Martin read the menu at the restaurant under the market. Looked like it was meat, onions and beer territory. Well, it could be worse. He took a seat.
He ordered a local beer and a plate of ćevapi – some sort of sausage. As he sipped his beer he thought, ‘alone again’. For six weeks he had been travelling through Europe and he was beginning to wonder what the point was. A medieval town, an old church, remains from the world wars, and always alone. Christmas in a dirty hotel in Latvia, New Years in Budapest. All this to spend and forget about an embarrassing redundancy and another short-lived painful relationship.
Martin ate his sausages – not bad, and the onion wasn’t too strong. He drank his beer and glanced at his map. Yep – a medieval town, an old church. Something about a cannon – well that was new. He only had to kill two days in this town, then it was the coast and off to Italy. By then it would be two months down and only two more to go.
The waiter took away his empty plate and reappeared a minute later with a plate of crepes.
“What’s this?” Martin asked, his honed tourist-hackles bristling. “I didn’t order this.”
“It’s palačinke,” said the waiter. “Pancakes. It’s the chef’s name day and he’s making them for everyone. On the home.”
Martin blinked down at his plate, then up again at the waiter. He loved Nutella crepes.
“It’s my birthday today,” he said.
“Sretan rođendan.” The waiter smiled at him and went back to the kitchen.
Martin was about to start eating when a large red-faced man in greasy white overalls lumbered up to him, took him by the hand, forced him to his feet and kissed him on both cheeks.
“Sretan rođendan!” said the man. “I am Aldo! Today is my imendan, my Saint day. We are like brothers. Today you eat here for free. Miro!” he called out. “Rakija! So where are you from?”
“Australia,” said Martin, choking on the shot of rakija that Aldo had given him.
“Australia? Wow! So far! How are you here?”
“I came on the Budapest train.”
“Haha! He comes all the way from Australia for the Budapest train! Well, my friend, enjoy Croatia. Enjoy our Europe.”
“Thank you,” Martin said. “I will.” Aldo returned to the kitchen. Martin ordered another beer and tucked into his Nutella crepes with a smile. The medieval town and the old church could wait until tomorrow.