The 2014 World Cup of Travel, Day 1: Croatia
Welcome to a pretend tour around the world. For those who missed the introduction to this enterprise, I am a person who likes to travel without the benefit of enough money to do any international traveling.
On a positive note, I’ll be termed out of my job in 18 days, so maybe in my next one I can find someone willing to pay me to travel the globe and write semi-clever observations about how much I like getting lost in strange places. Heck – there’s a show I would watch. Forget a “reality” show about dropping someone in the middle of the Arctic and seeing if they survive; give me one about a dropping someone off in the middle of civilization without telling them where they are. I’m available. Call me. No, don’t call. Email me.
During the World Cup, I’ll post about one of the countries playing each day, and list three places I’d like to visit if/when I visit. Each day I’ll select one sporting venue, one wildlife area, and one historical location/tourist trap, and I welcome any and all suggestions on these choices or other places to visit, especially when it comes to food. Whenever I go to a new place, the one thing I don’t like to pre-select is where I’m going to eat. When I’m hungry, I’ll stop at the next place that looks awesome.
Unless I’m traveling with a vegan, then we’ll stop at the next adequate vegan location.
Admittedly, I knew almost nothing about Croatia going into this little exercise. I knew the important things: that it has cool home soccer kits, that it was part of the former Yugoslavia, and that it has cool home soccer kits. The best part of exercises like this, however, is learning about places, and I can honestly say I’m much more interested in visiting Croatia now than I was a few days ago.
The Hypothetical Travel Box
World Cup 2014 Ranking of Me Wanting to Visit: #14 (out of 32)
Positive: On the Adriatic Sea
Weakness: Ranked high on overall list of places to visit, but most places ahead of it are also in Europe.
Local Food I’d Most Like to Try: Međimurska gibanica: A puff pastry layer cake comprised primarily of four ingredients: nuts, fresh cheese, poppy seeds, and apples.
Fun Historical Fact: Modern neckties trace their origins to the cravat, in 17th century Croatia. So the next time you’re stuck in front of a mirror trying to remember the correct order of around, up, over, and down, blame Croatia for their fashion sense.
The Sporting Location: STADION KANTRIDA
I love how old baseball stadiums were part of neighborhoods and not entertainment centers, and the available space often dictated the shape of the stadium. Stadion Kantrida’s location is the primary appeal as the backdrops of both cliff and Adriatic Sea are highly unique. Looking at the cliffs, I’m reminded of images of the Polo Grounds, where fans could watch the game from Coogan’s Bluff.
HNK Rijeka’s official website for Stadion Kantrida has a great picture of the cliffs and the city beyond the pitch, and here’s a great picture from the club’s Instagram account of Stadion Kantrida and the Adriatic Sea.
THE WILDLIFE LOCATION: Plitvice Lakes National Park
Check out the virtual tour and tell me that doesn’t make you want to book a flight. The large number of lakes created by cascades sounds beautiful, especially given the apparent frequency in which they change their color due to minerals. Plitvice looks like the kind of place where you can get lost and not mind because around every bend is a new sight to make you reach for your camera.
There’s also a wide range of animal life, including bears, wolves, red deers, and lynx.
THE HISTORICAL LOCATION: Zagreb Cathedral
I’m a sucker for cathedrals and museums just as much as I am for forests and waterfalls, and given my Roman Catholic upbringing, the Zagreb Cathedral in Croatia’s capital city is the one building I’d love to visit. Originally built in the 11th century, it was destroyed in the 13th century by the Tatars, fortified in the 15th, received a watchtower addition in the 17th, critically damaged by an earthquake in the 19th, and subsequently restored/renovated to include two giant spires, which is the form it keeps today.
If you’ve got any thoughts on places to visit or food to try from Croatia, or want to link to your own travel experiences from the country, feel free to tell me in the comments.
Come on back tomorrow for a hypothetical visit to the sixth ranked location I’d like to visit.