We been having such a pleasant time during our travels over the past weeks that I’ve been wondering when probability would snap back like an overstretched elastic band and something unpleasant will happen.
Well it did, in Rovinj, Croatia.
Rovinj is a beautiful little fishing town in Istria that we hadn’t heard about until our friend in Slovenia, Robert, suggested we go there.
As we have been travelling through various countries, we have occasionally used the local tourist information offices to find and book hotels for us. All the tourist information centers that we’d come across before Croatia were government run services that benefitted both the traveler and the local businesses. As we drove through Istria on our way from Venice we noticed that there seemed to be quite a few information centers but it didn’t click with us that they we privately owned.
When we arrived in Rovinj we went into what we thought was the local tourist information center to ask about accommodation. The woman at the counter seemed annoyed that we’d interrupted her peace and quiet and was very rudely curt when we made our inquiries. When I asked about a room for one night she just rolled her eyes, whilst making a tutting sound, asked in a way that sounded like she thought we were stupid “so you only want to stay one night? I replied that I didn’t know if I wanted to stay longer because I had no idea what Rovinj was like.
Another rolling of the eyes and shrug.
It wasn’t what she said, it was the way she said it and the body language that felt off-key.
Both Engogirl and I were both surprised at her demeanor as everyone we had met so far on this trip was a charming paragon of old world manners (no, I’m not kidding, the people of Europe, so far have been fantastic) and we just put it down to her having a bad day. I know that dealing with the public day in, and day out, can be a grind so I let it go.
The price we were quoted for the room seemed very steep and I said I thought it was expensive and asked her if there were any other alternatives, only to be told with another roll of the eyes and a shrug of the shoulders, “Rovinj and Dubrovnik are the most expensive places in Croatia”.
I then asked where the room was on the map on the wall. When she pointed, I said I’d like to go there and have a look at it. I was told, “we don’t do it that way, you wait here and man on a motor scooter will come and you follow him”.
Sure enough, within about five minutes a guy on a motor scooter turned up and we followed him to the room and were introduced to a woman called Kristina. Kristina spoke English and dealt with English speaking guests on the behalf of her mother, Maria who owned the house. The room itself was pretty ordinary but it had a glimpse of the sea, TV, air-conditioning (it was a hot day) and Kristina seemed like a nice lady. So we said that we’d stay the night, and Kristina said the payment for the room was to be made at the tourist office.
As the day cooled down we walked into the town and were surprised at how beautiful it was,
so on the way back to our room we stopped off to pay for our accommodation and told the surly woman that her town was beautiful and that we’d like to stay another day. We were told that was fine and that we could drop off the money for the room the next day.
Engogirl and I spent the evening sweating our backsides off because there was no air-conditioner control in the room and we couldn’t open the windows due to all the mosquitoes. Since it was the middle of the night when we wanted to put on the air-conditioner we thought it wouldn’t be right to wake up old Maria and try and sort things out so we endured with the heat.
After hardly any sleep during the night, we spent the next morning strolling around the very picturesque old town of Rovinj.
On the way back to our room in the late afternoon, we stopped off at the tourist office again to pay for the extra day we stayed.
As I was walking in, I overheard an American guy get a quote for an apartment for half the price that we were paying for a room. Apartments usually cost more than rooms. I asked the surly woman behind the counter how come our room was costing so much and I was told it was because we were only staying one day. I pointed out that we were actually staying for two days and Surly Woman said that didn’t matter because we said that we were only staying for one day. I then asked why I wasn’t told this when I first came in and she said because I didn’t ask and there was nothing she could about it because she didn’t make the rules.
Me: “Do you think this a good way to conduct business?”
Surly Woman (known from now on as SW): Shrugs shoulders, “There’s nothing I can do, you should have told me you wanted to stay longer”
Me: “How am I expected to make that kind of decision when I know nothing about the town?”
SW: “That’s not my problem”
Me: “So why didn’t you tell me about your pricing system when I first came in?”
SW: Shrugs shoulders, “You said you only wanted to stay one day”
In the meantime a guy in his early thirties walked in and around, behind the counter. As I was talking to SW he kept staring at me whilst doing the simian threat thing, with the upward tilt of the head and the raising of the eyebrows, we’ve inherited from our ancestors.
I asked SW if the simian imitator was the boss and she said no, but he interjected and spoke in Croatian to SW, probably asking what was going on. A short to and fro in Croatian and a with a sweep of the guy’s arm, as if to say, I’ll take care of this, he stepped forward and said, “what’s the problem?”
SW took a step back and glowered at me in a way as if to say, “now you’re going to cop it!”.
I was in the middle of re-explaining my beef when the Croatian guy held up his hand to stop me in mid sentence and said in a very aggressive manner, “so you want a discount do you?” “Well you can’t have one because you said you were only staying one night”
Me: “How do you think I feel about paying twice as much as other people for the same thing?”
Croatian guy (known from now on as Aggroman), “I don’t care”
Me: “You must be joking, do you think that word of your behavior won’t get around?”
Aggroman: “I don’t care; this is the way how we do business and if you don’t like just move along”
Me: “I’ve just come in to pay for the next night”
Aggroman, raising his voice and leaning forward in an aggressive manner: “I don’t care, just move along”
Me: “So you don’t want me to pay for the next day?”
Aggroman, raising his voice even louder and doing the simian threat thing in an even more exaggerated manner: “I can tell from your accent that you are Australian. I’ve been to you country twice and I didn’t like it. Do you think that I could go into a hotel in your country and cause such problems?”
In the meantime SW was starting to blanch at the confrontation and about four groups of customers had walked in and then walked out again because of the ruckus.
Not waiting for an answer, Aggroman continued with, “you Australians and Americans dropping your atomic bombs all around the world, just because you speak English, you think you are better than us?”
“I don’t like you or the Americans!”
Talk about issues?
Where do I begin?
Perhaps low self esteem brought on by cheating people has led to justifiable feelings of inferiority. It’s hard to get along with others when you hate yourself for being a lowlife cheating shitbag.
I knew that Aggroman had dived off into the deep end of La La Land and I wasn’t going to get any sense out of him so I turned to SW and said to her, “this guy’s not listening or making any sense, do you want me to pay for the night or what?”
Before SW could respond Aggroman jumped in with, “you involved me in this”
Me: “Wait a minute, you involved yourself with the; at this point I imitated the simian threat thing he was doing”
Aggroman: “You involved me!”
Me: “Keep your voice down, you involved yourself and you’re not talking any sense.”
Aggroman: “You involved me in this!”
Me to SW, “He’s not listening, do you want me to pay for the next night or what?”
At this point I thought I was going to have to defend myself as Aggroman worked himself into a lather and kept on trying to engage me further in his nonsense, but I stood my ground and said to SW, “So how much are you going to charge me for the second night?”
Aggroman tried to interject again but I held up my hand to cut him off and said, “I’m talking to her, not you; you don’t listen and I’m finished with you”.
“Don’t involve yourself anymore”.
SW reduced the bill by about 20% and I paid. Even with the reduction it still worked out that I paid just under double the going rate.
As I left, I turned to my protagonists and asked, “do you guys enjoy doing business like this?”
It was all very unpleasant and poor old Engogirl wasn’t too happy with the noisy confrontation and kerfuffle.
When we got back to our room I thought that since my feathers had been ruffled, I’d sort out the air-conditioning issue. Might as well sort out all the crap in one go since the mood had been spoilt.
I found Maria and asked her where the air-conditioner controller was. Maria explained in German (that I could understand the gist of) and very broken English that air-conditioning was an extra that we hadn’t paid for.
I couldn’t believe my ears. After paying double the going price, I was expected to pay more for what was implied to come with the room?
With a smattering of mangled German I told Maria how much I’d paid for the room and nothing had been said to me about the air-con being extra.
As soon as Maria heard how much we had paid those bastards at Bemax she crossed herself and exclaimed, “Mine Gott!” She then explained as best she could that the tourist office is a privately owned business called Bemax and they only gave her just over half the money that we paid and that she couldn’t be expected to cover the cost of the air-conditioning.
I then went onto explain that when I came to see the room with Kristina I was shown the air-con and TV, but no mention of the extra charge was made. Maria then explained in German that if we turned off the lights at night we could open the windows and the mosquitoes wouldn’t come.
I knew it was pointless to try and explain that mosquitoes are attracted by the carbon dioxide we exhale with the poor grasp of German I possess, so I explained, using words from about four different languages that I’d paid double, had been shown a room with air-conditioning, so I expected to have air-conditioning.
I hadn’t paid double for a room to sit in the dark sweating my buns off!
Finally Maria relented and brought us the air-conditioner control.
What a hassle!
I felt like I was back-packing in 1970s Asia again.
Unfortunately, my experience with those arseholes at Bemax in Rovinj coloured the way how I felt about the rest of my time in Croatia. I’m sure I offended numerous Croatian people as I double checked bills and asked what must have seemed to be overly cautious questions about the next places I stayed in.
So, in short, if you ever go to Croatia, beware of Bemax.