The Travel Year

Skip Navigation LinksTheTravelYear > Travelogue > Croatia

Stories from Croatia

Split, Croatia

Down South

timMy train hummed through Hungary towards the Croatian border yesterday evening while a captivating sunset played across the ripe summer crops of the countryside.

I poked my head out of the compartment window to smell the freshly mowed hay and to watch the floating wisps of milkweeds dance in circles down the side of the carriage. The endless rows of corn created a strange visual trick, seeming to wave me on to my next destination as if they knew it was my time to leave.

When night arrived I slept well, but awoke to find that yesterday's lush landscape had been replaced by the arid scrub land of coastal Croatia - a climate filled with stunted pine trees, rocky soil, farmhouses, olive trees, grape vines, and hard scratchy desert vegetation as found on the Greek islands.

I stepped off the train in Split and was approached by a middle-aged woman with a lazy eye and leathery tanned skin who offered me a great deal on a "private room" - the area's choice budget accommodation. The owner of the room was a laughing old man with a beer gut and a knack for talking to me in Croatian despite the fact that I clearly didn't understand what he was saying. I unpacked my bags and after a well-deserved shower, walked around town exploring all day.

Out by the waterfront, an old Roman facade impressively lined the street and overlooked cafes, palm trees, and manicured grass. Little boutiques and restaurants filled the labyrinthine alleys of the old city, catering to the many tourists who holiday here in the summer.

The area attracts an international crowd, I learned quickly, overhearing conversations between Hungarians, Bosnians, Germans, Austrians, Slovenians, and Croatians simultaneously.

I walked leisurely though town and then stopped at an umbrella-covered table for a coffee and some peaceful time to write. As evening came, the streets swelled with people eating ice cream to the sound of hundreds of sparrows flitting above the city. top

A view of Split's harbor from above. The Romanesque arches of a historic building in Split, the largest town on Croatia's Dalmatian coast. A clock tower in Split, the largest town on Croatia's Dalmatian coast. An unusual looking tree that thrives in the dry climate of Croatia's Dalmatian coast. Two windsurfers float on the Dalmatian coast's blue water near the resort town of Bol on the island of Brac (Brach). Families on holiday soak up sun and swim in the Dalmatian coast's blue water in the resort town of Bol on the island of Brac (Brach).

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Cool Breeze

timDubrovnik distinguished itself on my visit for two reasons, the first being the spectacular two kilometer walk around the old town along its protective walls. The view from 25 meters high couldn't be better, with blue Adriatic water on one side and a skyline full of red tiled roofs, chimneys, and church spires on the other.

The second reason was Dubrovnik's availability of nude beaches. I decided soon after I read of Croatia's famed nude beaches that I'd have to go to one - visiting, of course, in the spirit of taking another new experience home from my trip.

Plus, I admit, I thought it would be fun to write about.

So I started with the best of intentions, but spent yesterday with a woman from my hostel who I didn't want to strip down in front of. But we did go to a beach adjacent to the nude one and I had a chance to see first hand what to expect out of a visit.

A naked man stood proudly upright a few feet from us on the regular beach with body language that screamed, "I'm free! Look at me!" He walked along the rocky coast with his hands on his hips. I thought to myself, "I guess that is where you put them when you don't have pockets."

Twenty other men and women on the beach went about business as usual, just without clothes on. They called themselves naturalists and they looked natural, so natural in fact that I kept seeing a family of primates on the rocks instead of vacationing Europeans. Forget the use of tools, I thought, the use of clothing really distinguishes us from the apes.

I walked to a different nude beach the following day in full anonymity, unhampered by the company of any people I didn't want to see me nude. I wondered along the way if I could go through with it. Getting naked seemed so natural, but yet, I seldom even walk through a gym locker room without a towel on. And hell, I'd hate to be caught in a Speedo.

I spotted the beach from the cliff above and noted that everyone seemed to have the same "Look at me!" attitude exuding from their body language. Hand painted signs along the threshold of the gate warned visitors that they were about to enter a clothing prohibited area and featured icons of bathing suits with slashes through them.

I didn't know if I had to take my clothes off as soon as I entered or if I could break in slowly once unpacked on the beach. I envisioned "swinging freely" across a crowded beach full of people. My heart pounded nervously and, even though I knew in my head that nobody on the beach cared, I reached the door and chickened out, instead deciding to swim at the beach next door.

Maybe I'll start out slowly. I wonder, can I buy a Speedo around here? top

American Politics

timI missed the whole American election while travelling - the campaign, the debates, the rhetoric, the vote, the talking heads, the post election fighting, the swearing in, and as of tomorrow, the first six months of Bush's presidency. But I have kept up on political events through the internet and discussed political affairs with both locals and travelling Asians, Europeans, and Americans.

After more than fifty conversations, I've met only two people who like our new president - one of whom was sorry he voted for him. Come to think of it, the other supporter wasn¦t much better. He was just a 12 year old boy in India who liked Bush simply because his older brother liked Gore.

I'm obviously working with a flawed statistical sample, but even so, how did our new president get elected? Perhaps the rest of the world isn't too pleased with our choice and Americans who travel are more likely to vote for democrats. Hmm... there is probably a strong correlation between U.S. passport holders and Gore voters.

I'll have to return home before I can get the real story! top

Dubrovnik's old town is surrounded with an impressive 13-16th century wall that is two kilometers in circumference and up to 25 meters high. From this protected vantage point, guards once scanned the sea for invaders. Dubrovnik's old town, surrounded with an impressive 13-16th century wall that is two kilometers in circumference and up to 25 meters high. Up to two-thirds of the red tile roofs in the town were destroyed during the war in Croatia, but the town has since been restored to it's pre-war beauty. Dubrovnik's old town, surrounded with an impressive 13-16th century wall that is two kilometers in circumference and up to 25 meters high. Up to two-thirds of the red tile roofs in the town were destroyed during the war in Croatia, but the town has since been restored to it's pre-war beauty. Un unusual tree grows in the dry climate of Croatia's Dalmatian coast. Dubrovnik's old town, surrounded with an impressive 13-16th century wall that is two kilometers in circumference and up to 25 meters high.

Zagreb, Croatia

I'll Be Back

timI arrived to Zagreb on a night bus with the plan to spend only a few hours looking around town before catching a train to Slovenia. It didn't take long to figure out this was a mistake. Zagreb turned out to be quite a charming place with a feel somewhere between big city and comfortable small town.

The walk north from the train station passed by green parks and museums, while the central old section filled my eyes with lively canary yellow and peach colored buildings outlined in white trim. Many pedestrian-only areas made the city feel livable, with a fresh vegetable market that puts any supermarket to shame and a bewildering array of cafe tables to be found.

Wish I could have stayed longer, but I left to meet a friend in Slovenia. top

Passengers departing Zagreb's train station enjoy this green park and ochre building (Exhibition Pavilion, 1897) as their first glimpse of the city.