I have tears in my eyes as I write this. I am sitting in the Ataturk airport in Istanbul and I have just hours left in this beautiful country. Turkey has been amazing to me while I was here and it surpassed my wildest dreams of how happy I could be in a foreign country. The last few days have been a whirlwind!
It was a quick flight from Istanbul to Zagreb, I found it interesting that customs into Turkey was basically non-existing, but that you at least had to have your bag x-rayed upon entering the airport to then exit the country. They took a good long look at my bag as it went through, I even saw the attendant back the machine up so he could get a better look at my bag, but all was good and I got through. Upon entering Croatia the customs was practically non-existent again! It’s good for me because I got through really easily, but it might be bad for Croatia. Mrs. Carlsen was very sweet and picked me up at the airport. I really didn’t know what she looked like and I figured things would work themselves out to find
her, and they did! I told her that I was so surprised about how small Zagreb (the capital city) was! As I was flying in I was expecting to see buildings and instead I there was only farm land. I was also expecting to be able to exchange some money, but the airport is only one room and there wasn’t an exchange office (I was also kicking myself because I forgot to exchange my Turkish Lira before I left, anyone going to Turkey soon and want to buy 150 TL off me? I have good rates and won’t charge any commission!) Anyways, there wasn’t even a vending machine this airport, it was so small. Mrs. Carlsen said that yes it was a small town, and that she was sorry that there wasn’t much to do, but I told her that what I liked most about traveling was seeing how people lived in their country, and if Zagreb was small without much to do then that meant there weren’t many tourists!
I got settled into my room at their house, Colonel Carlsen works at the American Embassy in Zagreb and their Embassy house is so nice! It is 4 levels,
and the guest bedroom where I was staying was humongous, I felt like queen! There was also a sauna room (fully functioning!) right next to my room as well! It was a lovely house decorated with a lot of Turkish items since they were stationed there as well. I kept telling Mrs. Carlsen how beautiful her house was and she said the only downfall was all of the stairs (4 levels worth). I wasn’t feeling very well so I took it easy the first night, Colonel and Mrs. Carlsen had a reception to go to at the Embassy since it was a big celebration for Croatia, their 20th anniversary of becoming Croatia! So I ate dinner with Mrs. Carlsens Mom, Helen, and one of their sons, Kennon (11). Mirella (their Croatian help) was so sweet and made me feel right at home while the Carlsens were away.
After dinner I played backgammon with Kennon, then some pingpong upstairs in the gaming room, we had a great time and he is a sweet kid! The Carlsens arrived home shortly after and we stayed up for a bit chatting about my Dad and Turkey. (I have so much dirt on you
The next morning Mrs. Carlsen was nice enough to take me into town and show me around, she kept apologizing for the lack of entertainment in Zagreb, but I enjoyed just walking around taking everything in. I really miss Turkey, and I was happy to see how different Croatia was as it helped me not miss it as much. One of the things I like about Croatia so far is that they are a very hedonistic society, it was a very common sight to see people drinking beer and wine early in the morning, as well as smoking, and sitting in one of the many outdoor café’s enjoying an espresso. Everywhere you looked there was a café, and people just sit and talk for hours over a coffee.
We went into the main square of town and I got to see the most amazing markets! All the fresh fruit and veggies you could ever want, as well as the biggest flower market, it was a feast for the senses! Off to the side was a fresh fish market, and underground was the meat and cheese market, everything was so fresh!
We stopped and had lunch
at a nice café where I had a beautiful salad of greens, baby tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and fresh anchovies, it was delicious! We also got a pizza to share. It was great!
We got back to the house to cool down (who turned on the heat?!) and get ready for dinner. I had told The Carlsens that after looking at a map I was going to forgo Split (which is down on the coast) and head to Budapest instead, since Split was out of the way from where I wanted to go. They told me that Split really was worth it and I should take a day off of Zagreb and use it for Split. I thought about it and said why not, I am all the way over here, I what’s an extra 12 hour round trip to Split and back. So after dinner, Colonel Carlsen graciously took me to the train station to activate my Eurail pass and buy my train ticket for the next morning. I go up to the Croatian attendant and ask for the 7:50 train to Split for the next morning and he looks at me and says “Full!” Ooops, it’s a Croatian
holiday, so everyone and their brother is going to the coast, but luckily the next train at 12:15 still had spots left. Whew!
We drove back and I had a lovely time chatting with Colonel Carlsen, he is such a sweet guy with a great family! They were so nice to let me crash with them without having ever met me! I hope I left a good impression, I was sick the entire time I was there so I wasn’t my usual self. They were going on holiday as well the next day to Italy, I hope that they had a good trip! They really looked after me while I was there, and before I left I had everyone’s cell number including people who worked at the US Embassy, just in case something went wrong.
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