Love your European neighbour
Monday: the first rotations of the pedals as I headed south east along the Adriatic coastline. Twice I opened a baguette bulging with taste which had been prepared lovingly by Ivana, wife of Robbie, my hosts in Split. It provided a motivational breakfast after a wet pack down with the village Church of Igrane looking down on me.
Tuesday: I turned to check again. No change. Rain continued to beat down on the road outside. I was soon to be on the uncomfortable side of the glass window, heading back into Croatia on the road from Bosnia. 90 minutes later and the wet had permeated through, attempting to wash out all positivity.
Straight to the toilet I changed into my dry clothes. Bar man Goran provided patience for me, the thawing nomadic cyclist as well as a great choice of local Croatian cuisine which enabled positivity to return. He also guided me to the woods opposite for an easy and secrete pitch of the tent!
Thursday: no internet?! I better find someone to talk to! My one night in Montenegro after navigating the circumference of the stunning bay of Kotor and Mierko was about to be my interesting, likeable and willing victim! A Triathlete and a young man with excellent local geography knowledge of the countries 600,000 people, we quickly became friends. Why Montenegro? Black mountains in Italian! He explained.
The only space I could find. A night of one eye open sleeping on a hair pin bend with cars motoring past followed.
All was forgotten when it came to the morning porridge view looking down at the inhabited fjord beneath.
Saturday morning: my first night in Albania was coupled with my first night in 8 weeks in which I paid to sleep. The Albanian campsite was deserted given the climate of the season. I’d packed up my belongings ready to depart, dropped my trousers in the porch of my tent and was ready to put on the cycling shorts when a morning welcome was coming concerningly close! ‘Morning coffee?!’ Came the quickly approaching voice. ‘Yes…, just give me a moment!’ I quickly and anxiously replied, fearing my dignity! The only other campers, of course from Germany, had found me at just the wrong moment!
A day of hello’s hi’s and chows followed as the locals showed a warm welcome to match the mid day sun!
Saturday night- Monday morning: hosted lovingly by IPA Tirana, and in particular pastor Barry. Tiranës best coffee shops, a literal lamb roast, a £2 haircut and praying for and then giving food to the local Roma people. Read more about it in the Church series!
Love your neighbour
The missing night: Wednesday. Sat in cafe Zoro in the most south eastern town in Croatia, Gruda. The barman kindly suggested the football pitch to camp on and I was preparing for my 3rd in a row under canvas.
Luke 10: 25–37
A lawyer questions Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life and goes on to ask who is his neighbour? The famous story of the good Samaritan follows, with a Jew being helped out not by his friends but by a man who society said should have been his enemy.
As I finished the story I looked up at the people enjoying cafe Zoro’s ambience when towards me walked a slightly drunk man with a statement rather than a request.
Tonight you come with us. We have food. We have bed. No problem!
I couldn’t decline! A hairy ride back to the house in chi-cho’s car as he tried to de-mist the windows in his tipsy state caused me to hold on and pray! We arrived at the house, greeted by a dog and inside were his family friends.
Key co was 23 and a hard working seasonal worker who made sure nothing was too much of a problem. He made my bed and made sure I sat down in the best seat in the front room. He introduced me to his parents and sisters. Step dad Mario had been a chef on the seas for 18 years and told of travels, adventures and piracy on the seas! We ate at 10:30pm as cigarette followed cigarette throughout the evening, and only stopping when it was time to move onto something stronger. I watched on and wondered at this community and welcome they had provided!
At 1am I finally said goodnight, with the parents in the front room, I still don’t know if the double bed I took up was there own they had given up for me!
The heavy sound of rain woke me and it continued throughout the morning. Mario joined me on the balcony to look on at the surrounding mountains and formulate his local knowledge based weather forecast. No work or cycling was to be done this morning and they reminded me of a Balkan saying that we Brit’s could learn from…
Does your little sister not have school today?! I asked key co as the 10 year old played all morning with the ever energetic dog. ‘Oh yes’ he replied, ‘this morning, she was just too late!’. A funny response I thought having been so frustrated with the same kind of student on my tutor group a year previous whilst working at Hayes.
12:30 came and I finally departed my Good Samaritans loaded up with a kilo of clementines which would sort me out for breakfast, lunch and dinner. These people had taken care of my every need and more, and after some tough, wet miles on the ever undulating costal road they had returned an inner smile to my being!
Jesus said that to love your neighbour is to stop and meet the need of the person in front of you. Don’t be too busy or to inflexible with your time. Maybe the greatest practical advice for us to be able to see and then meet the need of our neighbour is that Croatian saying.