The timing couldn’t possibly be more awkward.
I’ve just about arrived, unpacked, got my IKEA table, started battling the bureaucracy required to open a bank account and get a phone number here. And in a few short weeks I’ll already be gone again.
Not for good, of course! It’s just that I decided to spend a few months a year in Vienna around a year ago, and then I booked my upcoming stay from early February to early May when I still thought I’d be living in Ireland in my own house the rest of the time. It’s all good, though – a little weird, but good – I’m looking forward to Vienna and seeing my lovely friends for my 50th birthday, which means absolutely the world to me. It’ll be sooooooo much fun!
Of course, people will always be welcome to visit wherever I am. I do need to qualify my invation to my new home in Croatia a little, though, mostly because my flat is absolutely tiny: I don’t have any space to put up visitors in my home. Sorry! Then again, accommodation is very affordable around here in any case, and of course I’ll meet you and hug you. I obviously work here as well – so far I’ve been in Rijeka for two weeks and haven’t done any sightseeing here, because you know what, I’m self-employed! But my friends get this, and those who want to see me, are coming to my birthday anyway. I’ll take the full four days in Vienna, promise. Those will be my days off work in 2020.
But I’m telling the story backwards. I’ll start at the beginning.
My journey through Europe was a huge adventure, as predicted. From the very rough sea crossing to France, to driving across impossibly high, arced, vertigo-causing bridges, to having to get out of the car every time to run to the left side because all the stupid toll payment stations are of course made for cars with a steering wheel on the left, France was… interesting! Then I drove through the South of Germany the next day, and once I got past Munich, the scenery became majestically beautiful.
I went into Austria, and it just continued. Gorgeous alpine landscapes and a motorway that snakes its way across tall viaducts and through narrow passes, as well as many many tunnels. Slovenia brought more mountains and forests and valleys, and I had to remind myself to keep my eyes on the road. I met Helena and we had a great evening in a restaurant whose food and wine I still dream of. I slept in a house in the woods in complete silence. Amazing.
But the most unforgettable moment came after crossing into Croatia the next morning (31st of December), when I crested the last of the alpine passes and suddenly saw the 180-degree panorama of Kvarner Bay in front of me, far ahead and very low down. Mountains on two sides, the sea on the other two. Islands ahead. The morning sun glittering on the blue water, Rijeka and Opatija nestling along the shore, not a cloud in the sky. It was breathtaking.
I realised I was looking at my new home.
That was the moment I lost it and dissolved in tears. It was just lucky there was zero traffic that morning, because I couldn’t see for a good few minutes! I continued down the mountain and eventually into the city, and the magic never stopped. The place I was staying in these first few nights is lovely (in fact, that’s where I’d recommend you stay if you come visiting), affordable, central, and run by the best people you could wish for. I spent New Year’s Eve in town with random strangers, one of whom turned out to have lived in Dublin for some years.
The next day I went on a drive around Istria – I knew it’d be my only day off and I wanted to get the lay of the land. It was another glorious, sunny day, and I had to keep pinching myself to believe that I actually live here now.
The next day I moved into my little cabin, which is tiny but perfect, pretty, and functional. I never want to leave! My piano got delivered a few days later, and now my life is complete. It seems stupid to leave it all behind again for three months, but then again, it’ll still be here when I get back and then I’ll have late spring, all of summer and the rest of the year here.
In short: I’m settling in, doing my work, living my life, making friends, and spending a lot more time outside the house than I used to. Yes, I do miss Ireland. When I see pictures of Massbrook, I choke up, and I haven’t found any cafe even remotely as amazing as McHugh’s. But this is my life now, and at the same time I’m self-employed and it feels like I’m waking up from a long dream, to a reality that’s impossibly beautiful.
I’ll see ye in Vienna!
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