Croatia: an introduction

For the past two and a half years, I’ve found that in addition to writing and reading, traveling to new places and exposing myself to new people, food, cultures and customs provides a measure of solace and relief to the angry grief that gnaws silently and sometimes voraciously upon my heart, and thus my life. The more of the world I see and learn about, the greater my understanding of the universal plight of suffering we as humans all endure to some degree at one time or another.

In the immediate aftermath of my son’s death I went to Spain and walked the Camino de Santiago de Compostella, a well-known and heavily traversed path of primarily spiritual intent for the bulk of its hikers. In my case, I was seeking merely a long – a very long – walk. Since then, I’ve been to New Zealand, Central Europe, and a few countries in Asia. Along the way I’ve met almost entirely friendly and good-hearted people, and even managed to make a few new friends.

Last night I landed in Croatia, wanting to be some place cheap (I’m living off my one remaining credit card so unfortunately that fact dictates the choices available to me) and warm. So far, cheap it is proving to be, with bus fare from the airport in Zagreb to the city center at ~$4, an Uber ride to my lodging at less than $2, and private accommodation through Airbnb at less than $25 a night (not as cheap as Asia but, alas, where is?) At a nearby neighborhood market today I found a bottle of red wine and one of Chardonnay for 10 kuna (slightly more than $1) each; the white is traditional glass with a cork while the red is in a plastic bottle with screw top. I tried them both this evening and although the white is slightly better, the red has nothing to be ashamed of.

Warm, Zagreb is not, at least not as warm as I was hoping for. It’s raining this week to boot. It is Spring, I remind myself. Warm will come.

I stopped in Toronto on my way here to spend a few days with a friend I met on The Camino. The flight to Toronto, delayed 4 hours due to weather conditions in Canada, took off to the west, just as the sun was going down. It is the first time in all my years of flying that I can say, with neither cliche nor metaphor in mind, I flew off into the sunset. The sky above the clouds quickly grew dark and heavy with mist and I lost all sense of direction, but almost immediately the setting sun outside my little porthole of a window was replaced with the full (or damn near close to full) moon. Nature is more romantic than any man I’ve known for some time.

On the flight from Toronto to Zagreb via Istanbul, Turkish Airlines made every announcement first in Turkish, then in English, then in French. Each and every announcement began: “Ladies and gentlemen and dear children.” More than a few of us smiled at this original greeting.

To those of you looking for something to read, I recommend The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce. Fiction.

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