Jackson’s Big Adventure: Hitch Hiking in Croatia – Part III
Well sitting in the snow wasn’t going to do me any good and that kind of self-flagellation only lasted a few minutes because it was so cold outside. I had to get up and at least move my legs and arms to stay warm. I decided since I had nothing better to do I would just wait by the bus stop in case another bus just happened to come by. I then decided I needed to make a sign to increase my chances of clearly communicating with a bus driver since I had such a bad experience with that first bus. I’m not sure at what point the idea of hitch hiking came into my head, but after standing by the side of the road in the middle of a snow storm holding my sign and waiting for a bus that may not ever come, I realized I might as hold up my sign when cars drove by and see if one would stop and give me a ride.
At approximately 3:45 and after standing outside in the snow storm for almost 3.5 hours, the Begic Family pulled up in their silver van of salvation. Ivona popped her head out, said Hello and waved me in. Now, I should pause here and say that while I had made the sign and I had held it up when cars passed by, I wasn’t sure how committed I was to the idea until that moment. Those who know me well would attest that at times I act before I think. Hitch hiking certainly does not always have the best connotations surrounding it, but from the very first minute I got in, the Begic family really reassured me that this was a good decision. There are two sisters, Ivona and Anna, who introduced themselves and their parents, Katarina and Thomas. At hearing that their father’s name was Thomas, we enjoyed a few minutes of translating friendship since my last name was Thomas. They live in Zagreb and were driving home from spending the weekend with their grandparents performing a family tradition. At first translation, I thought it was some sort of a Croatian style BBQ, but Ivona clarified that each year around this time they help their grandparents slaughter a pig whose meat will be used to feed the family during the long winter.
The drive home was not easy since the snow just kept pouring down, but that did not slow Thomas down. He explained to me that he had been driving in these conditions his whole life and the reason all the people in front of us were going so slow was because they grew up in the city and did not know how to drive in the mountain snow! What concerned me though was how we continued to see cars that had spun out and ended up in the ditch every half hour or so. We even saw one bus that must have lost control as it was stuck halfway up on the guard rail. Not long after seeing this crashed bus, Thomas all of the sudden became very excited. He turned on the overhead light and began looking through the glove box frantically. He then started digging into the side pocket of his door and produced a glass jar filled with a lemon colored liquid. Ivona and Anna explained to me that he wanted us to share a glass of Medica which is a type of Rakija. Rakija is a strong liquor drink that seemed comparable to something Haley and I have experienced several times along this trip. In Italy it is called Grappa, in Greece it is called Raki, and here in Croatia it is called Rakija. Ivona and Anna taught me that “Zivjeli” means “Cheers” and so we all said “Zivjeli” and drank up – even Thomas!! It was all so unbelievable!
Well, we made it home and they even drove me all the way to my hostel. Praise God! It was an absolute miracle and I kept telling Thomas that he and his family will be famous with my children and grandchildren. They will all know of the Begic Family and how they got Jackson back to Haley in the middle of a snow storm in Croatia.