“Can you just drop down to the bus station and buy a ticket for Zagreb,” asked my sister-in-law at the weekend. It was a fairly harmless question and one that I was happy to oblige. “Of course I will go on Saturday morning,” I answered. Mistake! In all my time in Dubrovnik I can’t remember going to the bus station on a Saturday morning in the summer. It isn’t something I physically avoid I just don’t have the need. It was a summer’s weekend, probably like any other summer’s weekend. I drove around a corner and was met by three gigantic floating white bricks. They blocked out the early morning sun. “MSC something,” “Costa something else” and “Celebrity who knows what” was printed in letters that looked like a giant had spray painted graffiti.
Ants busily poured from the white bricks, some scurrying in all directions and some seemingly following a mother ant. Bing...bong...bing...bong echoed around and a man’s voice that sounded like he was talking directly into the toilet bowl filled the air. I could pick out the words “Dubrovnik” and “food” and quite possibly “zebra” although my ears could have deceived me. I parked in the near the shade of a brick and made my way to the ticket office.
As I turned a corner I was greeted with the biggest crowd of ants I have ever seen. It looked like someone had dropped a half-eaten Mars bar on the floor and all the ants were frantically feeding. I waded through the crowds. “Where the hell is the ticket office?” I couldn’t see it anywhere. And then a whole hole opened in the crowds and TICKETS could be seen. This was a bad idea. Unless I could find Moses there was no way of parting this sea of people and reaching the gold at the end of the rainbow.
I moved to the side and decided just to observe, this was people watching on a monumental scale. The vast majority of the ants seemed to be fluent in Italian. Arms were being waved, overweight ladies in brightly coloured outfits, young men with Italia branded T-shirts and children screaming for gelato! Half of the population of Bari had been dumped on the shores and were looking to get to the “città vecchia.”
And if I thought that the queue for the bus tickets was impressive that was nothing compared to the rugby scrum forming around the taxis. Although this was no queue! It was a survival of the fittest. Whistles, flapping arms, screaming and leaping out in front of passing taxis, this was a drama unfolding before my eyes, a Greek tragedy or comedy. Taxis constantly flowed in at high speeds, almost squashing ants in their paths, pulling their handbrakes whilst performing a 180 degree turn, ejecting the passengers and scooping up more without even stopping. How nobody got hit by the Mad Max taxi drivers I will never know.
I stood, rooted to the spot, watching the street theatre unfold. One Italian waved a bunch of Euros at the half open window of a taxi and received a nod from the driver. Another couple followed and wafted dollars at another taxi, another nod of approval. World currency was being waved around as if the ants were bidding at auction for an original Picasso.
Tensions were getting frayed, nerves were close to breaking point, this had all the ingredients to be a Shakespeare classic. A quick look back over my shoulder and the other ants were still busy “feeding” at the ticket booth. Although to tell the truth I had given up getting a bus ticket, at least until the Mars bar had been consumed.
I wandered off to grab a coffee, bemoaning my bad luck and muttering a few swear words at the “MSC who knows what.” All it took was one espresso. The time it took me to drink one tiny cup of coffee. To be honest I had given up on getting the ticket, but as I was wandering back to my car I threw a glance at the ants nest. Empty! Where had all ants gone? Had someone throw boiling water over the bus station? Was anti ant powder being sprinkled from the sky? One espresso and the crowds had evaporated. The taxis were all neatly lined up and the ticket office empty, no sign of the ants. Of course they hadn’t disappeared; they had simply moved their nest to the Old City.