It was me, Croatia, not you.
I had been obsessed with visiting Croatia for a weirdly long time. Weird because it’s in Europe so it really shouldn’t have taken me so long to get there. But it did. The obsession started when I was maybe ten years old and visiting Prague with my family. One night the streets filled with sad drunken football fans and when I asked what all the commotion was about, my mom explained that the Czech football team had just lost to Croatia.
“Where’s Croatia?” I wondered.
Croatia. I liked the sound of it!
And just like that, suddenly Croatia was all I could think about. Yet somehow my family missed (ignored??) my hints that we had to go there, and then my travels kept taking me to silly, faraway from Croatia places like Asia instead.
So I’m sure you can imagine my excitement when I stepped off the train from Sofia, finally in Croatia!
Except, maybe you can’t, because it turns out my enthusiasm went from low to pretty much dead within my first few days in Croatia.
I have four guesses.
1. Dan only spent a night in Zagreb and then flew back home to London, so I was left alone and lonely.
Nonsense! You guys know I love solo travel, plus I had been really looking forward to making Dan super jealous with my stories from Croatia when we reunited in Norway.
2. The hype around Croatia has grown a lot since I first started to daydream about visiting, and after hearing and reading so much about it from other travelers, I was sort of over Croatia before even going.
Am I really such a travel snob that I could dismiss a place just because it’s not still “undiscovered” or “off the beaten path?” Um, I’d rather not think about the answer to that question, but I will note that I probably should have ventured farther than Zagreb and Split.
I only had five days in Croatia, and as the cheapest flight to Norway left from Split, I decided to spend all my time there. One of my biggest qualms about Croatia was that there were SO many tourists and it felt a little too polished for my taste, but I’m pretty certain that if I had made it outside of the country’s party hub I wouldn’t have felt that way at all. Whoops.
3. I should have made Croatia the start of my Balkans tour, not the finish.
I’m certain that if I had visited Croatia before the other Balkan countries I would have adored it. Instead, I found myself constantly comparing Croatia to its neighbors. Yes, the food was good, but the food in Kosovo and Albania was better! Yes, people were friendly, but they were even more friendly in Serbia! And yes, the seaside was nice, but in Montenegro it was even nicer!
Was that fair of me? No. Because…
4. It was actually all about timing.
While buying our train ticket from Sofia to Belgrade, Dan and I were swept aside by a group of American teenagers rushing to book seats with their Eurorail passes on the train to Greece, which was leaving in five minutes. That night, we shared our sleeping compartment with a 19-year-old student from Canada who was on his first summer backpacking trip.
After five months of traveling during off-season, we had finally entered tourist season. So many people! And why were they all so young?
To say I missed the peace and quiet of nearly empty hostels where I felt that Dan and I were the only travelers around would be an understatement. I missed feeling special! And while I realize how immature that just sounded, I also felt like a total grandmother next to all the teens who had suddenly showed up.
When we planned a journey through Mongolia and Siberia in the dead of winter and a tour through Eastern Europe through April showers, I had thought Dan and I were a little insane. But now I realize that our timing couldn’t have been better. We avoided the crowds and higher prices, got to stand on a frozen Lake Baikal, and enjoyed warm, but not yet too hot days at the beach at the end of spring. It was pretty perfect.
Croatia, unfortunately, was less perfectly timed.
5. I fell asleep at the finish line.
I’ve never been good at final sprints – I’m more of a senior slide kind of girl. Like that time in university where I stayed up all night finishing a term paper, but then slept through my Russian exam the next morning.
With the end of a long journey in sight, I was too distracted by thoughts of my grandmother’s amazing cooking and lazy days in the Norwegian mountains to give Croatia the attention it deserved.
The lesson? I’ll simply have to give Croatia a second chance!
If you’ve been to Croatia, I would love to hear where I should visit next time I go!