New Euro Adventure
Subj: Mussels and Matches
Date: June 2, 2005
What da hell!!!
Lying in bed—gazing out the window half asleep and this loud rushing sound fills my room—like a train or jet roaring thru. Beeline to the window—it’s a 10-foot fountain in the courtyard my room overlooks.
What is it with every euro place I stay? They love water everywhere but in their showers.
I like my hotel—nice service, cute little room—set back from the busy street. But the shower deal always sucks—everywhere I go.
Euro shower stalls got them hose things that squirts water, sometimes u hang it as a shower head however most of the time it’s busted so u lather up and hose down—like washing car.
Now I’m across a 10-foot high stonewall fountain. Every 15 minutes it goes off like some tsunami heading my way.
Hey—put some of that damn fountain in my shower—something I can use!!
Anyway the location was great—Upper town behind me and New town in front—upper is the old original town going way, way back—new town is within the last 2–3 hundred years.
Zagreb is not a city one often hears about. However it has a lot of charm. Its more cosmopolitan than I would have expected. That means there should be some interesting eats in the area!
All I hear about is how great the seafood is in Croatia. So I am game—don’t know one restaurant from another however this one’s got a lotsa fishing stuff décor so I guess it means they have seafood. Walking all day seeing whatever works up a nasty appetite. Not I’m hungry and in I go. .
The waiter asks if I would like an appetizer. His English is really rough however I can understand appetizer. A couple of minutes later he brings me a whiskey glass filled with something—he mumbles schnapps. I like this place and give him two thumbs up.
Down it goes and it is smooth… Still curious, I gotta ask—“appetizer?? “ He says “appetizer??” He looks embarrassed and corrects himself saying “aperitif”. Whatever… damn fine way to start off a meal—all warm and tingling, bring on the goodies!
Now he asks if I’d like a special appetizer fish—he calls is ilgl something—I can’t make it out however his first appetizer was a hit so I’m game! At a table in front of me are three people—clearly something is up.
There’s this mother and her 20 something daughter who are clearly locals. The guy, I think, is from Canada. They are clearly interviewing the guy for something – my guess is the interview is for daughter’s prospective hubby – questions cover type of house… family… question after question.
Everyone is pleasant and the guy is doing his best. Just a weird setting but I can’t help but overhear what’s going on—they were even louder after slid my chair a bit closer…
Everyone’s on their best behavior—like meeting the future in-laws. Daughter chimes in occasionally however mom is clearly running the show.
ANYWAY my new appetizer comes and it’s mussels and not like mussels I’ve seen before—the shell is nearly white. I love mussels and these were the tenderest mussels I have ever, ever had. Just the most amazing tasting mussels—I mention it to the waiter and he just smiles. Finally he brings over a couple fish and asks which I would like?
He flops them around on the plate—checking density… whatever. I pick one and he nods approvingly. When it comes it is again wonderfully prepared and just great. So I finish up with some Croatian brandy and I’m ready to bail. I asked about the mussels again doing my best to indicate how terrific they were.
He smiles and says they are ilgl. I do my best to understand what he says and he repeats it illg. Suddenly it hits me—he saying illegal. I ask “Illegal?” He smiles, nods his head “illegl”.
Oh shit—Why?? After a few hand gestures, I get the picture—the mussels are going extinct due to over fishing.... So do I say anything or just shut up?
I decide to give him a semi-disapproving shake of the head. He says something in Croatian, probably justifying his actions it in his mind. I left it at that. Mom was still grilling the kid as I bail.
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