Serbs have a reputation for being incredibly tough and uncompromising. For all I know, there have been eminent Serbian ballet dancers over the years, and artists. But taken as a general rule of thumb, they are very tough cookies. Very interested in the arts as long as they’re martial.
Their neighbours, the Croats, on the other hand, are very similar. I lived in the country for almost a year. So I should know. Added in to the national mix is a facility for cruelty, although I have to say that there are many Croatias, from the relatively laid-back Istria to the full-of-its-own-importance Dubrovnik, passing through coffee-swilling idle Split, so it’s wrong and unacceptable to make such sweeping generalisations. Of course.
I recall going for a swim when we lived in Senj, a small town one third of the way down the Dalmatian coast. I was with my (then) young family. They were, and are, blessed with the natural ability to go brown in the sun. Me, not.
“Ah,” said my usually kind neighbours when I took off my shirt.”You are like an advertisement for yoghurt.” And then they laughed. And kept on laughing, and pointing, even though we were sitting next to them.
It wasn’t the first time I’d been pilloried for my Aryan skin. I recall a swimming pool in California. “Look at that guy over there,” one idiot said to another, very loudly, and like the Croats, pointed.
So is it any wonder that I am not at the front of the line when Larvotto opens each day for business?
However, tomorrow I will take the number 5 from Rocqueville and cross the invisible border into France beyond the Monte-Carlo Bay and take my shoes off on the small stony beach and try to find the courage to take off my trousers and my shirt and stagger across the pebbles and into the sea. I will keep my hat on and a t-shirt and hope there are no Croats and no Americans.
Otherwise, sightseers are welcome. But, please, no pointing.