Part I: The Story
In which I discover my two favorite countries completely by accident.
Hey, how do you feel about geography? As a concept, I mean. When I was a kid I was into it. WAY into it. I got straight As in the subject, and maps of the world adorned my walls where other girls had Duran Duran posters. With the writing literally on the wall, you would think I could have seen this whole “travel life” thing coming.
Then — hello 1990s! —I grew up and got distracted by technology. While Yugoslavia was embroiled in war and struggle, way over on the other side of the planet the internet had me wrapped in a warm bear hug of abundance, belonging, and massive tunnel vision. So enchanted were my peers and I with the new worlds we were creating everyday, that I hardly ever looked up from my computer screen.
I mean that literally. I would wake up, settle down in front of my computer with a double cappuccino, design and build sites all day, take a break to check out which startups were IPOing, skim the recruitment offers from headhunters, attend happy hours where half the attendees were 23 year old CEOs, sleep, then get up and do it all over again. This was my normal. What can I say? The ’90s was a weird decade. As for travel, it was something I only did for business and usually grumbled about. Who are these people who travel the world, I wondered, and what do they do without internet access?
As for maps, I was vaguely aware the lines had been redrawn. That some countries in Europe didn’t exist anymore, and that um, “things” had happened around Yugoslavia. At the time I couldn’t have told you what those things were. My version of the news was listening to Marketplace on NPR. And so my esoteric life tripped merrily along for another decade.
Skip forward to this January, when I booked a trip sailing the Croatian coast for two weeks with a stop beforehand in some place called Slovenia — and having no idea where either one was.
My lack of knowledge bothered me. Why don’t I know this stuff anymore? I thought.
I knew it would work itself out; I wasn’t completely ignorant. For instance: I was aware that Croatia was a country, it was somewhere in Europe, and it wasn’t landlocked because sailing. I couldn’t have told you precisely where it was located; but worse I didn’t even know Solvenia was it’s own country. I guess I thought it was a region of Croatia? Or maybe somewhere around Romania?
Cringe. The girl I used to be slowly shook her head at me from across the room. Then she flipped me off and thew a Lonely Planet guide at me. Or would have, if she existed outside my head.
I was a bit unsure of what I was getting myself into. Once I actually arrived and sussed out what was what, I became smitten with both countries. Both are modern, safe, and spotlessly clean with ubiquitous free wifi and friendly people. I was surprised — and beyond embarrassed at myself for being caught out as a typical ignorant American. This was not acceptable.
Compelled to make up for lost time, I challenged myself to learn everything there was to know about these two countries. Obviously, I had no idea what I was in for. Timewise, “history” means something completely different in Europe.
The Croats’ history dates back to the 9th century. Before that the area was ruled by the Illyrians, Greeks, and Romans around the 5th century. Can you even wrap your head around how long ago that was? Because I can’t. I’m from Silicon Valley; if something is 50 years old, we consider it ancient and irrelevant. We are a forward-looking people; we invent the future. The past is… I don’t know, back there somewhere probably. But in this region, the past and present sit majestically side by side. You can’t miss it. It is glorious.
At many points during my adventure, I found myself standing on streets and atop massively thick walls built by the Roman Empire. Yes, that Roman Empire. Also: touched stone blocks that had been placed there nearly a thousand years before …walked on limestone streets polished to a shine by several centuries of foot traffic …wandered olive groves older than America. My head exploded on a daily basis. You get used to it.
This became my new normal.
In those two weeks, I snapped over 3,500 photos so I wouldn’t forget anything. And speaking of photos, I’ll sign off now so I can get to creating Part II: The Photos. Expect picturesque mountain scenes, boats in every size and shape, and limestone cliffs towering over an endless blue sea.
Have a great week, I’ll see ya back here for part two next Wednesday. Also, The Sunday Post this week is the Giving Edition featuring the Goats of Anarchy. Be sure to check it out.