Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Travel: Pressing "Pause" in Croatia

As I snapped photos of Pater and our "Rome crew" -- daughter, son-in-law-granddaughter -- in Diocletian's Palace in Split a few evenings ago,  a young man offered to take one of all of us. Lovely result, no? I've had so many photos of myself that I delete as soon as I see them, always thinking, now, of Mme. Macron (read Sue's post for some thoughts on the ugly response to one unguarded moment, captured and circulated digitally).

We had such a good time with these guys in Split (and I have a camera full of images to prove it -- you can bet I'll be sharing some of those later). After we said good-bye to them, we headed up the road to Trogir (so, yeah, we barely moved, 20 kilometres) where we've been very relaxed. Good wine, copious seafood, a desultory walk in the morning before it gets too hot, another in the afternoon after it begins cooling down again, some exploration of the wealth of architectural history here, retreat to our charming little hotel room with books during the siesta hours, and more sketching and writing in my journal than I've had a chance to do for a while.

Honestly, I had to struggle a bit to give us permission to take this pause, but it's what we needed to get back to our own comfortable travel rhythm, to experience this new place in our own idiosyncratic way. There are so many places in Croatia that I'd thought we might get to, and many of those are within easy day-trip distance. Or we could have spent one night in Trogir, then moved on for another closer to, for example, Plitvice Park with its beautiful lakes and waterfalls -- I'd thought for sure we would have visited those. I'd solicited a list of suggestions as we planned the trip and I thought we'd have done a better job of ticking them off the itinerary.

Not our style, though, I've reminded myself. We've been watching tour group after tour group traipsing through the squares of this beautiful little city (a World Heritage Site for its historical architecture). They hit all the high spots very efficiently -- most of them managed to get in and out of Saint Lawrence Cathedral in ten minutes, their listening devices swinging from the red or blue or green tour-group lanyards that identified and unified them. But we saw very few people in the narrow, cobbled streets that twisted quiet trajectories behind the hotel and shop façades and café terraces of the more expansive and open spaces.

And those narrow, cobbled, winding lanes revealed their secrets quietly only to those of us willing to slow down, to sit with a coffee or a juice or water or glass of wine at the table of a smaller venture. Sit and watch, sketch a window detail in a journal that no one but me will ever see, listen to the screech of swallows swooping for insects above us, marvel at the occasional one speeding through these architectural canyons at door-lintel heights with Star Wars élan.

This is not to say there isn't a time and a place for both kinds of travel, nor to scorn those tour groups. At our usual slower pace of travel, we wouldn't have managed to move through four countries in three weeks, getting a taste of Slovenia, a slightly more sustained impression of Croatia. Three days in Venice wasn't enough, no, but if we'd waited until we could spend an entire week there, we wouldn't get to it for some time.  On the whole, this trip has involved more moving than I'm truly comfortable with, but maybe travel shouldn't/can't always be comfortable, maybe there's an inherent discomfort that's eventually worthwhile, even productive.

And we're moving back into that more speeded-up travel for our last days of this trip, with one driving day, two different beds in two different cities, and two flights (one short, one long) before we're home again. So for now,  as sorry as I am that I missed so many of the Croatian sites and sights I thought we'd see, I'm glad we took advantage of an opportunity to slow down. . . Balance, right? It always comes back to balance, doesn't it?

Note that while I'm not posting many photos on the blog right now, I post a few each day on Instagram, where you're very welcome to follow along.


  1. A lovely post . My kind of traveling , wander the back lanes , rest at little cafes , soak up the atmosphere , stroke the cats & dogs , smile at the locals . Perfect .
    Wendy in York

  2. How sensible. Sometimes we don't stop and 'smell the roses' on our travels. So important to take time and enjoy, particularly in the heat. Plus you have been very busy with you itinerary so far. Lovely family photo of you all. B x

  3. I like the way you are mixing it up on this trip, some speed walking and some ambling......


  4. I'm glad that you took the time to read and sketch and write. Although sometimes we need to do sightseeing holidays, I am a big fan of "slow travel". I find that I get tired and irritable if I miss "alone time." That's a lovely picture of the family. Now I have go and see what Mme Macron said. Enjoy your last few days.

  5. Lovely family photo!
    I'm a great fan of slow travel (although I've had some very speed ones ,too),just for the pleasure
    Yes,I would miss a lot of places,but there are some I love and want to pretend to be a loca for a couple of days
    I love Trogir very much

  6. Your daily schedule (or lack thereof!) sounds great.I'm glad you are getting some down time - it's been a busy trip. Lovely photo!

  7. I love reading your thoughts on the pace of travel, and that picture is wonderful to behold. I will be traveling myself shortly and I am hopeful that our careful schedule has been designed to provide the flexibility to allow those narrow lanes to reveal their secrets.

  8. We travel the same way. Slowly, knowing we may miss some things but we try to enjoy the moment. Sounds like your location was ideal for your reflective days. Thank you for posting, Suz from Vancouver

  9. Balance is the name of the game for me. Life has other ideas at times, of course, but balance is the goal. As you are enjoying your travels by moving, then resting and, then luxuriating in the company of friends and family, seems like it has been a huge success.

    Your granddaughter looks exactly like YOU! Had never noticed that before.

    Do hope your knee has not caused too much problem. Such a drag to have to work around a slight injury when travelling. London

  10. The best part of vacation is discovery. I don't want someone to guide me - I want adventure and to move at the pace of my choosing. So I'm with you.

  11. Lovely photo of you all.

    And for me, I like a ratio of 3:1, even 5:1, of wandering and serendipity, to SEEING OF THE SIGHTS. So I'd have slowed down too, gladly, when you did. I don't mind moving from place to place, but I do mind moving from thing to thing, if that makes sense.

  12. Oh! What beautiful moments you've had and described for us. My breathing softened while reading this post. Your observations and your writing are so lovely. Thank you.


  13. I have loved catching up with your travels and have shared many of your thoughts about travel, fast or slow, as we have done more travelling in this last year. For me the secret is not to sit on the surface and that's really hard. What often helps is to know someone who lives in the place you are visiting so how wonderful to spend time with dottoressa! We visited Croatia for several years after it opened up again after the civil war from about 97. I love trogir, truly one of the world's beautiful cities. On our sitting room wall is a huge print of one of ians photos taken from the top of the cathedral tower and a poster of part of the detail of the carving around the great door.

    1. What a good way to put it, yes -- "not to sit on the surface." We felt very lucky to be able to see the city through Dottoressa's eyes, get glimpses of what it might be like to live there. Our experience of many cities has been merely fragmentary, but I like to think that the fragments have heft, depth. In Berlin, we missed so much, but much of what we did see was at a toddler's pace, and again, we got a sense of what it might be like to live there, with a small child. . .
      So you (or at least Ian) climbed to the top of that tower? I decided I couldn't even bear the first squeezy spiral staircase part (the thought of meeting someone going the opposite way, ugh, one of us having to back up or down), never mind the open stairs (not much more than ladders from what I could gather) didn't appeal. But I'd love to have taken a photo like that. What a richness that must bring to your sitting room.


I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we?

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