Slipping into a seat next to the giant window that framed my journey through the untouched Croatian countryside, anticipation was all I felt about the picturesque scene to come.
Riding the Rails
The train lurched forward begging to leave the city to race through the emerald forests that line the peaks and valleys of Istria and Dalmatia. Winding tracks, wrapped the river and bent though rolling hills. Random red poppies peeked from the sides of ruined walls.
Climbing high into the white marbled mountain tops, it revealed a myriad of lush green hues that painted the blue sky landscape. Like a rollercoaster, the train swooped downhill, rounding corners, seeking out tunnels as it raced from one valley to the next. The melody of the rails passing beneath rocked my traveling soul.
Each valley revealed a hidden Croatia. A sea of red roofs – a signature trait – topped what looked like miniature toy towns. The clickity-clack and rocking side to side lulled me in a deep relaxation as I stared off into the endless forests. Cottonballs danced upon the highest peaks forming what ever shape my imagination chose. The red dirt along the real embankment seemed to match the house tops – perfect for that random mans backyard garden of vegetables to thrive. The odd fields of lavender would sway in the wind as the train rushed past.
Church after church tucked in each village served as a reminder of the once Roman influence that ruled the land. Remnants of the 91-95 war still lined the tracks in the form of stone rubble and bullet holes in the walls of some train stops. Farm after farm of varied crops led the way into the train stops. A black lab chased the train as it pulled into Gračac, as if it was his job to greet the passengers at the station during the 10 minute break in their journey.
But, no matter the how many towns or villages the train traveled past, they only let me see a glimpse of their secret world. I truly appreciated every moment.
Then again, the train car is it’s own world. Filled with people you know for only 6 hours. They become part of your story and you become part of theirs. Like Kevin (Aussie) and his wife Reiko (Japenese) married for 38 years, who like me are touring Europe by train. He had never been to Europe She had Eurorail over 45 years ago when she went on a two year adventure with her best friend. We chatted about life and the beauty of the landscape for hours. I shared my life they shared theirs. For those 6 hours, our paths crossed and our stories joined.
While trains in Croatia may run slowly up and down the coast, it offered up an unique side of Croatia. A train ride can be a time of solo reflection or engagement with others. The choice was mine.