I made it home.
After the second cancelled flight (the one I wrote about last week), I phoned Croatian Airlines and was lucky to get one of those people on the phone who don’t just shrug and give up. It took about half an hour, and then I was booked on a flight that she guaranteed me wouldn’t get cancelled.
The only trouble was, the flight was once again out of Frankfurt, so I had to find a train and get across the border. The night train was cancelled, so I spent Monday night sleepless in the most uncomfortable seat – not even the back was adjustable – and made it across the border because luckily, I have a German passport.
Changing trains in Munich and later on waiting at the airport was a PITA with no shops open. It was 2 degrees and I sat there shivering on a cold plastic seat for two hours. At least the airport was warm. When the time came to check in, I was told only Croatian citizens were allowed to fly. I explained that EU citizens who are residents in Croatia could, too, and after a lot of back and forth, they allowed me on the flight.
In Zagreb, the whole experience became a lot more heartwarming, if no less complicated. I still don’t have a Croatian ID – everything is closed here, too – although I do have permanent residency now. Fortunately, they found me in the system at passport control. Then I wandered around the completely deserted terminal and spent about an hour talking to police, the information desk, and the car rental who all disagreed on what the correct procedure was – rental car, taxi, what else? There’s a 14-day mandatory self-isolation after entering the country, and driving between cities is only allowed with a special permit these days, which I don’t have. Fun.
In the end, they told me to just wing it. I got into the rental car and drove, grinning from ear to ear because even in pandemic times, Croatia is as beautiful as ever, the weather was gorgeous, and the penny dropped more and more that I was actually going home. As expected, I was stopped by a police patrol before I reached Rijeka, and explained that I’d just arrived from abroad and was on my way to 14 days of quarantine. The officer asked where I live, and I said: “Rijeka. Well, Viškovo, really.” -“You live in Viškovo?” -“Yes.” -“Me, too!” Turns out he lives all of two streets away from me. We proceeded to assure each other that Viškovo is the best possible place to live, and then he sent me on my way.
I adore the people here. If you were wondering why I feel so at home in this country, there you go.
When I first glimpsed Kvarner Bay, I almost lost it again, just like that first time months ago. Once again, I had in front of me the deepest blue sea with sunlight sparkling on the water and the mountain panorama. Jaw-droppingly beautiful. I left the rental car at the drop-off station in Rijeka, from where Andy – the saint – picked me up, face mask and all, and drove me home. He’d also bought a boatload of groceries for me, so I won’t have to worry about starving any time soon.
After 26 hours of travel, 0 hours of sleep, and lots of drama, I was finally at home. It truly felt like I’d been crossing enemy countries in a war!
Behold the most-kissed piano in the world:
The next morning, I developed a cough and shivers.
I phoned the epidemologist (which is mandatory upon arriving in Croatia), who ordered a test. I got an appointment an hour afterwards and was told the result would arrive the next day.
Now I’m a fairly rational person. I’m not one of those people who imagine they have all sorts of illnesses they’ve heard about, and neither was I particularly fearful of COVID-19. But I have to admit, that day was surreal. I sat down and thought through, to the end, what would happen if a) I did have it and b) be amongst the few percentages of severe cases (which would be more likely for me, with my damaged lungs). This isn’t morbid, by the way – I live alone in a foreign country, so I need to take precautions. I reviewed my “testament”, made sure my emergency contacts are up to date, and then went to dance for a few minutes and practice the piano, in spite of feeling really ill.
By evening, I had developed more symptoms and suspected that I just had a severe cold, because COVID-19 doesn’t usually come with these. But it was still a relief when I got the call the next morning, confirming that the test had come back negative. Phew! The cough is just a cough. Still, great timing for coming down with one, two days after going out into public spaces, trains, planes, public restrooms…!
So all’s well, and now I’m just very very grateful. It’s so good to be home. I don’t mind this quarantine at all. I sit in the grass outside cuddling Kiki, I work, play WoW, practice, study… or just rest, as I’m still sick. But I’m happy. And I’m not going to go anywhere (except grocery shopping) until this is over.
I hope you’re all coping well. Be gentle with yourselves and each other, and most of all, be safe and stay healthy!
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