Zagreb, Plitvice Jezera, Rijeka, & Venice

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Wow. I realize I have a lot of catching up to do – haven’t really journaled anything since Prague! I’m on a lovely high-speed train from Venice to Florence – after a slight argument with some ticket agent about paying for a reservation. I’m so tiring of paying for things when I’ve already spent a fortune on a pass! My plaintive argument didn’t phase him….
So. after my Longest.Night.Ever I landed in Zagreb, Croatia and was immediately charmed. The train station is beautiful – built in the 1890’s with some Renaissance architecture; you literally walk right out to a view of King Tomislav monument (the first Croatian king – defending the country against Hungarian attacks and uniting all the Croatian territories) and the Art Pavilion. Beautiful! I found the city, peaceful & lovely: parks and fountains and of course, the old architecture that is what sets Europe apart from America. Typically, I got lost, which in this case was perfectly acceptable as I stumbled upon streets of little cafes and outdoor bars which made me wish I could stop and stay forever or at the very least have a drink with a good friend.
That afternoon I hopped on a bus for Plitvicka Jezera National Park, which had come highly recommended for its beauty. Being a outdoorsy, beauty-seeking addict I was determined to make it out there – I even booked a ridiculously expensive hotel right on the park grounds. The scenery was indeed breathtaking though the whole park is absolutely overrun with tourists and not worth really staying more than a few hours, in my ‘umble opinion. I headed to the “trails” – actually boardwalks all around the lakes – early to beat the crowds. So thankful for that decision! While there, i did enjoy a lovely dinner of grilled trout and a glass of wine. Croatians certainly know how to make fish! I met up with a Croatian tour bus driver and we ended up having lunch together – its been a lot of fun meeting people. I’ve had many “angels” on this trip – some in rough exteriors but who have guarded me & my belongings, pointed me in the right directions, saved me from hopping on the wrong train, provided me with good conversations and company etc etc. I’ve met many lovely Aussies, Brits and Americans as well as a ton of other people from all over.
I kinda didn’t know quite what I should do next, but after much mental debate, decided Dubrovnik, which EVERYONE can’t stop raving about, was too far South, so i boarded a bus for Rijeka, which is purportedly “nothing special” and “rather industrial”. well, poo to that. It had me hooked from the moment I got off the bus onto a well lit, clean, bustling, but perfect “town square” type street. I couldn’t have looked more like a tourist if I tried, wide-eyed and gazing around in wonder, camera in hand, alternating with looking lost and asking for directions. After wandering down a couple dark narrow streets, I found my hostel – was welcomed warmly, but after a few moments of confusion discovered I booked for the wrong nights. I was quite distressed but no worries, they totally took care of me and called another hostel and reserved a room for me. I loved my new place!! Right in the center of all the happenings and best of all – lots of food right around me:) It was perfect though – when I was working things out at the first hostel, I met a girl who was looking for a dinner partner. We were totally spoiled by our waiter at our seafood restaurant and enjoyed about the freshest fish you could have – boiled perfectly in an olive oil sauce, white wine, mangold (very much like American spinach) and, compliments of the house a delicious sweet dessert wine. (Anna, you would be in your element with that! 😉
Rijeka sits right on the Adriatic Sea and is stunning. Somehow the sunsets even have a unique look and color – just beautiful. I love all things boats and ocean so had a blast wandering around the docks in the morning taking in all the ropes and rust and sea air and colors.
Two of the most famous Rijeka sights are the Trsat Castle and the church high atop the city overlooking the harbor. The best way to get up there is to climb the 700 step stone stairway – worth every drop of sweat! The view was spectacular. I climbed all around the castle, exclaiming in delight and wonder, and just gazing all around me. One of my favorite moments so far. The island of Krk was my next delight – I wandered up and down sunny cobblestoned streets, sat on an old stone wall with my feet in the Adriatic just staring at the blue sea and wondering how in the world I really could be doing this – thinking a bit about the past and how really unbelievable this is that I’m here. Wishing for some great company though. I like being by myself, but far more enjoy sharing wonders with someone – I think beauty is meant to be shared. And as Lewis says, Friendship is born at that moment when someone says, “What?! you too? I thought I was the only one…” true statement. True friends love to share in common delights. On a lighter note, while we’re on a philosophical track, I had a moment of self-awareness: While I already knew I loved RED doors, I realized I am just obsessed with doors in general. They absolutely fascinate and delight me with their character – some with weird knockers or windows, some just weather beaten, some almost dwarf size – colors and styles and shapes. Needless to say, I was in my element along those little streets. Some of the architecture of Krk dates back to 2-300 BC. Much of Croatia is marked by Roman history and ruins.
I landed in Venice (see previous post for most dramatic transit yet) and, despite being absolutely exhausted, was delighted by the water and the buildings. I had something different in my mind. My hostel was located immediately on the main waterway and one of the first things I did was sit myself down at one of the little tables right by the edge of the water and consume an absolutely perfect Italian meal. The pasta and tiramisu totally made my day. The Italian waiters are huge flirts but completely lovely and I felt like a princess – was just the experience I needed on my fragile state of being at the time. I took the “Vapporetto” or water bus system over to Mirado to see the famous glass-blower/factory. I have always been fascinated by glass blowing and have to say, while its is completely impressive what this guy could do, it wasn’t anything by way of a fantastic demonstration or tour and I was so disappointed. We were shooed out of the shop in about 5 minutes with barely any explanation. I always have tons of questions, so left quite dissastified. I learned FAR more about glass from the friendly Tennessee lady on the boat over – she was great fun to talk to – comes over to Venice every year to buy Italian goods for her store and so is quite the wealth of information.
Enjoyed another seaside dinner over a glass of wine, taking in one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever experience and went to bed where I slept like a rock without waking up once – which, in a room shared by 9 people, just shows you how exhausted I was. I did pop a 10 of Ambien though which might have had a tiny bit to do with it;)
And here I am…almost to Florence… till next time, Ciao!!!!

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