Monday, August 08, 2005

Back in a Bit

To my patient readers, who have seen no activity here in the past 2 1/2 weeks, I offer my apologies. I thought I was going to be blogging from the Land of the Croats. Internet cafes were available, but my over-riding selfish desire to spend as much of my vacation there with people and with old and new physical sites (and sights) kept me away form the keyboard. I'll be blogging, shortly, of my impressions and of stories heard while lazing on the rocks of the Adriatic, smoke and slivovitz filled konobas, and breezing up the mind-numbing and brake-testing cliff-side Magistrala highway.
It was a fabulous trip back to the homeland and I'm hoping to do it justice.

Short story to keep up interests.

A cousin, deeply into the import-export side of business in the Land of Croats, offered the following as an example of the "alternative" side of economics, as practiced in the neighboring country of Bosnia & Hercegovina (B&H).

There's a small village not too far over the border between Croatia and B&H, where automobile purchasing is combined with innkeeping. The town shall remain nameless; this story will not serve as unpaid advertising. If one has a strong desire for, say, a 2004 BMW 5 series but is unwilling to put up the $70k for such a finely engineered vehicle, a drive to this little village may be in order. Once there, you go to a certain little inn, where you sit down and order a Turkish coffee, a mineral water, and a rakija. In that order. The waiter then asks you if there's anything else you want to order.
You pause. You think. You dream.
Yes. A 2004 BMW 5 series. Dark blue. Dark leather. Red trim.
He notes this all down, leaves, returns with a suggested price. No negotiations. A simple nod or a shake of the head.
"No problem. Enjoy your coffee. 4 hours, tops.", the waiter says.
Sometimes the specific requests are detailed enough that 2-3 days may be necessary. In that case you stay overnight at the inn and enjoy the roast lamb each night. A bottle of rakija o n the house.

The car is delivered as ordered. Some poor German or Austrian vacationing in Croatia is left without a ride. The VIN#'s are replaced. "Legal" ownership transferred to your name. You slip the envelope to the waiter; he hands you the keys. You cross the border with no questions asked, your elbow resting on your almost new car. The gas tank is even filled.

My cousin sighed after he had told this story. He was in car sales for a while, until he realized he couldn't compete with the price (1/2 less than he could offer) nor with the speedy delivery time (2-3 months v. 2-3 days) of his B&H competitors.
"Of course, all this will disappear if B&H wants to get into the E.U.", he says.
"But, why would they want to get into the EU, at this point?", he adds.

He winks. A loud laugh. A shrug. A clink of glasses. We get up. Take a step or two from our chairs at the bar and dive into the blue Adriatic.

Four hours of coffee drinking would make me unfit for driving. Although, in Bosnia, I suppose the jitters just might help.

Sounds like your cousin has a healthy sense of humor, which must be *the* key to the good life. That, and frequent dips in the Adriatic.

Nice to have you back, DV!
Sounds like a smuggling operation to me: the waiter's freinds plant stuff in the auto body somewhere, then give you the keys; you drive over the border, if customs finds the planted stuff then you get the rap. If not, the smugglers track you down and remove their contraband while you sleep and on one is the wiser.
Glad you are having a wonderful time. Such scenery and food! While I love the chairside vicarious trip, you just forget about the keyboard if you want till you get stateside... we'll wait. I promise.
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