Through no fault of my own, but thanks to an exploding clutch in my car, I have been forced onto public transport for the past week. Being without my car is like being without my left leg. Don’t get me wrong I am not a great car fan, I don’t really know an Audi from an Austin, I am certainly not a “petrol head.” I couldn’t really care what I drive as long as it gets me from A to B in one piece. So after my clutch (amongst other oil covered parts) all decided to commit suicide at the same time, like a group of lemmings throwing themselves off a cliff, I was, just like the old BBC serial – On the Buses.
First problem memorising the timetable, “if number 10 leaves Cavtat at 8.00am what time does it get to Mlini?” was the first question I posed my wife who has the timetable and bus movements ingrained in her memory. Well not so tricky but why do buses run every hour when they are totally full. Why aren’t there more buses at peak times? Like in the morning when people are going to work. It is standing room only in the mornings. And why is it that I always end up standing right next to a fellow passenger who must have spent the whole evening eating heads of garlic! Are they afraid of vampires? There also seems to be some “rogue” buses that roam around Zupa without any number or destination, apparently you need some inside knowledge to understand the hidden movements of these secret buses.
But apart from the leaky morning timetable there seems to be a much bigger problem and that involves informing tourists. I have found myself acting as a mobile tourist guide as confused foreign guests struggle to comprehend where to get off the bus for the Old City. “Does this bus go right to the Old City?” is a daily question. “Well no but relatively close,” comes my standard answer and then a whole script of directions (almost with GPS) to direct them.
The absolute problem is where they get off the bus from Zupa, the closest bus stop to the Old City. Every second bus this is solved by a bus driver screaming at the top of his voice like a banshee “OLD TOWN...OLD TOWN.” This is far from ideal, but at least the driver (or every second driver) is making some kind of effort. Of course if the tourists don’t hear the driver’s yells, or if he “forgets” to shout, the foreign passengers continue down to Gruž, further away from their final destination. But the lack of direction doesn’t end there. The lucky ones that actually get off the bus on Ilijina glavica are then met with another dilemma...which way now. Why is there no clear signpost here? Wouldn’t it make more sense just to have a small notice board explaining where to go? A kind of “you are here” sign and a map to get to the city centre.
Let’s be honest the lucky tourists who get off the number 10 at ilijina glavica are not heading for the school, police station or supermarket. But instead they are left following school children who run across a four lane busy road without any zebra crossing. Why not just direct them to the subway that runs under this busy junction. The city spent millions on this junction why not direct people to actually use it as it was designed. How much could I sign cost? If they need it in perfect English I will translate it for them free of charge! There is a flashy new clock, manicured gardens and a countdown traffic light system, come one let’s just install a clear signpost. “Is this a normal problem?”
I quizzed my wife thinking that maybe I was just being unlucky. “Oh, it happens every day, I even thought about printing a small set of directions and handing it out to lost foreigners,” she added. So it wasn’t just me, and I can only think what it is like in the height of the season, absolute chaos. It also makes a problem for the drivers who are forced to act as tourist guides. I have to be fair the vast majority of drivers that I have met have been correct and polite. There was even one who changed up a 200 Kuna note that was handed to him by a tourist, and he did it with a warm smile and kind words. Just install a bloody sign and make everyone’s life easier, and if you need it translated I am here.