January 2013 is the beginning of a new year and also my anniversary. Five years ago this month I made the jump across the pond to live my retirement years in Dubrovnik – my Shangri-La. Time seemed to have passed rapidly and I began to reminisce.
Many people believed that my decision to retire in Croatia was made quickly and without thought. Only a few very close friends heard me chatter about this move for a number of years. My mother asked me what I would do after she passed, would I return to Hawaii. I remember her smile when I kept telling her, not Hawaii but I am considering Dubrovnik.
It is mandatory for all foreign guests to apply for a residency visa if their stay would extend over the 90 tourist period. My plan, based on the information at the time, was to apply in Dubrovnik after getting settled. I was mistaken. At the same time as I was flying east over the Atlantic, the Croatian government changed the visa laws. I can remember in detail the words of the woman at the police station rudely saying, “No, you cannot apply in Croatia any longer, you must go back to the USA and make application there”.
The worker at the police station advised me to apply for Croatian citizenship. “Should take about six months” were words which would come to haunt me. Yes, I now have my Croatian citizenship, but the six months turned into a very frustrating long and arduous five years. By the way, it is not mandatory for me to renounce my US citizenship; I have dual citizenship and will soon have two passports – US and Croatian. Interesting note: My Dubrovnik lawyer doing the paperwork billed me 2,000 Kuna ($350), which was paid at the end of the entire process. Can you imagine an American attorney only charging that for five years of work?
Finding a permanent apartment for a long term rental was an enormous challenge. Apartment owners prefer to rent their units only during high season and will not consider a year long lease. Thus I grabbed the first dwelling which came my way. It was a small studio on the top floor of a three story home above the old town which I flippantly referred to as the penthouse. It was a small studio with a sea view from the minuscule terrace where I spent most of my time. The old town was obscured by a neighbor’s overgrown tree and the traffic noise from the road below was to be my undoing. The penthouse lasted a very difficult sleepless eight months. I loved the sea view but not the noise.
Onward to the garage apartment which came about by knowing someone who knew someone who wanted to rent her two bedrooms for a minimum of one year. Located just below the new parking garage, it had a small yard and a kitchen with a real stove and refrigerator. It was only after moving in I noticed several doors opened the wrong direction and had no heater/air conditioner unit. The owner lived on the floor above and thankfully was only in town a few months during the year. It was a very interesting year and the owner was a major pain in my butt. After moving into the apartment, I was told nothing was to be hung on the stark white wall. Too late, I had already put up my clock! However my undoing came when the pain declared I could not wear my flip flops in the yard and my wind chimes must be removed as the noise disturbed her rest. No problem, my year was over and was planning on visiting my family in California for the Christmas holidays that year. Stored my stuff at a friend’s home, I jumped on a plane and spent three months with my California family.
Wait for the next installment, more fun and games to follow soon. The adventure continues…