Once upon a time, I was dating a guy who was sent to Croatia for a while for work...while we weren't exactly "serious," we were extremely close even just as friends, and when he left, we knew almost immediately that I would be visiting him at some point during his trip overseas. I will never forget the day I stood in his kitchen right before his departure, and he asked me if I'd ever been to Croatia - at this point, he still hadn't divulged where he was heading. I said yes, and then being the idiot that I am, I immediately added without thinking, "I hated it there, it was so depressing!"
Then he told me that is where he was heading for work, and I quickly changed my tune. Of course I did. I knew what was eventually coming - an invitation for a visit. After he left, we spent a while talking about a visit, and we ultimately decided that I would spend ten days there, which covered the span of my birthday...I spent most of my ten days in Opatija, which is geographically on the Istrian peninsula, on the Adriatic coast. It's basically a resort town, and very cute and quaint, overlooking the Adriatic Sea.
I'll write more about that portion of the visit later, as to be quite honest, I am still trying to decide what I want to say about it. It was meant as a romantic vacation, but it ended up sealing the deal on not a romantic relationship between this man and I, but a very deep friendship.
And I was alone and bored for much of the time, which doesn't make for very exciting travel writing. You can read a bit about that in this post about how I love to be Alone.
On the last day of my trip, we planned a day in the capital of Croatia, Zagreb, which is where I was flying out of. I also had a travel friend whom I'd never met who lived in Zagreb, and we arranged to meet her on my last evening and have a blast together, the three of us.
As my friend had already spent many weekends in Zagreb by the time I arrived in Croatia, he knew quite a bit about the city and places to show me. One of the things I love most about this man is that we share a love of travel, history, and introducing other people to things we enjoy. We arrived late in the evening on that Friday, and headed downtown via Uber (yes, they have Uber in some parts of Croatia - just check to make sure the city you're visiting has them before assuming they'll be reliable transportation during your visit) and he took me to the Zagreb Cathedral.
While neither of us are particularly religious, I think many travelers and history nerds enjoy visiting historic cathedrals. The Zagreb Cathedral is not only the tallest building in Croatia but also the most monumental sacral building in Gothic style southeast of the Alps. Of course I had to see it! As I do in every cathedral I visit while traveling, I lit a candle. This began during a friendship of mine with someone who's grandmother had passed away; she would ask us to light a candle for her grandmother in various churches. I never stopped doing it, though I now light them for Angeline and say a prayer for her happiness.
Then a lovely thing happened while we were there - they began the ceremony of the changing of the guards and we were able to witness it firsthand, which isn't something you get to see very often, in any country.
What fortunate timing for us! It was a very interesting experience to watch the custom of another culture. I've also witnessed the changing of the guards at Arlington National Cemetery, at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers, and in Athens, Greece, and they're always a little different.
Next we headed to the Farmer's Market, which was mostly fruits, vegetables and flowers, but also had a bit of handicrafts.
I love the slow pace, people milling about, just enjoying the day and each other's company.
Of course I had to take the opportunity to get my shot with the sewer grate...you know I can't resist those cheesy photos when I travel!
You know I can never pass up the opportunity to feed a flock of pigeons when it presents itself, and my day in Zagreb was no different!
While walking through downtown, we stumbled upon a Museum of Torture. While it was incredibly small, it was still an interesting find.
We spent most of the afternoon window shopping and then found a bar and restaurant to sit and sip wine and chat while we waited for my friend to get off work at a her nearby hostel. The streets were lined with bars and restaurants, and what I found interesting was that not every place served food!
We sat for a while and talked about how my trip had been. Ten days is a long time to have spent with someone, especially someone still relatively new...it occurred to me during this chat that this was the first time I had traveled with a lover since my ex husband two years prior. While I did spend most of my time in Croatia alone because he was at work...it was such a fulfilling feeling to have someone special in my life to share an experience with.
Though...I'd have to say, meeting Pamela from Skinny Chick Traveling was the best part of that day. It's not every day that you have the opportunity to meet a friend you've made online who lives across the Atlantic! She took us to her favorite bar, Swanky Monkey Garden. It was a really cool spot with fantastic drinks, and we had a blast getting to know each other in person!
If I ever make it back to Croatia, I hope to explore a little more - I often look back on those ten days and feel like a bit of an idiot for not just signing up for tours and things, to maximize my time there, instead of just hanging around Opatija waiting for my friend to get off work. Lesson learned - even while on vacation...don't get lazy!
Have you ever been to Croatia? I'd love to hear about it in the comment section!