The breeze feels cooler than on a normal Middle Eastern summer night. The moonlight is lightening my room or maybe it’s just my ever working neighbor, deciding if he starts or ends the day. I barely hear the call to prayer, I got too used to it. Now the only call even louder is the call for travelling. It grows like a green monster inside my heart, biting into my flesh, with every beet.
The butterfly are missing though. I should be feeling excited, nervous, but instead I feel like I am about to take a plane until, around the corner, have a check on whats going on in the neighborhood.
Since when, the world became my own neighborhood? Too much travelling can do that to you I guess, offer you a fake sense of World-Wide entitlement. Or maybe is not fake after all, and fake is the social boundary of ” That is not your home, you are in foreign territory”.
Foreign is just, that, which we decide not to take knowledge of and welcome it into our life.
I don’t feel like a tourist anymore. Tourists are gathering pictures and magnets of places they look at, as spectators on a animation show, and move on to the next spot.
I gather moments and feelings, I expect nothing but accept everything as it is. I expose my naked soul and let each place dress it in the most suitable color. So if you feel the same, shell we call ourselves a ” friend” visiting a neighbor?
Having that in mind, I head to the airport, waiting for the plane as I am waiting for my taxi to take me somewhere I need to be. And in the morning I’ve just decided, I need to be in Croatia.
This isn’t a long planned trip but a last minute plan change. I had my apartment booked and the Krka park tour, and the rest will be decided on the spot.
I prefer to have a base for my trip, a one day plan to offer some sort of control over the situation, however the world can be beautifully unpredictable, so I leave some space for creativity.
After two movies I reach Zagreb. My favorite cinema is up above the clouds, so I just gave you the best movie date tip.
Is 6 am and the sun has just won the battle over the night, and as a lost solider, a cool breeze is trying to fight my hat.
I grab my small bag and head to the bus.
Lately my bag is getting smaller and smaller. With every country I travel, I seem to need less things. Around me, people are loaded with bags, as if they have just moved to a new place, making me feel awkwardly light.
Split is where I have decided to stay for the next five days, the second biggest city in Croatia after Zagreb and the biggest Dalmatian city. Split attracts thousand of tourists every year, but the surroundings of the city are what truly makes the place, a magnet.
The buss leaves us in front of the waterfront, the heart of the city. I am now in the middle of a frenetic mass of people, everyone looks so busy, carrying their bags up and down the streets, walking as if late for something, and I can not but wonder, what is making all this people ignoring the beauty under their own noses.
Inpatient and ready for adventure as always, I leave my bag at a luggage storage near the buss station, dump my hotel check-in and head off, in search for my “neighbors”
At every corner tourist agencies offer countless tours: Blue caves, 6 islands package, Plitvice park, Krka park, Dubrovnik, Hvar, city tour, kayaking, they even offer skateboarding lessons on the corniche.
I am suddenly glad I left plenty of space for new discoveries, but first I’ll get acquainted with Split.
I haven’t yet encountered a more efficient place than this. Everything one needs to do and see is packed up along the sea line. At one end, the tourists are choosing between bus, boat or train, and is where the show kicks in. Feelings of joy or sadness are poured over the smell of cheep booze and salty hair. Leaving or arriving, there is no way you could skip it.
Getting past the busy crowd, the atmosphere seem to cool down a few degrees and the day starts passing at a slower peace. I cross the street and enter the small alleys of the Diocletian Palace. Intended for the personal use of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, the Palace covers a major part of the city center and is now used as a market place, and a commercial area.
There is no aim in my steps but feeling every stone, my eyes are glittering across faces, lost in history and wonder and I can feel the confusion floating around. How shell we approach a place like this, with interest over the history, with excitement over seeing something new, with marvel in front of the beauty of the construction? There is no satisfactory answer but your own, and I choose to remain open to every story unfolding itself in front of my eyes.
The best stories are written on the stairs of the main Palace Hall, near the Bell Tower. People gather on the steps, now transformed into one of the most famous cafeterias in the city, asking for their coffee, as if waiting for something to happen, not realizing that they are playing the main act in the scene.
The time passes faster than I would like it to, and soon the sun starts to hide its worm light, leaving just a trail starting in a pool of nostalgia and finishing at my feet.
I reach the apartment late afternoon, just to discover an old apartment building, with no reception or any kind of identification attesting I am in the right place. The economy has driven people to rent their own apartment, however, when I finally get to see the place, I could not be happier for my bargain.
Oh my, this bed is comfortable. I meditate for what felt like a few seconds, upon the cozy feeling and soon my alarm clock drags me off the bed. My pre-booked tour is waiting.
Krka Park hides one of the most famous waterfalls of Croatia, the only thing I actually knew about the country’s nature until this trip. The park was named after the Krka river that it encloses, and is situated on the Sibenik-Knin country, the first Dalmatian territory.
Now sounds even more interesting, and the excitement grows with every step descending into the core of the forest. Pathways through the thick forest, bridges over the unrealistically still river arms, in which hundreds of fishes look like they forgot how to swim and instead rest as statues, starring into nothingness. It feels like the silence before a storm, the forest seem ready to attack, containing its movement, saving its energy.
Far into the distance, we hear the monster growling. Our feet rush to the origin of the sound and the image strikes us. Hundred of people seem to be winning the battle, while the waterfall stands tall, unmercifully throwing her arms with enormous force. Some defies it and climbs its rocky walls for than to jump into its heart, some are just lavishing in its waters.
The view is outstanding, out of a postcard, and I find myself a grass bed under the nearest shadow and for a while, loose myself in admiration.
It is long past afternoon, and even if, I wish I could build my house on that forest and live there forever, it’s time to head back to Split, however not before we bath our spirit in a sip or two of local wine.
I pass the main square of the Diocletian palace, the sun is down for a while now, but the moon is guiding my steps. Maybe the small street across the park will take me to the hotel.
The coziness of the bed drags me to another world, and I surrender.
Why did I choose a wine tasting, the night before my 6 am wake up call, remains an enigma, however my alarm clock seems to care less about my mental struggle and shouts its order to wake up.
I have chosen the Plitvice tour, while wandering carelessly around the Diocletian Palace on my first day in Split. The girl at the tour agency, a small, good humored dalmatian, tried to guide me into the countless offers, and we couldn’t but burst into unstoppable laughter at my stubbornness in encountering a tour which let me climb the mountain, out of the designed pathways. There is none apparently, and my keen interest seem to diminish as soon as I heard the range of snakes existing in the Park’s woods.
I always say that solo traveling, doesn’t mean that one will be alone in a country far away from any human contact, lonely and isolated. By contrary, is an opportunity to connect and allow people in your life, people which, by traveling with your friends, you would have ignored.
Solo traveling is a way of setting yourself open, in front of the world and its beauty.
As expected, Croatia is no exception, and soon after our departure from Split, two British friends, a solo Australian traveler and I, start bounding over our accents. Our interaction went from guessing our origins, to marvel over the beauty of the place for later on, to share stories about life and dreams about future.
Plitvice, a UNESCO World Heritage, is one of the oldest National Parks in Southeast Europe, and the biggest National Park in Croatia. The Park is known for its Lakes, separated by natural dams of travertine, formed through deposited algae, moss and bacteria. The bacteria and calcified plants are accumulating on top of each other and are forming natural barriers at a rate of 1 cm per year. Pretty fascinating.
We have walked for hours now, nobody knows how many, we are too hypnotized by our surroundings. we step with care, as not to disturb the nature. At every corner, as playing hide and sick, a waterfall is jumping playfully, making our hearts beat in a continuous dance. The lakes, of a Emerald color, I never thought possible, hide a world of its own. Some of us decided over a panoramic view from one of the highest pick, while others are waving from their boat, passing by, looking like the nature is about to take them prisoners into its heart.
A experience like this, needs a book to have its justice, and the best book to write in, is a open heart.
Imagine you are in the best bookshop you know, and you have a limited amount of time and just a few books you are allowed to buy. We tend to choose books, unconsciously trying to find confirmation to already existing ideas, or the ones we think we will enjoy most, but this habit is pushing us in the same comfort zone, we are trying to escape from.
I feel the same every time I travel. So many things I can do and see, but I need to choose the ones which will broaden my perspective the most. Therefor, for the next two days I let myself carried away.
I have no plan, or better said I disregard everything my organised self has been subtly trying to suggest.
Whiteout giving myself time to analyse the options, I head to Hvar, one of the biggest islands of Croatia and find myself with a ten hours credit, to spend at my leisure. In five hours I have walked every small street, enter a few churches, pray for my sins, climbed a hill, got my feet full of bruises and had a coffee standing on a museum tank. the challenging part has yet to come; what to do with the next five hours?!
Repetition is the mother of learning they say, so I head back.
I am following my own steps and still, everything seems different, a new light is covering the island. First time, I have seen the place, now I feel it, I feel its vibes, its symphony.
It’s fascinating how everything changes when we surrender, when we refuse to project into it our own concept of reality, our fears and limitations.
When we refuse to think in terms of time and space, a relatively small place, becomes endless.
I keep the feeling of those ten hours as a wake up call, for every time I start over-planning, I remember to…Surrender.
“Life is short, make the most of it!” a wise man once said, and he died trying to plan for living.