It has been a while since I went travelling but as more time passes, the focus of my nostalgia tinged memories shift from places and things I set out to see to the people and memories I chanced upon by pure accident.
The two girls, roughly my age or younger who I asked for directions in the nonsensically numbered streets of Zagreb stand out more than the distinct architecture or beauty of the city. We walked together in the darkness for a while, in an attempt to find my hostel. I’m not sure how long it took since we were walking around without a clue, though I definitely had less of a clue. I was a foreigner (noob) and they were foreign students from neighbouring countries so they understood the feeling.
The highlight of my travel was getting to see Plitvice Lakes National Park. I loved the place so much that I came back the next day for a second dose. I spend the majority of both days wandering through the park in a kind of quiet ecstasy. On the first day at Plitvice Lakes National Park, I entered the park through one of the lesser known entrances, thanks to the local driver who showed me around the park as he talked about his love for his family, the family restaurant and cage fighting. I believe soccer (or football?) was mentioned a thousand times throughout the day as well.
I was on my own for the second day and entered through the main entrance. The park was ridiculously busy even in the lead up to peak season with tourists moving in swarms, humming with chatter and blinding each other with camera flashes (of which I was also guilty, let us be honest). But just as it was with the first day, the best moments occurred away from the crowds, noise and go pros. Veering off the track a little helped me breathe in the beauty of this magnificent offering of nature’s without having to worry about holding up the lines that would inevitably form if everyone moved at a pace that would actually let them enjoy the experience. I had been dreaming of this place for months and months, so I wanted more than just a fleeting moment and an overflowing camera.
Then, there was the kind, middle- aged man who was heading for the Carpathian mountains on the train from Budapest to Brasov who bought me food because the shop only accepted Romanian Leu. There was the personal tour guide who shared my love for cemeteries and photography, with whom I traded stories of Denmark for the history of Vlad the Impaler, Hungarian architecture and the Roma people. There were the dorm mates I tagged along with to a beer festival in Budapest though I am not the biggest fan of beer and ended up having a pretty good time just eating, listening and observing.
When I lay awake at night, thinking about the travel I cannot presently afford and the memories past, it is the unplanned experiences and the circumstances I was unprepared for- blunders of the solo rookie traveller and sweet, serendipitous moments alike- that I miss the most.