A year ago I was in Europe and lately I’ve been thinking over some of the places that were the most memorable from that trip. If you read my travelogue posts from back then you already know the details of each place I visited, but I thought I’d do a series of short writing pieces over the next three or so weeks where I give my thoughts on particular cities or regions as a whole. I’m not going to talk about every location; just the ones that have been on my mind. The order that I write about them will be in the approximate chronological order of when I visited and each writing piece will feature two locations with a photo from the trip to accompany each of them. As a bonus, at the end of each writing piece I’ll note where I was, one year ago that day.
Zagreb is the capital of Croatia and one of the country’s three major cities (the others being Split and Dubrovnik). It is the most modern looking city of the three and I remember it also having the largest population of young people of all the places I visited in Croatia. Zagreb seems to be for Croatia sort of like what New York City is for America—the place where young people go to find jobs and keep up with all the latest trends. Even in the old town that youthful spirit pervades, with new, trendy shops and businesses popping up. I don’t normally eat fast food too often, but in Zagreb I found myself trying out some new places that I had never heard of before, like an establishment that specialized in pairing french fries with other foods. There’s also an outdoor market near Zagreb’s tallest church that I like to visit, though I’ve never actually bought anything. When you’re done sightseeing in Zagreb, and to be honest, there’s not too much sightseeing to do in Zagreb, you can make use of the city’s transportation hub to visit other places, like Plitvice Lakes National Park (which I highly recommend).
Split just might be the most appropriately named city in Europe. I don’t know what the name Split means in Croat, but it is quite fitting for a city that can’t seem to figure out what sort of town it is. A coastal resort town? A historic site? A modern city? An industrial port? Split is all of these things and more, but no single aspect dominates the city. This split personality (pun intended) does have the benefit, though, of allowing a visitor to easily do lots of different things in a single day. You can visit some old buildings in the morning, then have lunch by the sea, explore the modern part of Split in the afternoon before going for a swim, and after dinner you can hit the town for some nightlife. When I think of Split I also think of traditions, namely the ones that have developed from my two visits there. I always climb the hill west of the old town, I always grab a meal from a particular seaside restaurant, I always stay at the same hostel, and I always go for a swim at the beach near that hostel. Oh, and since this is Croatia, that meal by the sea costs a fraction of what it would have in Western Europe. I would never do such a thing in France.
On this day, one year ago, I was in Split, so how about that for a coincidence? I visited Diocletian’s Palace, hiked up to the top of the hill directly west of the old town, and even took a dip in the sea.