It was a helluva long trip from Chiang Mai, Thailand to Zagreb, Croatia. I purchased the ticket from Chiang Mai to Bangkok with actual money ($78 US) and purchased the ticket from Bangkok to Zagreb, with a stopover in Doha, Qatar for 32,500 British Airways “miles” and $191. In total, the three-flight, 6,077-mile journey cost $269 — more than I would have liked. But it couldn’t be helped — it’s not exactly a traditional route!
My month of clean eating has made me more aware of the energy of food. After two starchy, fatty airline meals my stomach feels like it’s full of lead weights. I quickly dehydrate with a window-seat on all three flights and a desire not to disturb my seatmates. I’m a shriveled-up, exhausted, dirty mess by the time I arrive in Zagreb.
Ban Jelačić Square in Zagreb, Croatia
It’s just above freezing which is shock #1 to my tropically-acclimated system. A bus takes me from the airport to the city center. Looking out, the streets seem so spacious and traffic so orderly. “Bette Davis Eyes” plays on the driver’s radio and I read about my president’s insane news conference.
It’s a funny feeling to arrive at the Zagreb bus station already familiar with such an obscure place having been here in 2015 after diverting off the hellish European Peace Walk with my friend Senja. After three hours and as many cups of coffee, my hotel room is ready and I hobble the ten-block distance like a broken mule with too many packs.
In Zagreb, people are driving on the “right” side of the road, which after Japan and Thailand now seems to be the “wrong” side of the road, so I’m back to confusedly looking both ways when crossing so I don’t get killed.
A desire for a quick catnap at 2 PM leads to waking up in darkness at 10 PM, awfully confused as to my whereabouts. I scan the edges of the unfamiliar room and mentally retrace my steps to finally recall that I’m in Croatia.
The next two days I walk around the center of Zagreb but I’m uninspired. I realize that my reaction to a place depends so much upon where I’m coming from. My first visit to Zagreb was a diversion from the endless Hungarian cornfields of the European Peace Walk and I found a city bursting with vitality, beautiful weather, and sights. It seemed like paradise. Now, in winter, and especially after tropical Thailand, it feels cold, unfriendly, dark and depressed.
In fairness to Zagreb, on both visits, I arrived from an extreme position. Maybe someday I’ll visit from a more neutral perspective, but somehow I doubt it. Neutral perspectives aren’t exactly my specialty.
Zagreb Cathedral Zagreb Cathedral
Ban Jelačić Square Ban Jelačić Square
Zagreb street Zagreb street
Zagreb, Croatia Zagreb, Croatia
Apartment building in Zagreb Apartment building in Zagreb