Thursday, May 27, 2010

I Found Trullo in Croatia

I've wanted to go to Croatia for a really long time. I read once, in Conde Nast Traveller (my Bible), that Croatia is the new chic destination of Europe. At least it was six years ago. I remember thinking then, when becoming a travel writer was my loftiest goal, that I had better get to Croatia to get a leg-up on the hip travel trends. There are actually trends, in traveling. During my second trip to Italy I begged my parents to take me to Croatia, but the four hour car ride was not in my cards during that trip. When I wrote up my list of 25 things to do before I die, going to Croatia was on that list. During my last visit here, it was the one thing I was passionate about doing. When I came back here, some vague reminisces of that lost Croatian hope lingered, but I didn't truly think I was going to make it there. Being able to live in Italy, to live in one of the most amazing cities in the world, ontop of being able to visit three different countries in the meantime, has proven to be a lifetime's worth of blessings. However, I made it t Croatia and the tour I took of the Northern coast of that country managed to surpass all of the experiences I've had thusfar. And it managed to do by simply being beautiful. I didn't need to sing and dance on tables or lay out in the sun until I turned pink or drink Absinthe to have an experience so far above the rest that I'm still astounded. All I needed to do was look around and take it all in.

My Italian brother had been telling me for some time that Croatia was the place to go. He talked about it with clasped hands and eyes raised toward the sky. To see him so enraptured by a place built my excitement. He promised me that he would bring me on a tour and he didn't disappoint. He and one of his friends took me first to a town called Pula. Pula is an ancient Roman city, complete with Roman baths and a Colosseum. We toured the entire city. We walked through the ancient Roman ruins, walked along the shoreline, and went into the Colosseum. I can officially say I've been into three Colosseums in my life: Rome, Verona, and Pula. Seriously? I must be among an elite core of people in the world who can say that. The three of us sat in that broken stone oval and talked about how gory the Colosseum games must have been. Unlike the Colosseums in Rome and Verona, I could go down onto the field in this one. While we walked, my Italian brother told me about an ampitheatre in Greece; if you sit in any of the seats in this ampitheatre, no matter how far back or high up, you can hear what happens down below perfectly. He told me he saw a man stand in the center of that ampitheatre and crumple a paper and said that it sounded as if the man were crumpling it right in his ear. Sometimes I marvel at how much genuis has been exhausted with time. I came across something so funny that I stood there, pointig at a wall and laughing, making a complete fool of myself. Even Croatia hates you, George W. And half of the American population couldn't even locate Croatia on a map!

Our next destination was a campsite. I was kind of sceptical of where my Italian brother was taking me. We were driving down a lonely dirt road through an overgrown, unmanned forest. We were submerged in a tangled mess of tree limbs and underbrush, and when we emerged from our car my Italian brother started to lead us further into the woods. I was struck by anxiety and kept thinking we'd be lost or murdered. They led me up to a dense patch of bushes and urged me through. I stood there and let my mouth transform itself into a Croatian fly net. I couldn't believe my eyes. The water of Little Cayman Island, that warm, blissful blue water, was stunning. I dream about the water on that island. But this! That vision of the Adriatico, God damn I'll never forget it. Never in my life have I regretted so much forgetting a bathing suit. Every single cell in my body begged me to jump in. And I almost did. There was no beach, only the jagged rocks weathered not by feet but by sea. I sat on one of the only smooth rocks I could find and let the water splash softly around my toes. I looked in all the cracks and crevices, marveling over every shell, every small fish that twittered in and out and around. I almost cried when we left.

Can you believe, reader, that the next place we went was even moe beautiful? I couldnt. In the city of Rovinj, there is a public park and bathing area. The entrance to said park is an ancient Etruscan ruin; a massive stoe wall, built only a few years after man learned to farm, was erected here. Today this wall forebodes the insurmountable beauty you're about to find. I've said this before: I know I haven't been to many places in the world. But if I were Mother Nature, the park of Rovinj would totally be my summer home. Yes, it's tended by man, but after all these years I'm pretty confident that man has gotten pretty good at gardening. The Rovinj park is a testament to that. There are smoother stones here, and all the Croatians lay around on them and get tan. Their white sailboats sit in the richest of blue colors. To me, I felt like I was living in Harry Potter's world, where paintings come to life. It was so traquil; the slightest of breezes brushed through my hair, carrying on it the distinct perfumes of sea-salt and soil. In the shade, underneath the canpy of 100 trees, I sat on a cool wooden bench and rotated in perfect unison with the spinning Earth. I did cry a little, here, when I had to leave.

I didn't go far. That night I walked up one giant hill into the city of Rovinj. My Italian brother led me along, for the first time since Florence, cobblestone streets. He explained that this port used to be owned by Venice and the city was constructed through their inspiration. We went through an outdoor market and for the first time I fell in love with one of them. I was prejudiced against them since I lived above the San Lorenzo for so long, but this humble market was way too old school not to adore. It sold sea shells, wooden toys, fresh and dried fruits, oils, wines, and the cutest wooden toys. I wanted to live there and be a vendor in that market. We continued up the hill until we got to the top, where an old marble church tolls its bells every hour. And right below the church is the sea. Our view over the coast of Croatia was so breathtaking I started to choke on my own astonishment.
The three of us stood on that hill and watched boats glide gracefully by, sails erect and catching the wind. A few feet away there was a lighthouse. It was simple and small and on the top there was one huge lantern, lit up not with electricity but with a happy, dancing fire. I wanted to live there and be the lighthouse dude. We walked slowly down the hill and drove, even slower, away.

When I left Croatia, I was reminded of my soulmate: my T.A. from Firenze. One day in class he sat and drew me a map of Italy, putting dots in all the places he thought I should visit before I left. In a Southern region of Italy, Puglia, there is a town called Lecce. My T.A. said that just outside this city there is an ancient Etruscan village that is still inhabited today. People live in stone huts called Trullo. He said that he'd never been to a place more inspiring in the world. I desperately wanted to go and see the Trullo, to find that same inspiration. I couldn't get to Lecce. But THERE ARE TRULLO IN CROATIA. We drove past one, and I thought I was dreaming. And then we drove past another. I shouted, startling my Italian brother and his friend. I told them how I thought I'd just seen Trullo, and they told me that in fact, I did. During the rest of the car ride I vowed inside that I'd go back to Croatia, rekindling that old flame of desire I had to be in that country. And I drove home to Italy with the goofiest puppy-love grin on my face.
Arrivederci, for now.
Love, Gabby

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