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Croatian Culture & Language Course 2023: Lessons Begin!

Croatian Language SchoolnewsletterCroatian Culture & Language Course 2023: Lessons Begin!



Croatian Culture & Language Course 2023: Lessons Begin!

The fun continues on this year’s Croatian Language and Culture Course based on Hvar island: Julia Molden finds time, in between studies, stunning views, sightseeing and skidding around the tracks of upland Hvar, to report on the first day of lessons and an excursion to the Pakleni islands.

Lessons Begin

Well Linda had a treat in store for all of us as we continued our endless pursuit of improving our knowledge of this perplexing language.  Her friend Marina had once again joined us and this time she was enjoying her success as a prize-winning short story writer and what’s more Linda had brought copies of her successful entry for us to translate.  The main theme of the story was the complications of telling the time in Croatian and the misunderstandings that can ensue – even for Croats from different regions let alone for us poor foreign students.  According to the story, a commuter on a train in Zagreb one day spots a young woman with a lovely smile across a crowded carriage packed full like a tin of sardines.  After a number of commutes, he surprises himself by asking her a rather abstruse question ‘So you travel on the Frtaljka?’, before she is swept away in the stream of sardines, not to be seen again for quite some time on the journeys to work in Zagreb.  And then she suddenly reappears and asks him what he had meant by his question.

He tries to set up a date with her in the café ‘Without a fourth corner’ later that day to explain his question.  He fixes the time at 4:15 using the Zagrebački expression ‘u frtalj pet’.  Needless to say they miss each other and she then goes to work in another town for a while.  And when she finally returns and once again sees him on the train she makes clear her displeasure that he had apparently stood her up.  But the only confusion had been the time appointed for their meeting as she used a different system for telling the time and had understood his ‘u frtalj pet’ as 5:15.  As a foreigner her system seems a lot more logical but unfortunately we have to be aware of the Croatian habit of counting up to the hour rather than past it if we don’t want to miss our opportunities.

They eventually get married but his frtalji continue to cause all manner of problems and the confusion spreads to calculating weights for food and giving measurements to a seamstress and it eventually leads to their breaking up.  Then we hear that he has married the seamstress and they seem to be able to live with their differences.  They have moved back to Zagreb while his ex stays in Šibenik.  He visits the café ‘Without a fourth corner’ which he and his work colleagues also call Trifrtaljni and his new wife finds a nickname for him – Gospon Frtalj.  And all is eventually good.

After our lessons we set off on another excursion in the late afternoon, this time to one of the Pakleni islands.  No, we were not going there to party the night away but rather to visit a restaurant housing an eclectic collection of art assembled by Dagmar Meneghello, a woman who had lived on the island for much of the twentieth century and whose daughter now runs the restaurant.  After walking through the botanical gardens and viewing a mixture of sculptures, amphorae and chamber pots we settled down to a meal of risotto, carob cakes and wine before returning, as we had arrived, on a speedy water taxi, viewing Hvar at night from the best vantage point of the sea and with each of us clutching a copy of a book of the collected art treasures we had viewed, which had been presented to us during our visit.


Thanks to Marina Krivošić for her story ‘Gospon Frtalj’, and, for the curious, the Croatian name of the café ‘Without a fourth corner’ is Bez četvrtog ugla’

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