bear with me…

bear with me…

So, this morning we set off on what we thought would be a quick trip. A trip into our nearest town (20 mins away) to finally increase the amount of electricity we have at the house. But first, let me take you back a few weeks. When we did this trip for the first time…

The electricity board offices here are a bit of a throwback to a previous era. Austere in decoration, staffed largely by very serious people (with one exception we shall introduce you to) and with systems that were probably quite groundbreaking. In the 1950s. Anyway, we queued, as you do out here. And queued. We finally got to the front of the queue to be told we were in the wrong queue. We had to be in the *other* queue. Thankfully, there wasn’t a queue so we thought we’d be dealt with very quickly and be on our way. Not quite as it turned out.

The member of staff couldn’t speak English and our limited Italian and Croatian just weren’t cutting it as we tried to get to grips with the complexities of increasing our electricity supply. But, it turned out there was someone who could speak English and he was summonsed. Unlike all of the other staff, this young man was very smiley and amiable. He didn’t really need to explain that he’d been “to lunch” as his staggering gait and enveloping whiff of wine sort of gave the game away. It was 11.30am. Still, he could speak English, and to be fair he was most helpful. The only real stumbling block came when we couldn’t produce a map showing the plot of land we owned. No problem we thought – we’re actually paying for electricity to the property and had to initially show proof of ownership, so we put this down to him having had a glass too many. No, on the contrary, we had to have the map and we had to go the Katastar (the equivalent of the local Land Registry) and get the map. Once we had the map, we’d be rewarded by paying the electricity board nearly £500 to increase the power supply so that when we had the dishwasher and washing machine on together, we didn’t trip the power.

We have experience of Croatian bureaucracy and know now to try and only do one task at a time. Otherwise we’d end up like our new friend, taking an early lunch at 11.30am. So, it’s taken us three weeks (because we have had other bureaucratic tasks in between) to return to this particular one. But, this morning was bright and sunny and we felt ready for all that HEP could throw at us.

First port of call was to the Katastar to get the map. Forms filled in, signed, all seemed to be going well – until we were advised that we needed now to go to the post office (or to a tobacconist) and buy 15 kunas worth of stamps (the equivalent of £1.75) and bring these back, so that they could be stuck (with a pritstick, I kid you not) on the form we had just filled in and over-stamped with three official stamps. And when all of this had been done, we had to pay another 30 kunas. For what we have no idea. But, we had *the* map. Which looked remarkably like a number of other maps we have in the house folder but which were deemed not quite the right map. But never mind, we had it. And back off to HEP we went to finally increase our electricity supply.

We arrived at 11.15am to find a man waiting outside the door. The blinds were down. We had a feeling what was coming next. Yes, he informed us, they are on their break. They re-open at 11.30am. The whole office shut. For a break. FFS! We knew definitely not to go away and come back as there would be a queue, so we waited. Fair play, at 11.30am the door was unlocked and in we went again. But we were a bit more savvy this time and instead of joining the big queue, we went straight to the other window. The window that deals with increasing your electricity supply. To see a new sign with new opening hours…

8.00am to 11.00am

Yep, you couldn’t make it up. The saga continues. But on the bright side, at least our favourite HEP employee – and new friend – can make an earlier start on his lunch…

the confusion that comes with buying a car…

the confusion that comes with buying a car…

I think my blogs about things which cause us confusion, will go on for some years to come. Because, at the moment, just about everything is causing us to be be confused. We are muddling through, with the help of new found friends, the internet & just generally having to deal with daily cock-ups when they happen.

So, what’s been confusing us lately? Cars. That’s what. In England, when you want to buy a car, you have a number of options :

  • Go to a garage
  • Look on E-Bay
  • Buy one from a friend
  • Choose one from Auto Trader

As literally everyone in Istria has a nice car – ranging from the super-duper to the cutesy, vintage Renault 4s – we thought it couldn’t be that difficult to buy a car. In fact, we were so confident, we decided we’d buy two – one as a runaround and the other a more powerful, solid, reliable 4×4 type which would take us on long journeys. But we just couldn’t crack the code for buying a car. We’d see garages with cars outside, but it wasn’t clear if these were for sale or in for a service. We searched online – nothing in the vicinity and we didn’t fancy our chances heading to Zagreb to buy from a stranger. We headed to the big city – Pula – and hurrah, we finally found garages. Lots of them. But we still felt out of our depth as a) we don’t know a huge amount about cars, apart from what we like and b) it’s difficult enough to negotiate a car deal in English, let alone Croatian/Italian.

But then we had a breakthrough – and this is where the old adage, “It’s now what you know…” is so true. We visited one of the local restaurants in the village – Agroturizam Nežić – and met the wonderful owners, Paolo & Nadja. They assured us they would help sort out our car situation – and true to their word, their friend Denis, who owns a garage not too far away, sourced for us a runaround Fiat Punto and by far the best car we’ve ever owned, a Honda CRV. Nothing has been too much trouble for Denis and his wife, Rosanna – and we will be eternally grateful as they helped us to navigate the tangled web of car buying.

Car success!

Car success!

Our purchases were relatively straightforward as both cars had all documentation completely up to date, with full service history. Getting the insurance and road tax and breakdown cover was also quite straightforward – as Rosanna essentially did it all for us. Insurance would have been more tricky if we’d done it ourselves – although we have many years of no claims in England, that counts for nothing here, so we were starting from scratch. However, sound advice from Rosanna means we have good insurance – but definitely not something we’d have worked out ourselves. The paperwork is endless – again, we would have been completely lost as you have to register with a number of authorities, including the police. Not something we would ever have known – but definitely something which now makes sense to us.

You're not an Istrian is you don't drive - or own - one of these...

You’re not an Istrian is you don’t drive – or own – one of these…

We did, in the early days of our car looking, spot a reconditioned Renault 4 which was for sale. These retro cars are still driving the roads of Istria – but as funky as it would have been, we think we did the right thing in not buying from a stranger in a supermarket car park, and instead going with Dennis and Rosanna. And, it’s not every day you pick up your new car and the garage owner has picked wild asparagus for you…

Fresh asaparagus, gifted by our garage...

Fresh asparagus, gifted by our garage…

causes for confusion

causes for confusion

Our last cause for confusion centred around the Croatian banking system, which admittedly is getting a little less confusing as we just keep returning to the bank. We’re sure that one day all will slot into place and we’ll be glad of the multiple bank accounts we seem to be acquiring. But banking has led – inadvertently – to another area of confusion. The numbering of houses and addresses, in general.

Croatian addresses don’t seem to follow any kind of pattern. We’re used to odd numbers on one side of a road and even numbers on the other, and that the numbers follow sequentially. Or, the house has a name, which is recognised as being part of the address and mail will arrive at that named house. We’re used to moving into a property that has a pre-designated address. I know you can choose a name for your house, but NEVER have I heard of choosing a number. Until we arrived in the Land of Confusion.

Early on in the house buying process, we established the address of the property, with the people selling. It was number 63. Of course it was – the seller, over a few bottles of wine in a lovely local restaurant they took us to, even regaled us with a little ditty about the house, which he said he often sung. “Pici 63”. So, of course our house was number 63. How could it not be? It did seem a bit strange that not one of the official house purchase documents, mentioned this bit of the address, and we did question it. To be told, that in Croatia, it is the PLOT number which is important, our plots being 59/1 & 56 – and which were clearly marked on all documents.

Clearly marked plot number, so we know we've bought the right house...

Clearly marked plot number, so we know we’ve bought the right house…

So, at least we knew we had bought the right house. But we still needed a postal address and so merrily set about sorting everything to be sent to/registered at number 63. Insurance, Royal Mail redirects from the UK, the address we gave to the bank, so that they could send our PIN numbers. We even went to the local police to register ourselves as now being the owners of number 63 – thankfully, with hindsight, we needed more documentation, because we now have discovered we are not number 63 at all!

We thought our postman was just being a bit tardy with our post – we knew we were due some, as a friend was forwarding it from the UK, but it just wasn’t arriving in our bright yellow post box. Until the local builder arrived one morning with a big parcel of mail, which had been delivered to…Number 63. But we’re 63, we said. The previous owner even made up a song about the house being number 63. No, you’re not, he said. You’re 64. And that house there (the one in front of us) is also 64. But 64B. And the one over there is also 64. But 64C. And the restaurant is also 64… Ah, we thought, we might have the hang of this – the restaurant must be 64A. No, he said, the restaurant is 64C. So the same as the house, we asked? Yes, he replied. We opened our post with a glass of wine each.

When we next met up with Marin – who shall henceforth be referred to as our Croatian saviour as he is a lawyer and translator and now generally helps us when we get overly confused 😉 – he looked into the address issue for us. And yes, indeed we are Number 64. Just 64. No letter. But, he advised, if we fancied changing it, we could. Yep, that’s right folks, you can almost make up your own address! As much as we liked the idea of going back to number 12, having brought with us our number plate from West Didsbury, we felt that explaining this to the number of authorities we were now going to have to contact to change our address from 63 to 64, would be a step too far… (And don’t be thinking that the numbers of houses run sequentially – no, they do not. In the village we have 57, 59, 60 etc – absolutely no idea where the houses numbered below 57 are, however. Perhaps they are the #abandonedhousesofistria, I’ve started instagramming, but that’s a blog for another day).

Yes, we could be literally any house number we fancied...

Yes, we could be literally any house number we fancied…

So, we now have to embark on the process of trying to get lots of Croatian people to understand that yes, we have a bought a house but no, we don’t actually know for certain what its address is… #tricky