Preselim Se U Rijeku

Lough Conn, Co Mayo

I once swore to myself that I’d never move away from Ireland again.

From the first time I set foot on this island, it’s been my home. I still can’t explain why. For years, I cried every time I left. It’s why I usually got a window seat on the plane: I could turn my face away and look outside while tears were streaming down my face. I don’t remember when exactly this changed, but it must have been around 10 years ago, when I finally believed I was really, truly at home here now and would be coming back.

When I had to return to Germany in 1992 after being here for a couple years as a student, I fell into a clinical depression. That was when I made myself the above promise, a promise I’m about to break. But after the initial sadness, I’m actually happy about it. I know I’ll miss this place and its beauty and its people, and my favourite cafe, and the lakes and the hills and the storms and the rainbows. But people have always been forced to leave this island, and I’m so much better off than the millions who went before me. I’ll stay in Europe. I’ll be able to fly back and visit at any time. And I might even return; the jury’s still out on that.

So here’s what happened: My bank pulled the plug on the mortgage. It’s a long story I won’t bother you with. Disgusted, and not one to give up easily, I offered the sellers a rent-to-own deal, which they considered but then declined.

Did I really really want to buy a house here? Yes. But I’ve tried for 10 months, had three deals fall through, I fought for each of them tooth and nail, and you see, I have this pact with life: I trust and in return it guides me. I made this pact long ago and it’s never failed me. Fight for something, yes, but if you keep getting hit over the head, there’s a message there: This isn’t for you at this time.

I’m not sad about it. Or angry. I mean, the mortgage system in this country is ridiculous and rigged against anyone who doesn’t have parents who give them a piece of land, or 50 grand to pay down. But I’m not adding my energy to it by ranting about it. I might still get a house at some point. For now, I’m investing the little money I’ve got and saving some more. I’m actually grateful, because as I said in my previous entry, I’m giddy with excitement about my next adventure.

Here’s the plan.

Actually, I’ll start with what prompted me to come up with this particular plan: I realised that if I was going to keep renting, it couldn’t be in Ireland, where the countrywide average for a 1-bedroom apartment is now 1,300 EUR a month. Excluding bills. So I began to ponder a few things. If I had to move away, I reasoned, then at least I’d escape the terrible weather. Heck, why not go somewhere with really nice weather. And a coast, because I can’t be without a big water near me (I mean, I can, I have been for decades, but it’s miserable).

Have you put the title of this post into a translator yet? It means: “I’m moving to Rijeka.”

There it is! Click for a larger version.

I swear that’s not what I was planning to do when I decided to learn Croatian earlier this year! In fact, my idea was to study for a few years and then reward myself with regular holidays in Croatia, so I could practice. I’m nowhere near a level where I could actually have a conversation with native speakers yet.

But now that I’m in this situation, I realise that it’s a perfect fit. It’s a EU country, beautiful, with lovely people and reasonable prices – at least for someone who works internationally and location-independently the way I will once I’ve given up my job.

Rijeka is the third largest city in Croatia, it’s all of two hours away from Zagreb on the motorway, and it’s on the coast of Istria, not far from Slovenia and Italy. It’s got a university and quite an international community, but it’s not one of the main centres of tourism (thank the gods). And it’s got a harbour, and I’ve always loved ships and boats. It’s also a three hours’ drive from Venice!

There’s another, more serious issue I haven’t really spoken about yet. For the past several months, something weird has been happening to my lungs. Basically, every time I breathe, there’s a rattling and a feeling like my lungs are coated with something. I also cough at times, but not in the way of an infectious cough. Now, my entire breathing tract has always been the weakest part of my body health-wise, and Ireland is incredibly damp and has one of the highest incidences of asthma. It’s quite possible that life really is watching out for me here – general wisdom has always been to recommend a mediterranean climate for such matters…

Rijeka waterfront

So in December, I’ll put my books and most of my stuff into storage here in Ireland (in a year or so, I’ll either come back or bring it over, depending on where I decide to settle down), and then after Christmas, I’ll load my clothes, computer, and sheet music into my car and take the ferry to France. Then I’ll spend two days driving through France, Germany, Austria and Slovenia – visiting Helena along the way – before crossing the Croatian border and arriving in Rijeka on the 31st, in time for New Year’s Eve fireworks!

There’s tons to prepare and arrange of course, but the most important stuff is done. I’ve got my ticket and my overnight stays booked, as well as a hostel called “Music House” (!) in Rijeka for the first week. After that, I’ll either have a flat or I’ll find another temporary place – early January is hardly the height of the tourist season.

I’ve reached out to a few archery clubs, researched banks, and am keeping an eye on property to rent. The best part is that all the people I know from that part of the world, are really excited and happy for me (and my Croatian teacher pointed out that I’ll have to actually speak Croatian every day then! Haha). Yes, I’ll miss my soul’s home, but this is an adventure and it’ll be fabulous. And just think: You’ll all have a place to stay if you ever decide to holiday in Croatia! Otherwise, if you want to see me, you’ll just have to come to my 50th in Vienna.

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Falling Together Or Falling Apart?

Schönbrunn Castle in Vienna (more pictures of Vienna in the FB event for my 50th birthday – remember, you’re invited!)

Holy cannoli, the amount of things that have happened!

To spoil the ending: The insecurity isn’t altogether gone, but the future is taking shape. Some things can still go wrong, but it’s beginning to come together.

The less cryptic version follows in the next paragraphs.

The house I was going to buy in Kilmaine fell through at the end of August. Funnily enough, I wasn’t too upset. It all happened in the most amicable way between the sellers and myself, and the short version of a long boring story is that in order to sell it, they would have had to make an upgrade that was so expensive, it wasn’t worth selling any longer, at least for the price.

I would have loved to live there, but I knew that something better must be around the corner. Around the same time, my landlord told me I had to move out at the end of September when my contract ended – up to then, he’d said I could stay for as long as I needed. Argh! I had a few days to my trip to Germany, then another week before leaving for Vienna, and then I had to move out a day after my return.

Bob Proctor once said that stress only happens when a time factor is added to a situation. And that’s so fucking true! I decided not to panic. I was outrageously happy in those days, I wasn’t going to let anything spoil it. So off I went to Germany.

I still can’t tell you what I’m bursting to say, but the trip to Germany and most of all, the recital in Hamburg, were worth all the expense and the effort. It was incredible! There I was in the beautiful Elbphilharmonie, and I arguably had the best seat in the entire hall. You can see me at the back of the stage, third seat from the left, in the lavender dress. I was really close and had a direct view of his hands – perfection!

Ivo Pogorelich, Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, 27.08.2019 (picture found here)

The recital was incredible. He played a long program, and yet it seemed to fly past. It blew me away and made me think, smile, catch my breath, cry… I should be used to it by now, but in truth, I probably never will be. Thankfully, I didn’t fall down a rabbit hole of blackness afterwards, partly because I actually went and got his autograph this time – after 31 years it was about time, don’t you think? – on the new album, no less, which I bought on CD for this particular purpose (I usually buy only digital these days).

I returned home on a high and spent a week frantically working, packing my belongings, organising for my piano to be moved, and packing for Vienna, and then I went to my magic city for an amazing three weeks. I saw old friends, met new ones, went dancing, did some sightseeing, and most of all, studied my hagish ass off, because Croatian is difficult!! It’s also a gorgeous language I completely fell in love with. We were a nice little group, and our teacher is amazing.

Ready for some serious 70s and 80s dancing

To learn the equivalent of a semester’s course – the entire A 1.1 level – in just over two weeks for the test brought me to the limit of my mental capacity. I loved it, but gods, there was just so much to remember! I spent the last four days before the test hardly leaving the house and studying pretty much all the time. But it was worth it. I officially completed the level, and my teacher agreed to lessons through Skype, so now I’m doing A 1.2! I only wish I had more time to study. Did I mention I’m in love with this language?

While in Vienna, I found a house to move into back home, and movers to help me get there. Yes, really. I’ve moved to the East of Mayo, where I’ve also found another house to buy, or rather, a lovely little cottage in the countryside a few miles outside Kilkelly. But the house needs some work – insulation mainly – and so the auctioneer who handles the sale has offered me to rent a house in Kilkelly in the meantime, for three months until the end of the year. It has perfect internet, which is great for my work, and although it’s in the middle of the village, it’s surprisingly quiet. The people here are lovely!! I’ve really fallen on my feet.

Finding someone to insulate and damp-proof my cottage for a price I can afford proved to be difficult, so there were times when I thought I might not be able to buy it after all. And since my mortgage approval is about to expire, that would have been it – my plan B was to move out of the country. I love it here, it’s my soul’s home, but I simply cannot afford the hobby “renting in Ireland” any longer. If I’m going to be renting, it’ll be somewhere else.

Now that I’ve found a builder I can almost afford (well, I can’t, but I should be able to earn the extra cash), it’s beginning to look good. And if not, well, then I’m, in Bilbo’s words, “quite ready for another adventure”. It’s like I said in my last entry: Whatever happens, I’m excited about it. Life is pretty amazing when all your options are equally appealing. This is no accident, by the way. I’ve consciously built my life this way and sacrificed a lot else for it. And was it ever worth it!

The little cottage I’m buying

So now I’m going back and forth between my solicitor, my builder, the house, and the auctioneer, all whilst working full time, working in two businesses to make enough money to pay for it all, studying Croatian, practicing the piano, going for archery, and even trying to find time for the gym in between. Who needs sleep, eh?

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