Zagreb-ing Love With Both Hands

Day 100 & 101

Cities / Towns Visited: 51

Countries Visited: 16

Steps Taken Today: 36,288

Steps Taken Around the World: 1,850,295

As momentous as the hundredth day of travel sounds like it should be, we had officially reached the end of our allowed time in the Schengen zone, and thus had to find 90 days worth of things to do outside of it before we could return. This is the most intensely annoying factor in how we planned our trip, as there are so many countries we wish to visit in the zone, but we will not be able to fit them into this leg of our journey before winter comes around and makes enjoyable travel too hard. This in mind, today was a standard travel day, so I’ll give you the brief version. After waking up groggy from the pre-emptive travel sickness drugs, we shuffled somewhat zombie like down to the complimentary buffet breakfast we had included with our room. To be honest I was kind of sad that we only had limited time to enjoy it, and were so tired, as it was impressive; along with your standard toast and cereal, there was a large array of fruit and pastries, and bain after bain of hot dishes; bacon, sausages, beans, mushrooms, and hash browns. They even had a chef on hand to make your eggs any way you’d like if the scrambled eggs with the hot food weren’t what you were after. It even looked like if you came a little later they whip up waffles. It was unexpected how extensive the spread was, especially considering it is an airport hotel, and we shovelled in all we could manage at that ungodly hour before hopping in the free shuttle bus to the airport.

A rather hassle free flight, and a short taxi ride, later and we were hopping into a somewhat questionable elevator and being shakily lifted up to our hostel in Zagreb, Croatia. After checking in and having a brief look around the main square, which was set up semi permanently with a stage housing a big screen for the locals to come down and watch music and dance performances followed by the world cup games while they were still in the running for the win, we ducked back into the hostel for a quick nap. Although the hostel advertises having a kitchen, it’s cooking facilities literally consisted of a microwave and a kettle, thus our day ended with grabbing a couple of pretty tasty burgers and a salad from a little joint round the corner, before collapsing into our bunks to catch some shut eye before we began our Croatian adventure.

We rose to a beautiful sunny day, and decided the first stop should be the Dolac Market; a farmers market which runs daily just a short walk from our accommodation. The sea of fruit and vegetables on display was a chefs dream, but I couldn’t help but be sad at the fact that I wouldn’t be able to cook with them, given our ill equipped kitchen facilities. Determined not to miss out on all of the beautiful produce though, we stopped to buy some fresh blueberries and raspberries for breakfast, along with a few slices of spinach and cheese burek from a nearby bakery.

Content in our delicious meal, we trotted off to our next attraction; the Mirogoj Cemetery. After a long, but pleasant walk, we ducked in through the gate to a stunning sight. Along the edge runs a beautiful columned corridor of stone, lined on one side with family graves and memorial stones. Some decorated with skillfully carved statues of religious figures, angels, the deceased, or even death itself. The graveyard sprawling out from here was bisected by avenues bordered with giant shady trees, and amongst the headstones were even more of natures beauties. Walking along the corridor we reached the main entrance, whereat stands a semi-circular courtyard, and at its heart an ivy covered chapel. Inside the peaceful house of God, rests the remains of more who have passed from this realm.

After wandering the grounds and admiring the touching memorials, a few of which paid tribute to a number of people who had been murdered at Auschwitz and would never be able to be recovered and laid to rest properly, we perched on a bench to rest our weary legs. As we sat for a moment, it was both heartbreaking and heart-warming to watch a son accompanying his mother, and helping her attend to her husband’s grave. Clearing the weeds and placing down fresh flowers and a candle, it occurred to me that although I love visiting cemeteries, it is rare that I see anyone actively visiting and tending to a grave. As we passed by the former president’s memorial, and back out onto the street, we passed yet more people bearing candles, flowers, and cleaning products, obviously off to care for their lost loved ones.

Trekking back into the centre, we headed toward the stone gate. This old site used to be a wooden entrance through which you could move into the old walled city. After a fire in 1739 though, the only thing that had survived was a picture of the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus, which now sits behind a wrought iron fence, surrounded at its base by many tributes and flowers from the faithful. The wall on either side are covered by plaques calling for the blessings of a number of saints. Moving off through the crowd at the gate, we walked past the absolutely breathtaking St. Mark’s Church, with its colourful tiled roof artfully displaying two coats of arms. From here we turned left and headed down the hill to Lotrscak Tower; an old watchtower which offers a picturesque view of the old town.

Having churned through a few sights we stepped inside our final destination for the day, and a somewhat bizarre one at that; the Museum of Broken Relationships. This obscure exhibition displays trinkets and objects sent in from all across the world from people who have broken relationships with another. They send them in with a story of the relationship, and the objects are usually something quintessential to what made their relationship work, something that broke it up, or simply an object which was given by or belonged to the other and is no longer desired. Wandering around and reading the tales behind the artifacts was quite the rollercoaster. Some were funny; like the broken garden gnome which was thrown by a wife at her cheating husband during their divorce; or the axe one slighted lover used to cut up one piece of his exes furniture everyday after she left to go on a trip with the person she’d left him for, until her return; or my personal favourite, the toaster one person had spitefully taken from their ex when they left, the note of which ends with ‘That’ll show you. How are you going to toast anything now?’.

Some were just innocent objects of relationships which hadn’t worked out, but hadn’t ended terribly either; like a locket bought for a girlfriend because it had an owl and it reminded him of her, but they broke up before he had the chance to give it to her; or a playing card from a couple who used to find them on the street, and decided if they ever found a joker they would just go on a spontaneous trip to anywhere, but again, the separation came first. Whereas some had melancholy stories of love which had come and taught them many life lessons but just weren’t meant to be. There was a room of rather darker stories which ended because of drug addiction, or abuse, and having previously been in a relationship with an alcoholic with bipolar disorder, who had an entirely different confrontational personality with a different name when she was drunk that she didn’t remember anything of upon sobering up, this display brought back a few demons I certainly could have done without.

The room that affected me the most however, was the room dedicated to broken relationships between parents and children. Coming from a broken home I related all too well to the children who sent in items that reminded them of times in their childhood when they were close to their fathers, but who drifted apart to almost non-communication due to their father’s absence in their lives. The most shocking piece of the whole exhibition though, would have to be the suicide note from a mother to her daughters, which sounds so full of both hopelessness and love. I’m not ashamed to say that that room made me shed a tear or two. I think sometimes we forget that love and loss of family and friends can be just as, if not more, painful than the end of a romantic relationship.

Feeling battered and bruised, like I’d been through an emotional tumble dryer, we stepped back onto the street, grabbed some cheap taquitos for lunch from a little shop, and with a few hours spare we headed back to the hostel to try and get some work done. Dinner consisted of grabbing a quick plate of cevapi and fries at a little restaurant down the road, and ducking back to the safety of the common room before Croatia’s world cup game started and the street became deafening loud with the emphatic cheers of the somewhat inebriated locals.

As I lay in bed that night I couldn’t help thinking of the juxtaposition of today’s adventures. We had, unintentionally, gone to visit the only two possible endings to every love story; separation or death. If we were to spend too much time thinking about the inevitability of pain when entering into a relationship, surely we would never even take that first step. And yet almost everyone will reach the end of their life with at least one sad story of when they took a chance on love, we’re blinded by it, and now carry the scars from it. With statistics proving the increasing unlikelihood of those coveted Notebook-esque ’til death do us part’ love stories, we are still as willing as ever to take the leap, and succumb to the joy and pleasure of love. We try, despite the promise of grief, because, underneath it all, almost all of us would be masochists and grab love in all its pain inducing glory with both hands if it meant we could spend one more day, one more hour, one more minute, with that one person who makes us feel understood, appreciated, and complete.

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On my dream trip to travel the world, taste its foods, see its wonders, and meet all the strange and beautiful people who reside here.

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