So given some of the troubles that my fellow competitors had in getting to the Uvala Scott resort near Kraljevica, Croatia, I’m not going to linger too much on the blissfully pleasant time I had in Trieste waiting for the bus to transfer me. The sun was shining, it was warm, we had had a gorgeous lunch up in the hills outside Trieste before coming down to enjoy a lingering coffee on the Piazza Unità. Paradise! There was momentary concern about whether the bus was actually going to show up at 5pm at the railway station, but after meeting up with a few other equally concerned puzzlers, it was quickly established the bus was at the nearby coach station instead.
Our route to Croatia had to backtrack to Trieste airport, where we picked up a few more puzzlers. It was great to meet up with some of the Japanese contingent, Yuhei, Kota and Yuka, who had been been making a big detour through much of Italy as part of their journey as well as the Greeks - formidably led as ever by Vasso - and my old drinking buddy Jason of the US. One of the great things about these championships is the chance to meet up with so many different people from different countries, but it is always nice to speak with someone who as English as their mother tongue.
Our merry busload didn’t even notice the Italy-Slovenia border, but at the Slovenia-Croatia border a chap came on board to inspect our passports. I briefly wondered what he thought of our particular medley, but was more thankful that my middle names were remarkable for there being two of them rather than what they actually are. I was also amused by the proliferation of weather symbols dispersed across the new British passport. There was one further stop at some services, which seemed a little unnecessary given we were about half an hour away from the place, but it did give us a chance to stretch our legs and for Jason to purchase a bag of what I assume were sweets but were entitled something very close to the word scrotum. Interestingly enough this was the last I heard of this particular bag of treats...
We finally arrived, turning a corner with a sign pointing towards a “sport disco” (my guess was rugby) and Uvala Scott. Disembarking, we formed a nice orderly queue to receive our room keys. As it was dark I couldn’t really get a feel for the place, but as I handed over my passport I noticed that this hotel’s key was actually a physical key, and on walking up to my room in the dark that this hotel was more like a concrete version of Butlins. Oh well. It’s not like the trip advisor reviews had been glowing, and quite frankly I end up spending as little time as possible in my room at these championships as is possible anyway.
I wandered down to the main bit of the resort, with the bar and the restaurant and the competition hall. In the competition hall, the Q&A session for the sudoku championship was about to get underway, but I was pretty hungry at this stage and instead chose to grab some food from the restaurant. As in previous years, the catering model was an industrial scale buffet - albeit one sorely lacking in both quantity and quality of cakes - which meant that the food wasn’t going to be particularly great, but at that particular moment in time I didn’t really care. I passed over the complimentary glass of bubbly, which apparently couldn’t leave the restaurant, but bought a bottle of beer, which could, and headed over to the Q&A session.
I met up with the UK team, which at this point of proceedings consisted of the official A team, featuring Neil Zussman, Roderick “Rodders” Grafton and Michael Collins, as well as the two ladies, Liane Robinson and Emma McCaughan, who were unofficial B-team participants. Liane pointed out that with spectacular timing I had arrived just as the questions had finished. Not that that really mattered, I only had one minor query about whether a diagonal constraint was going to be present on the little killer (more on this later!) but otherwise the instructions seemed to be fairly self-explanatory.
We stayed and chatted on for a bit longer before deciding it was probably a good idea to head off to bed. And I’d like to say that was that for the first day, but this would be to do discredit to a magnificent thunder storm that manifested at roughly midnight. I’ve never experienced a thunder storm by the sea before, but I can tell you it’s quite an experience! The lightning reflects off the sea and lights up the sky for miles and miles, and the thunder booms down, rumbling across across the water until it hits the shore and physically shakes the room. Needless to say sleep wasn’t going to happen until Zeus, Thor, Perun et al had had their fun, and so whilst they were busy with all of that, I decided to have some fun of my own. With a puzzle book. ;-)