When I first decided to pack up my bags and move to Croatia, well more precisely to Dubrovnik, all those years ago I was met with a look of bewilderment from most of my friends. Croatia was well off their radar. They had all roughly heard about it but almost exclusively as a war zone where they would watch BBC reporters wearing blue helmets in some muddy field. In fact, I was presented with a plastic blue helmet from my work colleagues when I waved goodbye, with jokes of “It isn’t bullet proof.”
I was certainly one of the pioneers. What a difference two decades make! From those early naïve years to now.
I have always had a fond spot for the Back to the Future franchise. It isn’t that I’m a great Michael J. Foxx fan but I liked the concept of time travel. If I could go back to 1998 what would I tell my “Marty McFly” self?
Buy apartments as AirBnb is coming soon and you will get rich overnight! I had no money back then (or now) so that wouldn’t have been great advice. Don’t buy shares in Agrokor as it will soon be flushed down the toilet! That wouldn’t have helped because there was no Agrokor then, Dubrovnik was fed by the monopoly that was Mediator back then. And shares in Mediator would have been about as valuable as a handful of dinars. Buy boxes and boxes of Nescafe and sell them for a huge profit, better still become the sole distributor of Nescafe in Croatia. Yes, hard to believe but Nescafe wasn’t around when I arrived, Turkish coffee popped my eye balls out so I used to drink poor substitutes called Divka or Bianka!
I should absolutely tell my young self to think about starting a company based around tourism, maybe something servicing cruise ships in some way, or just a gelato factory. I could have even gone into telecommunications, especially mobile telecommunications. But then I would have come up against the mammoth dinosaur that was Croatian Telekom, before the Germans bought it for peanuts, and long before VIP, Tele2 and the rest. Oh those days spent playing snake on the Nokia 6110.
Or even television media, back then we only had two channels HRT 1 and 2, so we used to turn around the antenna on the roof to face Italy to watch Seria A through a fog of fuzzy static. We always prayed for Jugo when it was a big derby. And then CMC came and we seemed to spend all day watching even fuzzier videos. Mare I Kate is a song that unfortunately I can never unlearn nor the sight of Štimac dressed as an extra from Only Fools and Horses in the video spot. I could have bought a small piece of land in the middle of the cable car route and planted a huge tree. And then when the Chileans rolled into town could have blackmailed them to pay me to cut down the tree.
I could have opened the first ever betting shop in Croatia, but then it was probably illegal anyway. Which would in fact have caused another problem. If you remember the films the way that Buff made his money was by using the Grays Sports Almanac to bet on sporting events, basically the sporting matches that he already knew the result to. But how could I tell my younger self to bet on matches, or anything in fact, if there were no betting shops. Just think of some of the odds I could have got. Who would have believed back then half of the things that have since occurred?
Who would have believed that Goran would win Wimbledon and Croatia finish third in the third in the World Cup! Oh those golden days.
I remember when a packet of cigarettes was the same price as a ticket on the City Walls, 7 Kunas. The posh smoked Filter 160 and the workers puffed on Largo. When we used to order Cockta and Stock (before it was retro and in) in Ferrari on Bourbon before rolling down to Sun City opposite Dubrovacka Banka. And then we would drive to visit our friends in Zaton but it would take hours because the Dubrovnik Bridge (or Frano Tuđman to all you HDZ supporters) was still in the planning process.
But I’m not Marty McFly, I don’t have a silver DeLorean and I don’t know a nutty professor, and you know want I have gone off the idea of going back to the future, or even the past. What was…well was. And memories are the real wealth of tomorrow.