Ever since our first experiment with AirBnB (where we snagged a New York City...
“If we tip over, no one is going to be able to save you but you.” Brian’s blunt but empowering words, torn from his mouth by the wind buffeting our kayak-for-two, renewed my focus on the panic-inducing task at hand: trying not to drown, while also admiring the view. Seated in the front of the kayak, I stared head-on at the ominous black waves, feverishly wielding my paddle to properly position the kayak, while Brian wielded the camera.
Croatia surprised us in so many ways. We knew to expect good things because virtually everyone who’s ever visited has had only good things to say. But that still didn’t prepare us for what may very well be the most beautiful country we’ve ever visited.
We spent a total of four weeks in Croatia, traveling from the southern tip of Dubrovnik to the northern reaches of Istria. We ferried to a few of its more than one thousand islands and traveled overland from its western shores to as far east as its capital city Zagreb.
Along the way we discovered some of the most remarkable and well preserved medieval old towns we’ve seen anywhere. And not just one or two, but scores of them. Croatia has coastal walled cities and inland walled cities and island walled cities, too. Every one is set against a scenic backdrop of dramatically rippling mountains that tumble into a sea so beautifully blue you’d swear it’s been Photoshopped.
But none of that is what surprised us most about Croatia.
As we walked through Rome, searching for the Trattoria Der Pallaro, anticipation began to build. After exiting the Campo de Fiori, a modest piazza by Rome standards whose hallmarks are a daytime market and a statue of an excommunicated Dominican monk burnt at the stake centuries ago in that very spot, we took a wrong turn. The often warren-like streets can be challenging even with a GPS for guidance.
But if we had to search every side street in the area and spend hours doing it, we weren’t giving up the quest. This wasn’t just any restaurant we sought. This was a restaurant I had waited to return to for fourteen years. After all this time, I vividly recalled arriving at the trattoria, a haven on a chilly, rainy March night. We sat in a cozy, wood-paneled dining room with friends, one of whom had come across the listing for Trattoria Der Pallaro in a Frommer’s guidebook as the “Best Value” eats option in Rome (it’s still their pick). The wine began to flow and, with barely a word exchanged between diners and servers, platters of food began arriving at the table.
“Buona sera. Come in, sit down.”
It had been fourteen long years since we last visited Rome. And when we finally got back, our first thought was that we couldn’t believe we had waited so long to return.
With thousand year old imperial ruins flanking majestic Renaissance-era palaces standing alongside grand Baroque squares it is obvious that Rome wasn’t built in a day. No, Rome was painstakingly constructed over the millennia, layer upon layer, out of sheer awesomeness.
Even for slightly jaded full-time travelers who’ve probably grown a bit too accustomed to awe inspiring sights, Rome awed us.
We live in a golden age for travel. Never has the world been so accessible to so many. Growing middle classes in previously impoverished nations are taking to the road at the same time discount airfares, packaged tours, and generally improving travel infrastructure everywhere are making destinations more accessible to everyone. It’s a trend that’s proven so successful that it can’t possibly continue.