The Place on the Way to Someplace Else

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Zagreb, Croatia – June 2011

It is not yet afternoon, but a thick, stifling haze has already settled over the city. Even the voices in the market seem muted. I spot no others with cameras or city maps. I am alone with the locals.

Most tourists who pass through Zagreb spend only a few hours or, at most, stay overnight before moving on to the coast. It is a place of transit. The place on the way to someplace else.

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Thunderstorms are predicted for the afternoon, so I catch the bus to Mirogoj cemetery. The alleys and passages are deserted. The only sound is that of my steps. The tombs are impressive in an ostentatious sort of way, but the smaller details in the arcade are what hold my attention.

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The haze solidifies and rises. For a short time, blue sky appears. The center of Zagreb is broken up into several small squares and parks. I have the impression of moving through different tiny villages. Though these are virtually vacant as well. Even the locals have fled.

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A larger park appears. I venture inside, grateful for some leafy shelter. A couple of tasteful souvenir carts are parked by the side of the cobblestone path. A lone couple makes out on a bench. By the time I get to the lookout point, the clouds have reconverged. Once again, the familiar thought: it seems like a nice place to live. And with that thought, the itch resurfaces.

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I follow the steps back down to the city. The elderly lady in front of me pauses by a sleeping cat. She strokes it and speaks to it in a soft, singing voice. As I approach, she smiles up at me and says something. I return the smile and nod, because she thinks that I understand. If I were to speak, she would realize that I am a stranger. I place my hand lightly on the creature. It doesn’t stir. Only the soft rise and fall of its chest shows that it’s alive. The lady nods in approval and goes along her way.

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37 thoughts on “The Place on the Way to Someplace Else

    • Hahaha. I’ve done the “smile and nod like I understand thing” so many times. It just sucks when you say “I don’t understand”. The atmosphere changes and they close down. Sometimes, you have to say it, though. Like when they look at you waiting for an answer.

      In most other countries, a city like Zagreb would be one of the main tourist stops, but Croatia has that long Adriatic coast with the islands…too much competition.

    • I love to hear that someone else feels the same way. I think it’s a very underrated city. On the other hand, it was really nice to have it practically to myself.

      • I think people think of Croatia and think only of Dubrovnik… we enjoyed Zagreb (and the self guided tour from there to the Plitvice Lakes) just as much!

        • I loved Plitvice Lakes, too. Unbelievable place, though really too crowded. I haven’t been to Dubrovnik or the coast, so I really can’t compare. I’m not really motivated to go – the thought of the crowds is making me hesitate.

          • Ah, we did Plitvice ourselves catching the local bus (very early in the morning), so had the first few hours without the crowds!

            Was one of the most spectacular places we’ve seen in all of our travels (I have a post from there somewhere on the site)!

  1. I would like to visit Zagreb too…like everybody…i only had the chance to make a quick stop returning from Krk island. I wish to have the chance to visit it soon…at least for a long week-end…beautiful shots. as always.. (cute cat)

  2. Some days it’s like walking a dozen paces behind you and the voice of your camera, it’s photographs dancing from a spindle in tune each place’s new, old and fresh songs at their own pace. Just does some days.

      • I was tied up in learning about mobile app development and some about media and public relations, which I kind of DNF for a few reasons. It’s good to be back, and I’m over due to get out on the road. It’s been good to catch up on your travels in eastern Europe/west asia.

  3. Love rooftop photos and I’m not sure why exactly. What a gorgeous cat! Maybe I will put this place on the list when in Crotia in hopefully not too far future!

    • I used textures on the rooftop photos. I was going through a texture phase then. I’d definitely recommend a day or so in Zagreb, if only to get a break from the crowds.

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