A Croatian holiday
I recently took another dent into my vacation balance to cater to my wanderlust as well as familial obligations and found accomplices in Jordan and Jumbo (more on that later). The itinerary, which finally emerged to cover 11 cities in a period of ~24 days, can by no means lay claim to have been a relaxing vacation.
New York>London(stopover)>Croatia(Zagreb>Plitvice>Split>Hvar>Dubrovnik)>Montenegro(Kotur>Budva)>Zagreb>India(Mumbai> Delhi>Patna> Sitamarhi> Patna> Delhi)>London (stop over)> New York
|Trip Itinerary (Image Credits: Saberi Knakon)|
In short, we went to Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia (serendipitous visit due to border control on way to Dubrovnik in Croatia) and India. While travels through these European nations individually merit a blog, the contrast in my experiences in India forced me to break this piece down into multiple pieces. I would like to expound on the gallivanting feast that the Adriatic nations were first; and then, I want to elaborate on my self-proclaimed pilgrimage (this time triennial) to my home town Sitamarhi, in Bihar (India). Interesting that I felt like a tourist in both places; difference being that I started to feel at home in one and, in the other, I was home.
A Croatian Holiday: Prologue
Most good things happen to me in the month of September (well, mostly because it’s my birthday J). This year, with me poised to hit the big 30 number, had all the makings of a high pressure event. However, a Croatian holiday, like all beautiful things in life turned out to be happenstance. While I had increasingly heard of Croatia as being a romantic and gorgeous destination, I wanted to see the veracity of those claims for myself. It's active nightlife helped convince my accomplices Jordan and Jumbo (yes, the explanation is coming!) even though they were bummed to have missed the yacht week (a week of celebrating “must drink and sail” with partying, regattas and all forms of debauchery in spring/summer).
Geopolitical History: Croatia by virtue of its geographic location has an exhaustive coastline along the Adriatic sea (Dalmatian towards the east) which adds an azure background to this already gorgeous country and my pictures can vouch for that. Top that off with lovely weather (it was balmy in October) and and bounties from nature, and you have all the makings of a perfect Croatian holiday.
|Dubrovnik, Croatia (Image Credit: Mudit Sharma)|
For most of us, who did not start tweeting till their 20s or still aren’t tweeting or twerking, talking of Croatia, Bosnia, and Yugoslavia brings up a faint memory of the turbulence in this region in the 90s. So, I found myself trying to brush up on the region’s history while enjoying the free wi-fi. To my surprise, Croatia is a newbie Independent nation and is still trying to establish its political and economic space. It’s one of the newest entrants to EU (July 2013) and hence in the interim Kuna (Croatian currency)/ Euro and Croatian Visa/ Schengen co-exist.
Digging a bit deeper aka drinking with locals and reading some more, here is what I understood –
While Croatia has had brushes with the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empires in its past, it’s mostly been under Hungarian or Austrian rule since 12th century. However, post-World War II, the allied forces in their adult version of play-doh created an amalgamation of several ethnic groups into one country as Yugoslavia which suffered from inherent instability but stayed together under Marshall Tito’s rule. Tito’s death in 1980, disintegration of USSR in early 1990s, and growing ethnic factionalism eventually forced this region to break down. Several territories claimed independence including Croatia which declared Independence in 1991. However, this led to the “Croatian war of Independence” which lasted till 1995. Post this war, started the process of recovery, stability and alignment with the European Union.
The Culinary Trails: Croatia teases, titillates and most importantly satiates you with the freshness and flavor of its produce and regional specialties. We feasted and hogged on Strawberries from Zagreb, oysters from Dubrovnik, Istrian truffles(my fav), Dalmatian lobsters, Slavonian Kulen (sausages), Croatian wines… the list is endless (more in follow up pieces). Being a New Yorker, I often start slating people or places into fads like “au natural”, “agro tourism” but it was a happy realization that fresh ingredients is the way of life there. Most importantly, wining and dining is all deliciously affordable (3 dollars for a drink in bars/ clubs and 30 dollars for a sumptuous meal at best restaurants for a ballpark).
Adventures of Jordan, Jumbo and Coco: What is travelling if not an opportunity to reinvent yourself or not be your usual self? Hence, one of boy’s travel quirks is to don a new persona for each trip. Thus were born the pseudonyms Jordan(boy), Jumbo(friend) and Coco(yours truly) and the entire trip translated into adventures of the trio. Some bought it, some asked for our real brown names and some just played along acquiescing to our vacation brains. Surprisingly, it was liberating and we ended up making more friends, downing more rakijas (Croatian local drink of anise seeds, similar to Grecian ozo and Turkish raki), dancing till sunrise, and most importantly, just breaking free where Jumbo could be a dancer, Jordan could be a street performer and well Coco could be coco because she is awesome. (I mean Chanel :P)
The Travelogue: The trip had obvious goals for friends to reconnect and take a break from the rigmarole per usual; however, it evolved into different things for the three of us. A chance at freedom before any form of domestication, a celebration (consolation for the pessimistic times) of turning 30, a place to re-assess life plans, a journey to learn and grow together, an attempt to push the limits physically and consciously.. and more. All this in addition to the usual love affair for the journeys to new and unknown on earth, and within mind and soul.
Thus began the epic trip where sometimes we took flights, sometimes trains, other times we rented a car or took a ferry and sometimes our car went into a ferry and so on. I will go out on a limb here and state that Croatia is one of the most tourist friendly countries you will ever visit, be it the intuitive maps, explicit and detailed directions, helpful and warm locals or their fluency in English. Zagreb was the starting and focal point of our journeys and more on that in the follow up piece to this.....