THE ROAD TO CRES: Saving the Vultures of Croatia~Part Three

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREWhen I arrived the Eko-Centar was going through a bit of a change. It had recently been run as a very tight ship by a character who I would run into later. Alenka, an attractive and friendly Croatian biologist, was nominally in charge of the volunteers but she was fairly relaxed about it. This was fine by me as it meant our free time was our own. There weren’t many people there are the time anyway. I shared a small dorm with Molly from Florida and Romy, a German girl, who would leave a day after I arrived. Molly was studying criminal psychology with a focus on genocide and had just been in Spain volunteering at a hospice for AIDS sufferers. She was re-reading Heart of Darkness. All of twenty years old she was gobsmackingly mature as well as sweet and funny. A couple of days later two other return volunteers arrived in our dorm. Marina, a super intelligent and creative being was from Zagreb and Sandra, a Hula Hooping academic and sociologist was from London. They had met at the centre the previous year and became friends.

Our dorm.

Quentin, half French and half Croatian-his grandfather was from Beli-was a regular volunteer. He had two friends with him but he seemed less bound by the structures of the centre than we were because he was sort of a local. David, who I mentioned before, was our cook and what a cook! Aside from cooking gorgeous meals from very little he also conjured up cakes and desserts. There was always lots of food. I was in heaven…this from the diary…

Creamy mashed potato, meatloaf, tomatoes in dressing and some kind of peas, mushed or stewed….kidney beans in onion in dressing, chilli, polenta, pizza-the thick base lighter than air-pasta in tomato sauce, cucumber chopped in sour cream, courgettes grilled and put in oil….yesterday, cinnamon rolls-kind of sugary bread and butter type things…chocolate cake…



Food on the way!


Dining room still life.

That was our core crew for the first week and we got on really well. There were other characters around. A regular visitor, a man from the mainland, helped with outside work. He had a limp from some sort of explosion on a boat, not to do with the war as far as I remember. An English woman who was travelling with her four horribly precocious kids was there when I arrived but thankfully left on my first day, 21st-century-parents do not float my boat. A pony tailed man called Bonk, I kid you not, from Slovenia arrived with his young son but he never spoke to us though he seemed not unfriendly.  The arrival of some of Bonks’ friends a week later would disrupt our idyll but for the moment we were as happy as could be. Somehow we all got the hang of spending time together but also remaining independent. A perfect pitch.


Quentin watches as two local women combine an evening snorkel with catching octopi to sell to local restaurants.


The greatest chef.

Evening toes at Beli beach.

The first night we went to the beach at Beli, David, Molly, Quentin, Slavan and me, and drank wine and looked at the stars as the sea rushed onto the pebbles. The second night we went to the pension up the road and had beers with Quentins’ two friends who were leaving. The third night we played Scattergories. Another night someone tried to screen Borat in the exhibition center but couldn’t get it working but we watched some of it on the centres’ lap top. The night before Marina and Sandra arrived, David drove Molly and myself to Cres. Before we left we had been looking at an old copy of cartoon book about the Eko Centar and there was a caricature of the previous manager, Franc, in it. In Cres, we strolled through the town and ended up in a small bar up a side street where a cappella band was playing. The leader of the group was the aforementioned Franc who we had just seen in cartoon form. We recognised him immediately. Franc was a small man with a big personality. David missed him at the Eko-Centar but, though I liked him, I am not sure I would have liked his management style. He had made the centre what it was I think but he had scheduled every waking minute for the volunteers and for everyone. It sounded exhausting.The relaxed way it was when I was there, though it was in crisis I realise now, was exactly just right for me.

Tomorrow:The work and some vulture pictures and stories.


Francs band, Franc is the blur on the left..


Cres from a later visit.


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