While I observed the red smudged sky blending with the charcoal darkness, my bus kept moving on the narrow serpentine roads, pressing me against the glass barrier that separated us. Vivid colors that sculptured the mountainous landscapes where undergoing metamorphosis to become black terrains with golden ornaments.
Lights from distant houses kept growing remorse and jovial as I moved from the capital city to the southern tip. A ten minute crossover into Bosnia Herzegovina pulled my spirit back into my body, as I reassured numerous police officials about my legitimate harmless intentions of entering Croatia and received multicolored stamps on my passport.
Croatia, the country endowed with breathtaking wetlands, caves, natural parks and thick forests, would not even make to the top five of European travel destinations. Unsurprisingly, its beauty feels unadulterated and virgin. Thousands of islands linger along its western coast in the Adriatic Sea, as if being pulled by the gravitational force of the landmass. If you are a Game of Thrones fan, then Croatia is the real world destination of King’s Landing.
I was travelling on a budget trip to taste the offbeat aesthetic offerings of this European crossroad. After a long overnight train from Munich to Zagreb, where the passport and ticket checks kept me awake as we crossed Germany, Austria and Slovenia, the Mediterranean autumn wind swirling the abandoned leaves, pumped caffeine into my system.
A walk along the block tiled roads from station to the Ban Jelačić Square, also known as the central square, was enough to fall in love with the city. With its history dating back to the roman times, symmetrical gardens were delicately between medieval structures on both sides of the lane. Trams, foot travelers and cars maintained a harmony on this shared space while moving in a fashion that would fit a slow motion cinema. After my daylong affair with museums, I spent the entire evening listening to Eric Clapton covers played by a two-student band. A dangerous fire show with accordion music added a spike to my serene mood. The central square was swamped with artist as their protagonists watched keenly, holding wine and dropping silver Kuna’s, as the night unfolded.
Dozing off on another long bus ride next morning, I did not notice when my city landscape turned mountainous. I arrived at Plitvice Lakes National park, one of the first natural sites to be registered in the UNESCO World Heritage list. Throughout the day, the lakes mystified its observers, reflecting shades of blue, from dark to sapphire, smirched with moss-green. As I traced the narrow elevated wooden trail, I breathed beneath the sky-falling waterfalls and walked above the cloud reflecting lakes. With all my focus, I tried to memorize the view and headed towards the coastal city of Dubrovnik. While I believed that Croatia had already exceeded my expectations, old town of Dubrovnik challenged my assumption.
Tasting different cuisines at the food festival inside Kings Landing, I was tapping my foot on the base beats of the percussionists. Given the unusually warm afternoon, I went kayaking into the sea with a local group and heard their war stories and old tales. When a dip in the blue water almost numbed my senses, the guides surprised us with a daytime bonfire, burning spice leaves to add a flavor in the air. Pushing and pulling the pedal with every muscle in my arm, I waved adios to the drowning sun and kept gazing at the point where the crimson tint of the sky collapsed.
A click on the front panels and lights dimmed gradually. I kept looking outside the window, trying to trace the edges of the mountains. Croatia kept mesmerizing me even when I was exhausted to appreciate its beauty. Nothing could break my chain of thoughts and I kept mapping them to meet my true self. Home was still far away, but I had all the thoughts from this adventurous voyage, conversations with the fellow travelers and view from my window to accompany me until then.
Nikita is a Guest Author for LSD. She wrote this piece on her way back from Croatia when the unexpected beauty of the mystical land overpowered her imagination.
This post was originally published at Guidetrip