I rarely depend on the kindness of strangers. When I’m away, I like to know precisely when I’m leaving and when I’m arriving. Chance is seductive, but it can’t match the comfort of definite logistics, of pre-booked hotel rooms, of triple-checked plans. Travel is fundamentally unknowable, but we can at least try.
Then I find myself in a car with two exceptionally kind new acquaintances—Anita Lozar and Matej Pelicon, founders of Slovenia’s pioneering Pelicon Brewery—and begin to re-evaluate. It’s the morning after a late-night beer festival, and, uncharacteristically, I have no boarding pass or bus ticket or even the sketchiest idea of how to get from Makarska, a small city on Croatia’s limestone coast, to the inland capital of Zagreb. It is, I learn, a journey of some six hours, over mountains and up the length of most of the country.
When Anita and Matej change their plans and offer to make space for me in the back, I feel like a lagging swimmer who’s found just the right raft. During the drive, we talk about what it means to meet beer folks from across the Balkans, or from even farther afield—how easy it is to connect despite the distances, how hospitable the industry can be. There they are: our people, all over the globe.
Still several hours from our destination, we pull over at a rest stop and scenic viewing point, only to find it is actually a long-abandoned hotel and restaurant, flushed coral and Lynchian against the molars of the mountains. We get out to stretch our legs, to breathe the air up high, and split a package of hazelnut wafers. Imagine if I’d taken a bus, I think. No mountains, no wafers, no long slick of sea behind. Even worse: no chance to meet my people.