Suite 101, no a range of topics, inspecting camel troughs in northern Somalia to revolutionary oil filters. And you can read about my teaching in Japan including my farcical teacher training Budapest and some travels in Gaza and Korea. In October 2010, I published my first book, Lebanese Nuns Don't Ski. For more information and to order the book, click on the link below.
For those of you wanting to know more about Total Croatia, the project and how you can get involved, there will shortly be a page here. Many people have asked how it is possible to go from an idea in the pub to a website of 450 pages in 7 weeks, 1,000 by Xmas. With the system I am using, it is easy, and I explain how here and find out more about Total Croatia and I hope you will get involved and help build the best online resource in English about Croatia.
For my visitors: I built this site with SBI! and am posting a link to the Site Build It Scam site in this section because I want to help reveal the truth about a campaign launched by competitors online. If you have read those negative reviews about SBI!, you need to visit that site and get the truth. It's a shame that people are so vicious, but the only way to fight back is speak out with the other side of the story.