Obsessed with Croatia

I’ve recently become obsessed with Croatia.

If this strikes you as peculiar, it strikes me as peculiar-er. I’ve never been there (or anywhere else in Europe, for that matter). I may have Croatian blood; though it’s generally been acknowledged in my family that my ancestors came from Slovakia, Hungary, and Poland, they’re all pretty much a stone’s throw away. Metaphorically speaking, of course, unless you have terrific arm strength. But I had a friend who is heavily into genealogy research my background once and when my relatives were emigrating to New Jersey, they listed Austria-Hungary as their birthplace on the ship’s manifest. Which, as you can clearly see on the map below, does in fact include Croatia.

Austria-Hungary

So, I’m descended from somewhere in that general vicinity of Eastern Europe, anyway. It’s never been 100 percent clear where, exactly, we hail from. But that’s still not why I have a sudden interest in Croatia. Up until recently, my only impression of the place was that it kinda looks like an alligator with its jaws open, ready to swallow Bosnia and Herzegovina whole.

croatia_map_blank

I blame my newfound obsession with the country on my treadmill. Or more accurately, iFit.

When I bought the treadmill last September, it came with a free one-year subscription to iFit, an interactive fitness platform that includes virtual workouts from across the globe. Over the past seven months, I have traveled the world from the comfort of my fake wood-paneled basement (hey, I was socially distancing before it became trendy!), visiting exotic locales such as Bolivia, Thailand, Antarctica, China, Easter Island, Costa Rica, and the aforementioned Croatia. I have climbed Mount Fuji, explored the ancient pyramids of Giza, wandered the bustling streets of Istanbul, and explored the Taj Mahal. It’s pretty cool!

Each workout series is guided by a personal fitness trainer. Now, if I’m being totally honest here, some of the instructors are, for lack of a better few words, hot AF. The folks at iFit are no dummies. They know that sex sells, and in this case, it’s selling me onto the treadmill at an ungodly hour before work. Instructors like Kelsey (aka Miss Croatia) are a great motivator to get moving.

kelsey_sheahan
Look at that spectacular scenery. Croatia rocks!

But a funny thing happened while working out to this particular Adriatic Sea Intervals series. I actually peeled my eyes off the trainer for a change and started paying attention to the scenery, and learned in the process that Croatia is quite beautiful.

One of the workouts takes you through Plitvice Lakes National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where visitors traverse a wooden boardwalk that winds its way over a series of lakes, right at the base of numerous cascading waterfalls.

plitvice-lakes-national-parkPlitvice_Lakes-National-Park

I mean, that’s gorgeous, right?!

Even the cities are eye-popping, buildings with red-tiled roofs perched on hillsides that overlook the blue-green waters of the Adriatic.

croatia

And the cuisine? Yes, please. How can you go wrong with pork or goulash? Clams, pasta, mushroom soup, flatbread? Seafood risotto? How about Zagrebački odrezak, fried veal cutlets stuffed with ham and cheese?! (That’s a rhetorical question. You can’t.)

Zagrebacki
Zagrebački odrezak, similar to Wiener Schnitzel or Cordon Bleu.

These workouts have stirred up a fierce sort of wanderlust within my soul. I’ve always said if (and when) I ever make it to Europe, I don’t want to go someplace obvious, like London or Paris or Rome. Take me to Prague or Budapest instead. I’m now adding places in Croatia, cities like Zagreb and Split and Dubrovnik, to that list. Pretty sure I can convince Tara to be my plus one.

Seems like a nice goal for a post-COVID life.

37 Comments on “Obsessed with Croatia

  1. Mark, a good friend of mine in Philly with went to Croatia with her boyfriend last year and RAVED about it! And the photos she took while there were stunning! It look almost like the Amalfi coast in Italy. Bellissima!

    Up until that point, I have to say, I never knew much about Croatia, or even where it was location I’m embarrassed to say.

    That is so cool that you get those workout series on your treadmill. I bet it makes working out so much more interesting and enjoyable because it’s like working out and traveling at the same time!

    Those photos you shared are definitely gorgeous.

    Yeah, I would love to visit Budapest as well.

    Have a superb week, my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I bet it makes working out so much more interesting and enjoyable because it’s like working out and traveling at the same time!

      Totally! I normally listen to podcasts while working out, so I don’t listen to the instructors, but last week they added a new pyramid series and throughout the workout the instructor was telling us interesting facts about how they were built, etc. I need to pay attention to that one because it’s both educational AND a good workout!

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  2. I’m with you on the Croatia obsession. In fact, one of my dream trips is road-tripping from Slovenia all the way down to Greece. I must say though, the timing of the onset of this obsession is somewhat unfortunate. Oh well, you can save your money while we isolate and then head to Croatia when it’s all over. P.S. Prioritize Eastern Europe if you like (I’ve been to Budapest and Prague – both great), but please don’t write off London, Paris, or Rome. They are fascinating cities. Rome, in particular, is like a living museum. Just some friendly (unsolicited) advice from the Travel Architect. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • I appreciate the tips! I definitely want to see those places, too. Especially Rome! For many years, Italy was my dream destination. Hopefully there will be some good travel deals once this all blows over. I’ll be on the lookout.

      Liked by 2 people

      • The main metropolitan cities are a good jumping off point. I agree, don’t write them off, but maybe don’t spend the whole vacation there. I loved London and Paris. I was in Rome when I was 8 so I don’t recall much beyond the beach and gelato…would love to go back.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I really want to see the Colosseum. Which isn’t the least bit original, I know…but I am a history buff and that’s very high on my list!

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  3. I’d also say if you do go to Europe, go to Poland*! Krakow is amazing and so full of old things. Also check out Georgian food wherever you go; I imagine it’d be available in the Balkan areas.

    *Well, maybe once it calms down. It’s making a turn for the hard right. Some priests burned Harry Potter shortly before (or after) my sister and I went.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m very interested in Poland! Also learned from my mom last night that Bulgaria is yet another country where my ancestors allegedly lived. We’re just spread out all over Eastern Europe apparently!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. That sounds like a really interesting way to work out! And I actually saw that photo of the waterfalls on Pinterest and was blown away (that’s why I remember).

    I went to school with a number of Croatians, whose parents immigrated in the 1960’s?, including our next door neighbors. To say these folks loved soccer would be an understatement! Lol! I will pass on the food though.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “Up until recently, my only impression of the place was that it kinda looks like an alligator with its jaws open, ready to swallow Bosnia and Herzegovina whole.” hahaha… I can’t stop laughing… Do you mind if I share your post on my site? No copy-pasting, just a couple of my words with links to this post and your original site… And yes, I hope all this current situation will be resolved soon and you will come to my country. I wouldn’t want to miss that post…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This seems like a wonderful goal for a post-Covid life. I’ve never been to Eastern Europe, but the scenery and the food and the history make me think you’ll have a fascinating time exploring the region, sharing your travels on your blog for all of us armchair travelers.

    Liked by 1 person

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  9. I have no ancestry in Eastern Europe and I too long to travel there. It’s not first on my list, but it’s definitely top ten.
    The food does sound marvelous.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Great post – I like the idea of travelling the world from the basement at the moment! I have been to Croatia and you won’t be disappointed. It is a beautiful place. Bosnia was also fabulous and would be very easy to do on the same trip. Happy post-covid travels!

    Liked by 1 person

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