I’ve not posted during the past few weeks because I have been traveling in Europe. My husband and I visited 3 places in Italy, 3 in Croatia, and 1 in Slovenia. These three countries are actually quite close together, and because of their complicated histories, each contains diverse cultural influences that makes them fascinating alone and together. I was so entranced by what I saw that I took over 700 photographs.

One of the pleasures of traveling is gaining new perspectives, which I did on this trip. Several things particularly interested me.

First, I was fascinated to see how people lived in each of the places I visited. Because we used airbnb to find accommodations, in each destination I had a chance to stay in an apartment or room in a neighborhood rather than in an impersonal hotel room in the tourist part of town.

Terrace-in-Rovinj

Terrace on Our Apartment, Rovinj, Croatia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This allowed me to shop for food at local markets, see how trash was recycled, and get a sense of everyday events. Though one can glimpse only a tiny bit of local life in a few days, it still is possible to get some sense of daily existence and compare that with how we live at home. What struck me most, in every place I visited, was the conviviality. During the entire trip, I never once saw anyone hunched over a laptop in a cafe or texting on a cell phone while sitting with a group of friends. Instead, I saw people talking and laughing while drinking coffee or beer, activities that were extremely common in the destinations we visited. In every place, the cafe culture was strong, and somehow–despite working or going to school–people seemed to have time to sit and talk.

Second, I was struck by the beauty I saw everywhere. This was manifested in the wide variety of public art in most of the places I visited, or the natural beauty in other places. It was also reflected in small touches, such as the napkin under the coffee cup and the little decorated tube of sugar served with the coffee, or the garnishes on a bowl of soup even in an inexpensive restaurant. I was also astounded by the cleanliness of  restaurants and bathrooms, especially in Croatia and Slovenia.

Soup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was also fascinated by the friendliness and helpfulness of the people I encountered. A server in a restaurant walked half a block with me to show me the way to the bus; a woman who worked in the little market near one of our accommodations explained how to make the local soup and translated my questions to her colleagues who didn’t speak English as well as she did. Our airbnb hosts helped us with directions, maps, and buying tickets. Our host in Zagreb had looked at our websites and blogs and spent an hour talking with us about local politics and his own life. When we left, he presented me with a wrapped bar of local chocolate.

I know it’s easy to romanticize new places when traveling or to find people friendly because you are more friendly yourself. Also, the process of traveling is itself a suspension of responsibilities and the duties of daily life which makes one more open to new experiences. Still, having traveled quite a bit in my lifetime, I think there are cultural and visual differences in every locale that are very striking, and these are worth noting and savoring as one of the joys of travel.

Over the next couple of weeks, I will post about several of the places I visited, focusing particularly on the art on view in each of them. The entire trip was a visual feast, and I have many images to share.

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