Well, the first day in Zagreb didn’t turn out the way I expected. I woke up with no voice, aching joints and virtually no energy whatsoever. I could barely drag myself out of bed to brush my teeth. My companion wound up touring the city on his own while I stayed in bed. I was frustrated, but with 97 degree weather and 75% humidity, I knew I would be a mush ball outside. I reasoned that I needed a day to recoup and re-gain my strength.
My buddy reasoned I had finally hit a wall from relentless activity for the past several months. He might be right. Christmas in Berlin. January birthday in Palermo. February in Turin. March in Poland. April in Ukraine. Two sets of friends visiting in June and now four weeks touring with my old high school buddy in July. And the rest of the time I’m here will be just as frenetic–friends in August, friends in September, visiting cousins in September. And planned trips to Liverpool, Cairo and Lviv. Well, if I’m gonna die, let it be by over-travel.
I was able to get out of the hotel in the evening for dinner. But that was it. Still reeling from a virus, we went back to the hotel and watched CNN for the rest of the night while surfing the Net.
The next day, however, was a bit better. Focusing on my rest, I was feeling light years better with more energy and fewer aches. After dinner, we went for a walk and I was impressed with the remarkable number of original buildings that still exist in Zagreb. Entire sections of the city are architecturally preserved. Government buildings, universities, churches and parks revealed a rich history.
Many buildings were still covered in the grime of communist industrialization that relied heavily on coal-burning. However, most buildings were either under renovation or had already been renovated. Some neighborhoods had not been touched and it was like taking a step back into the Soviet period with blackened or gray buildings. Yet under the filth, one could still see the gems of architectural generosity. Juxtaposed next to these neighborhoods are those that have been rehabilitated with repaired facades, balconies and fresh coats of paint.
I couldn’t help but wonder what it was like to live in communist times–such a bland existence where life had no color. Efforts to elevate oneself were tamped down in order to keep everyone in line, everyone on the same level of oppression. Now cities like Zagreb can shine. In a few years, as it continues to clean itself up and dust itself off, Zagreb could be the Paris of Eastern Europe.
Our hotel in Zagreb blessedly had air conditioning. The heat and humidity were so oppressive that one’s hydration seemed to evaporate almost immediately. I was chugging mineral water by the quart. The extreme heat prevented me from spending too much time outside. But, as mentioned before, what I did see impressed me–yet disappointed me because I couldn’t spend more time sightseeing.
From Zagreb we took the train back through Ljubljana, Slovenia to Trieste, Italy. Italy is currently suffering from a heat wave, as are the Balkans. The train to Ljubljana was not air conditioned. However, we were fortunate enough to find a car that had windows we could open wide. It helped to soften the stultifying heat.
When the train arrived in Ljubljana, we transferred to the bus for Trieste, Italy. Fortunately, the bus was air conditioned, making our travel experience more enjoyable and allowing us to relax somewhat.
Arriving in Trieste, we found the temperature and humidity to be as severe as the Balkans. The atmosphere outside was thick and sweat was literally pouring down my neck. As we walked down the street, I whipped off my tank top, so overheated I was. Even then, the sweat formed a trickle down my chest and my back.
As in Zagreb, I was unable to spend much time outside. Already suffering from dehydration despite the water I constantly drank, the humidity and heat resulted in lightheadedness and dizziness requiring me to spend practically all my time in our air conditioned hotel room.
My traveling companion was able to trek around the city, as he did in Zagreb and get photos. I ventured out with him at dinner to eat at an outdoor restaurant, sweat drenching my shirt. It was frustrating because Trieste is a beautiful city with magnificent architecture. Located on the water, it has a busy port and a long waterfront. As I looked out over the water, I thought, “Somewhere out there is Venice”. Not a big deal as I’ve been to Venice, thought!
Gradually, I’m getting better from this virus. The frustration is from not being able to get out and experience these new cities. My companion leaves for America on the 28th so I hope I can better entertain him these last few days. From Trieste, we travel to the Lake District so I can attend to family business. After that, we head to San Marino and then back to Alba Adriatica to rest from our excursion. Looking forward to once again “floatin’ lazy on my back” in the Adriatic.