Croatia showed me what it means to explore. Although my entry into the country was less than stellar, almost dragged out.
We left Budapest behind in the morning dawn with a drowsy gusto on a 12-hour bus ride to Split. Whatever little enthusiasm we had turned to dust as the half-hour connection in Zagreb stretched to 5-hour delay.
We’d been on the road for 12 hours, with another 6-hour journey left to reach Split.
I’d given up on understanding local bus company’s (Crjna) excuses and redirected my anxiety on worrying whether we’d make it to Split before midnight.
But when we started the final leg of our journey, the evening colors wiped my exhaustion away. Croatia started to look brighter, reflecting its raw and untouched landscape.
My eyes kept following the expansive, beautiful countryside. Every passing view was euphoric. I knew I was meant to be there at that moment, absorbing this vastness.
We had 5 days to see Croatia. Not long, but enough to afford me an intimate glimpse of the country.
I’d drawn up an itinerary worth 2 nights’ sleep. I’ll make Split our base, rent a car, and roam the Dalmatian coast.
You see, Dalmatia was my version of heaven on earth, and I wanted to devour it as much as time would allow me to.
The first stop was Trogir (after exploring Split), a hauntingly stunning, quiet UNESCO town. When I entered, only the remnants of a glorious medieval past stood around me.
I never wanted to get lost, this fast. In those limestone marbled streets secluded from conversations. A first-of-its-kind feeling.
Raindrops began pouring down on my way back from the short wandering that left a warm aftertaste in my heart.
The next stop was Krka National Park. Where the Croatian waterfalls feel kind. As if they were flowing to soothe my heart and cleanse my mind.
Krka’s air was carrying calmness with it.
Being there, I understood what appreciating life within and around me meant. I experienced an endearing tranquility in the midst of a crowd, something I’d never known existed.
Sibenik was the unplanned detour on our drive back. A worthwhile one, with rainbows along the way. I saw narrower, definitely-scraping-my-car backstreets leading me to breathtaking views of the Adriatic Sea.
The much-awaited road trip to Dubrovnik started with heavy rain next day. I’d become a fan of Dalmatian coast even before seeing it. And just like under a spell, I got hooked instantly. To greener islands, orange-clad homes, and majestic mountain ranges enveloping a bluer infinity.
Each curve (and there were plenty) gave me an unusual thrill of knowing that these mountains, trees, islands became a part of me with every mile, even if it meant for a moment.
But I still felt a regret of leaving behind as we drove on.
I was happy and sad.
Dubrovnik’s Old Town (which takes your heart and legs as a sacrifice) looks like a place where ancient dances with the present in monochromes.
The Old Town is in its own dimension… a place floating on rocks. You feel light as air even though you’re surrounded by a plethora of humans, architecture, and (unforgiving) steps.
After spending some quality time with Lokrum Island’s too-cool-to-care peacocks, we found ourselves in a bar on rocks (no pun intended) called Buza Bar that served a phenomenal orange juice.
My hair and happiness were getting wilder with swaying wind as we sat down to face the infinite Adriatic. I was in clouds in Dubrovnik summer.
This feeling was my parting gift.
The last ride back to Split (and in Croatia) became the single most frightening drive of my life. As we re-entered Croatia from Bosnia & Herzegovina, the rainfall turned savage and strong wind began to rock the car. Even the radio became a distant hum compared to the barrage of raindrops on the windshield.
We made it back safely sans the flimsy umbrellas which did their best before breaking down right on our front porch.
. . . .
Croatia was what I imagined traveling to be: Pure, unhinged, scary, exhausting, and worth every damn
penny Kuna. This land took 5 days out of my life but gave me a happiness I’ll take to my grave. For the first time in 25 years, among others, I felt complete.