“Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve begun our descent to Zagreb Airport where the current weather is 28 celsius. We will be at the terminal gate in about twenty minutes. We’d like the flight attendants to prepare the cabin for arrival. Thank you for flying with us today from New York. We hope you had a fun and comfortable voyage.”
The pilot’s voice over the intercom brought me out of my deep sleep, and the flight attendant’s voice followed soon afterwards to tell us about the seat belts and tray tables. I looked to my right and apparently, Carol had woken up too and was helping our kids fasten their belts.
I reached out to touch her hand and she turned her attention to me, giving me a soft smile as I said, “I am quite optimistic about this trip, Carol. I have a feeling this is exactly what we all needed after the difficult year we’ve been through. The hardships that we’ve endured with Josh’s illness-I want us to forget all about it with this trip.”
“Indeed, my Adam,” she softly said as she patted my hands gently, “We’ll enjoy ourselves to the fullest. And the kids too-they won’t forget this vacation ever. This is their first time out of New York after all, isn’t it?”
It had been quite the difficult year indeed. Our younger son, Josh, was diagnosed with leukemia at the start of the year although thank goodness, it was still at early stages. Had we found out later about it, only Heavens know what the outcome could have been. But thankfully, the doctors were able to treat our son successfully, and Josh was all healthy again.
Nevertheless, it was a year full of hard times, crying, screaming and unspoken words of worry and fear. So when we things finally became better and Josh’s recovery was confirmed, we decided to book a trip to Europe for five days at the start of summer to make up for all the misery and build some wonderful memories. And there we were, landing at Zagreb, the capital of Croatia.
“Papa, are we going to the park right now?” My elder son, Tyler directed the question to me as we made our way out of the airport. We had gathered our luggage and taken care of the papers so we were looking for a taxi to take us to the hotel we would stay at. I chuckled at Tyler’s excited question and replied,
“Slow down, my little fella. We just arrived. I’ll take you everywhere you want. But now, we’re heading to the hotel to rest from the trip and tonight we start our vacation.”
The park Tyler was talking about was nothing other than Maksimir Park. This park was the reason why we chose Croatia as our destination (second to lower and more economic prices, of course.) The great reviews all over the travel websites about it and the beautiful pictures of its nature life and plants were simply captivating. Carol and I were both thrilled and even Tyler was excited by the idea of heading to that lovely place.
But the trip to the park was decided for next day. At night, our first outing was to Mimara museum. I thought at the beginning that it wouldn’t be exactly the most fun way to start our vacation, as I was never quite thrilled by museums and history and all that, and I was more worried that the boys wouldn’t enjoy themselves. Carol insisted that we would have a nice time however so I could only listen to her, on the condition that we would have dinner afterwards somewhere nice.
Situated at the Roosevelt Square, Mimara museum looked enchanting from outside. The architecture was nothing less of fascinating and it had this presence and greatness that made us all immediately curious about its contents inside. And well, I could only think about how wrong I was feeling reluctant about visiting it once I entered.
The museum was full of nothing short than masterpieces and as we knew, they were mostly works previously owned by the famous art collector Wiltrud Ante Topic Mimara. He donated most of them to the Mimara museum, thus called by his name, and the rest of the works were at a museum in Serbia.
We had dinner later that night and went back to the hotel. The next day, we woke up early and after having breakfast, we headed to the destination we looked forward the most for: Maksimir Park. The oldest public park in all of Croatia, its gate looked ancient and magnificent. But that was only the entrance, and what was inside was much more beautiful. The trees and the plants-they all looked so green. The lake had some of the clearest water I’ve ever laid my eyes upon-and more than once my sons would scream happily and point at turtles they eyed.
Throughout the park, there was a good number of fancy sculptures here and there. However, the most important landmark in the park is the Swiss House, where we enjoyed ourselves and took a lot of pictures.
The rest of the day was spent walking around the city and taking in as many sights as possible. Zagreb was a beautiful place; although it is not as famous as other European cities such as Paris or Berlin, and doesn’t have the most well-known tourist attractions in the world, it was still full of things to look at and watch. The architecture especially was what I and Carol loved the most, as it was a mixture of history and modern design in a beautiful way.
For the next couple of days, we decided that we wanted to see other places around Croatia, and so we made it out of Zagreb, heading to Rovinj by bus. Situated on the north Adriatic Sea, it is a lot smaller and quieter than Zagreb, but still a popular tourist destination. It helped that Carol was quite fluent at Italian so getting around this town was a lot easier, as unlike most other Croatian cities, this town was bilingual, fluent at both Croatian and Italian.
It’s unneeded to talk about how much we enjoyed ourselves at Rovinj. You can’t visit Croatia at all without walking between this town’s picturesque houses, or strolling through its busy streets, especially the town center, which is nearly the busiest part of the whole town. You can’t miss visiting St. Euphemia’s historical church, or paying the walls of Monkodonja a visit. The pristine beauty of the islands and the coastline makes them look like a piece of heaven.
Time was running out and with only a couple of days left for us to enjoy, we decided that our next and last destination would be the great walled city of Dubrovnik.
Away from Rovinj by 700 km, it wasn’t exactly that easy to get to it. We took the bus and it took a fair number of hours to make it. However, the beautiful scenery that we could watch nearly the whole trip made up for a lot of the time. And well, although you may think that it would have better choosing a closer city to visit, there’s this saying I read somewhere that you can’t visit Croatia and miss talking a walk on Dubrovnik’s walls. And well, I can tell you, we definitely didn’t regret it.
Dubrovnik isn’t as small as Rovinj nor as large as Zagreb, but it has its own magic that makes it one of the most prominent tourist attractions in this country. The whole city is nearly of ancient buildings and beautiful historical architecture, and had it been anything less, the UNESCO wouldn’t have made it a World Heritage Site after all, would it?
We spent the first day at the town just walking around and taking in its sights, walking down the Stradun, the main street of the city, taking pictures by the Large Onofrio’s Fountain and walking Dubrovnik’s walls. The second day was even more fun as we headed to the Rector’s Palace, an ancient palace that combines gothic elements with baroque and Renaissance styles harmoniously. Large and full of rooms to discover, we stayed until the night, and the night-view of the porch was simply breathtaking.
Finally, the trip announced its end to us, and we had to take our leave through Zagreb’s Airport back to New York. It wasn’t exactly easy making the distance back from Dubrovnik to Zagreb but we took a lot of pictures of the scenery on the way back and of course, we couldn’t leave without buying plenty of souvenirs for us and the kids. It was a short but a wonderful time we had, and we definitely hope that we can repeat the visit again next chance we get.