Thursday, July 19, 2012

And so it begins...


...the final 2 months of my year off.  I landed in Budapest, Hungary last Tuesday afternoon and spent a few days there adjusting to the time difference, learning a little of the history and taking in the stunning architecture. From the castle, to the opera house, to the parliament building, each piece was more impressive than the last.

After a 7 hour train ride, the next country on the list was Croatia and the first stop was Zagreb, the capital. Another city filled with beautiful architecture, which I have been told has striking similarities to that of Vienna.  One of the first things I noticed about Croatia, which has continued to hold true in each city, is how immensely friendly the people are.  Everyone is so kind and eager to help, with or without strong English.  Like the stocky, older, matter-of-fact waiter at a local restaurant who basically said - "You want Croatian food, yes? Meat, yes? Wine, yes? Ok. I bring you good food" and proceeded to do just that. Traditional dishes (and not the expensive items on the menu, as a jaded traveler may expect) that were exactly what you would have wanted to try but wouldn't have known to order. Taxi drivers offering sites that you shouldn't miss, strangers stopping to ask if you are lost when they see you wandering through a (beautiful) maze of cobblestone buildings trying to find a street, people pointing out that you've left your sunglasses on the table as you walk away.  What a different travel experience this country is.

From Zagreb, another 7 or 8 hour train ride and the coast of Croatia appears in the window...um, wow. Absolutely stunning.  Green mountains, terracotta colored rooftops, and the bluest water.  The train ends in Split, a slightly touristy town, but all is forgotten when I'm sitting along the gorgeous Adriatic coast thinking that the next week will be spent visiting those beautiful islands in the distance.  A quick visit to a national park, a day at the beach, and a 2 hour ferry ride later, I am on the island of Hvar in the picturesque little city of Stari Grad.

This is such a quaint, peaceful place with cobblestone streets, sailboats docked along the coastline, forests of pine trees that in some spots go right down to the rocks along the water, crystal clear sea, and the most perfect weather imaginable. It seriously feels like this place was manufactured by Disney. I need to expand on the weather part because it's almost surreal.  It is 85ish every day, 70ish every night, perfectly clear sky (haven't seen the hint of a cloud in 3 days), constant breeze, and little to no humidity. I realize that everyone back in NY/NJ is cursing me right now because of the massive heat wave, and I apologize, but I've never been in such a perfect climate so I had to make mention.

I am going to try to get pictures up after I publish this post, but it depends on the bandwidth here so if you see links up on the left side, I succeeded. If not, I'll get them up the first chance I get.

~ N