The bearded stranger was sitting on a wall on the other side of the road; he was waiting. I was late, it was true. I am supposed to open the cafe at 05.30, ready to serve coffees for the early-morning workers in Rovinj and the travellers in the nearby bus-station.
It was pre-dawn, but not cold. The gulls were squawking and swooping; the tramp began to stir into wakefulness on the bench in the small park which stretched down the narrow square towards the harbour; there was already a tourist with his camera admiring the small and perfect 13th century Chapel of the Trinity, Rovinj’s oldest building, next to the café. I stopped looking outside: I needed to get all the chair cushions out, ashtrays on the pavement tables, cups ready, coffee brewed. It would be a busy day.
In the winter there are about 12,000 people in Rovinj, on Croatia's Istrian coast. In the height of summer, like now, there are closer to 200,000 every day. Tourists from all over, waiting for their morning coffee before exploring the cute cobbled streets of the old town, the studios of original art, the picturesque harbour where the Venetians based their all-powerful navy for a period.
I finished laying the tables, turned the lights on, wafted a smell of freshly roasted coffee into the street and looked at the bearded stranger. He stayed sitting on the wall; it seemed he was waiting for a bus, not my coffee.