Slovenian Restaurant Between 2 Countries

by Rukmani Krishna on  July 1, 2013 at 11:58 PM Lifestyle News
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In the tiny Slovenian hamlet of Obrezje, a neon-green line runs across the floor of the "Kalin" restaurant: step over it and you're suddenly in Croatia.
 Slovenian Restaurant Between 2 Countries
Slovenian Restaurant Between 2 Countries

Outside, a lone border guard stands looking bored as the restaurant's cook runs out in her apron and signals to a friend on the other side of the border to come over for a chat.

Obrezje stands on the eastern edge of Slovenia and "Gostilna Kalin" (restaurant Kalin) literally straddles an international border that sprang up just over two decades ago, right in the middle of its main room.

The result: the fridge with cold drinks stands on the Slovenian side, the cases of empty bottles on the Croatian side.

"This border was really bad for our business," says restaurant owner Sasa Josip Kalin, 40.

The family-owned eatery was already popular with Croatians, who still make up 60 percent of its clientele, when Slovenia and Croatia were part of the former Yugoslavia.

Independence in 1991 and Slovenia's EU entry in 2004 however introduced passport controls between Zagreb, just 30 kilometres (19 miles) away, and Obrezje.

Within the restaurant itself, there is no need to dig out one's passport.

But when Croatia enters the European Union on Monday, business might become a little bit easier.

"They're going to be a lot looser with the border, it's not going to be as strict," says Kalin, who himself has dual Slovenian and Croatian citizenship.

"Hopefully in one year they'll open this road in front. Then it will be much better because the traffic will go through here."

At the moment, the gravel path is blocked; a border guard is on duty 24/7; and locals on foot or on bicycle need a special pass to cross the small stone bridge.

Everyone else must go through the modern border checkpoint a few hundred metres away, a detour that can take 40 minutes depending on traffic.

For Nada Krkovic, 65, who lives next door to the restaurant: "Until we enter Schengen (Europe's visa-free zone), it will still be a border."

"It will be a bit easier but controls will remain."

Border issues between Slovenia and Croatia were long an obstacle to Zagreb's EU accession talks and even now, they have not been solved: the two neighbours have only just agreed to arbitration in their dispute over 13 square kilometres (five square miles) in the northern Adriatic.

Rajka Krizanac, a "Kalin" regular from Jesenice, the next Slovenian town, remembers going to school on the Croatian side of the border when it was still the former Yugoslavia.

"It was hard for me to get used to showing my ID card on the border. The border actually angered me," says the 46-year-old sociologist, who still buys her bread in Croatia.

A softer border regime now will make a big difference, she says.

"Most people in this border area expect benefits in their everyday lives."

Anton Rop, Slovenia's prime minister when it entered the EU, also told AFP: "It's not important that Slovenia and Croatia had some problems concerning the borders."

"The important thing is that those two countries have quite a lot of similarities, they have a common history, they can cooperate very successfully and they understand each other very well."

Croatia is also a prime holiday spot for its neighbours.

"Those two countries are connected and with Croatian membership, those relations will be much, much better," said Rop.

Already the border guard outside Kalin's restaurant merely growls to trespassers that they should not be there, without moving from the metallic box where he is sheltering from the heat.

A young woman wearing earphones cycles past him without even a glance.

Kalin, whose restaurant is entirely under Slovenian law despite the border running through it, is now looking to expand on the Croatian part of his land -- already home to his vegetable patch and the children's playground.

And he sees no administrative headaches on the horizon.

"Anyway now it's going to be the European Union, so there won't be any problems," he says confidently.

Source: AFP

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