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Adventures to the unknowns of Croatia

My Travel Writing Scholarship 2011 entry - My Big Adventure

WORLDWIDE | Monday, 28 March 2011 | Views [476] | Scholarship Entry

After backpacking my way around the West for a few months, I was ready for a different taste of Europe, one that was not teeming with tour groups and overpriced attractions. My initial plan was to see the seascape of the Dalmatian Coast but poor weather drove my travel buddy, Kelsey, and me inland, to the real heart of Croatia: Zagreb. Leaving behind my guidebook that would render to be useless once across the European Union line, we climbed onto the evening train in Vienna that would take us on an inexplicable detour through Austria, landing in Salzburg where we were to catch a night train to Croatia.
We boarded the train, found a compartment for ourselves and decided to take shifts of staying awake through the night after hearing some horror stories of night trains. With Kelsey being exhausted, I took the first shift. Unable to wake her after a few hours, I took the next shift as well. When we hit Slovenia, my own exhaustion was secretly thanking her for not waking up. As we cruised through the southern valleys, I experienced the most breathtaking sunset of my short nineteen years. The steady hum of the train mixed with a framed sun between the silhouetted mountains was a warm welcoming into Eastern Europe. Or so I thought.
Not a half an hour later we hit the Croatian border where domineering border guards who spoke no English were surprised to find two young Canadians on their train. After some improvised charades, we were off into Croatia. We planned on stopping in Rijeka, but with no desire to stop there and a travel-mate who was still out cold, I didn’t rouse her and stayed en route to Zagreb. To say the least, she was surprised when she finally woke up. I was on a mission though: to make our way to Plitvice Lakes National Park, something I had seen in the newspaper a few years prior. Dragging Kelsey along, we found the bus depot filled with unhelpful people and continued our journey for another five hours to my final destination.
To say that it was all worth it is an understatement. Plitvice is almost mind boggling with surreal beauty. With calcium infused, turquoise rivers and pools, I felt like I was in parallel universe. Our hike through the UNESCO World Heritage site caught us off guard with regard to the time, and realizing how many hours we had explored mystified, we had missed the last bus back to the city. We were left in middle-of-nowhere Croatia with nothing but a sketchy path through a bombed out forest to a miniscule town with no hostels. So we worked up our courage, knocked on the door of a random house and were met by an amazingly welcoming woman who, after another game of makeshift charades, allowed us end our strenuous yet incredible journey in the comfort of her home.

Tags: #2011Writing, Travel Writing Scholarship 2011

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