By Nicholas J. Klenske
As a travel writer, I make my living by traveling and writing. As Kara and I set off for a week in Croatia, the plan is to do what I normally do: travel and write. No loafing.
In Zagreb, I am set to explore communist-era museums and off-the-beaten path parks. In Split, it is working on a story about Croatia’s developing eco-tourism efforts and expansive national parks.
And within the ancient walls of Dubrovnik, I am to spend my days exploring an island so magical it seduced Odysseus, have breakfast with Bosnia and wander into the newly established nation of Montenegro.
But like any well-intended plan, mine quickly unravels.
A Change of Plans
The plan begins its long spiral towards oblivion in Zagreb, where Kara and I realize this is the first time in months we are able to spend the greater part of the day together.
No early morning buses to catch. No Internet and emails to check. No errands to run and, most importantly, no work of any kind to be done — except for mine.
Locals traditionally gather around the statue of Ban Jelacic prior to heading out for the evening.
But instead of work, I want to stay up late and sleep in. And neither of us really wants to spend our days inside a museum — that just sounds like work.
So instead of an agenda, we opt to freelance our way through Zagreb, which essentially means doing nothing more than going to a café, ordering kava and beer, and spending the day enjoying the café culture of Croatia.
“I’ll just write about Split,” I think…
Relaxing Inside History
On our first day in Split it is raining and, the day after that, pouring. There is to be no swimming in rejuvenating streams, diving from towering waterfalls, or admiring azure mountain pools. Instead, it is deja vu as we make our way to a café for kava, beer, and conversation.
This time, instead of cobblestone city squares, we spend our day in the midst of Split’s sprawling Roman Palace and its romantic setting of marble tiles glazed with rain, moss-carpeted columns and, most importantly, the opportunity to relax inside history.
“Dubrovnik,” I think as I finish off a homemade walnut brandy. “I shall write about Dubrovnik.”
In Dubrovnik, the sun finally breaks free from its cumulous shackles, forcing the temperatures to spiral into a much-appreciated 80 degrees.
The streets suddenly became alive with a summertime vibe of anxious vendors, selective shoppers, and eccentric street performers.
Even the city’s population of half-million cats comes out to stretch and roll in the day’s warming rays.
No to Bosnia and Montenegro
Being easily seduced, I, like the cats, only want to roll around in the sun. Needless to say, there is no breakfast with Bosnia. Instead I spend my day lounging on a solitary rock that abruptly protrudes from the city’s outer walls.
Nor is there any chasing of Odysseus. Instead I spend the evening watching the sun paint the horizon into a watercolor mirage from the precipice of a cliffside bar.
And instead of discovering the landlocked nation of Montenegro, I spend my time falling in love with the seaside city of Dubrovnik.
Although this trip was completely devoid of any travel writing, for once, instead of the reality of computers, phones, emails, and deadlines- I see Croatia not as a story but for what it really is: ancient cities, cozy cafes, a shining sea and a disturbing overabundance of cats.
“Does this mean I am a failure as a travel writer?,” I ask myself. “Lazy, perhaps? Even incompetent?”
After all, even a travel writer needs a vacation.
Zagreb Tourist Office:
Nicholas J. Klenske is a freelance writer living in Brussels. His work has appeared in The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, New Haven Advocate, and Preview Magazine. He currently serves as Editor for BART International. Contact him through KlenskeInk.com.