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New Europe

Day Nine: Hvar

Michael Palin - New EuropeIn the sleepy little port of Starigrad, on the east side of the island, behind a modest doorway off a winding lane paved with polished slabs of creamy Dalmatian stone, Igor has a konoba, a bar/restaurant, which seems to embody his highly individual lifestyle. Marenko, Igor's business partner, is a short, solid Croat with a lined and lived-in face. On his T-shirt is a picture of the Taj Mahal, and underneath it the tortuous slogan 'Via Agra - Man's Greatest Erection for a Woman'.

In the dark cluttered interior Igor is already at work hunting down a bottle of wine. From the ceiling hangs a mobile sculpture on which computer chips are balanced by two books. Plastic hands stick out of an old-fashioned meat grinder. A mannequin's leg is stretched out in a cooler cabinet and there are clocks everywhere, all stopped at 3.04.

'The time Tito died!' shouts Igor from the kitchen. 'He was the greatest hedonist of all time', he adds, approvingly, 'Me, I have to go to the cinema to see Gina Lollobrigida. Tito, he just ring her up.'

The bottle empties quickly and as Igor grabs a corkscrew to open another, Marenko insists I come next door to see something wonderful. It turns out to be a 1904 Swedish-made wall telephone.

Marenko winds it up proudly. 'The oldest telephone set in Croatia.' He hands me the receiver. 'And it still works.'

Sure enough, there is a clear greeting on the end of the line. I reply in English. Much laughter. It obviously happens all the time.
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  • Series: New Europe
  • Chapter: Day Nine: Hvar
  • Country/sea: Croatia
  • Place: Hvar
  • Book page no: 27

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