Traveling to Zagreb
Tina and I arrived in Split after our all-nighter and two-hour catamaran(essentially a ferry) ride. I don’t even know how I was functioning. I was so tired and had not a clue where I was off to next- only that Tina led the way. We got a coffee after purchasing our train tickets and sat waiting for our time to board. Finally, the train pulled up. It was a nice, promising-looking train that filled me with hope.
I had no idea that trains in Eastern Europe are not like trains in the rest of Europe(or dare I say, the world). While the train had decent seats, space, and restrooms, this train screeched every time we curved left or right. And that was another thing- there were SO many curves! Whatever happened to a straight shot railway? Nope. Not in Croatia. So, while my body burned for horizontal sleep, I moved around in my seat in every way I could possibly position myself, succeeding in at MOST 15 minutes of so-so sleep, before being shaken awake to change positions all over again.
Needless to say, this was not a highlight of the trip.
But I just had to share.
About 8 hours later we arrived in Zagreb. We got off the train and Tina’s mom, Monika came and met us.
I didn’t know it then, but Monika would later become like family to me too. Today, we live but 2 minutes from each other! If you had told me this back when I met her, I would’ve said you were crazy.
Anyway, we drove to Sesvete, a town about 15 minutes outside of Zagreb where Tina was from. I was to stay there for the next 5-6 days until my flight back to Seattle.
Tina has a little brother who she hadn’t seen all that summer. When we walked through the door, he ran to her and gave her the biggest, most desperate and relieved hug I’d ever seen.
After traveling to Zagreb, I was just so tired.
We had a drink then fell into bed. I’m not sure I’d ever slept so hard.
Final days in Croatia
The next few days were a blur of coffees, cafe bars, and Balkan music clubs(music relative to this area. If you wanna hear one of my favorite songs, click here). Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see much of Zagreb at this point. I was mostly just going with the flow and living the “local life” with Tina, her mom, and little brother. Oh, and shopping. I did a LOT of shopping because it was cheap compared to the States.
The first time I ever saw HIM
Yep, that’s right. My husband. Here’s where he enters the story.
Tina was driving and I was in the passenger seat. We had just pulled into the parking lot of the apartment buildings Tina lived at. Two boys were walking across it. The stopped, and Tina leaned out the window to talk to them. I sat quietly in the front seat(clearly a trend of mine during the trip). They spoke some Croatian then the boys walked away. But I noticed something.
One of them was so handsome.
“Who is THAT?” I asked Tina.
“That my friend Dominik. He has my snake,” she replied(Tina had a snake which I knew about. She had informed me on the island that one of her friends was taking care of it while she was away. Today, this snake is in our living room with us).
“He’s really handsome…” I said.
“Yeah, he is, but he doesn’t really talk much,” she said.
I honestly didn’t give it much thought. Later that night, she informed me we would go over to “buksa” (pronounced boo-k-sah), which is like their word for “crib”. It was a garage/shop on the side of a house.
A who’s house/buksa was it? My husband, Dominik’s.
We arrived and everyone was having drinks and hanging out. I tried to find all the English-speakers I could to connect with someone, anyone.
Our first conversation
That’s when I met my would-be husband and love of my life, Dominik. I needed to go inside his house to use the bathroom, so I utilize the situation to try to feel him out and see what he was like. The conversation went something like this:
Me: “Do you speak English?!”
Me: “How did you learn how to speak??”
Dominik: “Umm, from movies.”
And that was about it. That’s how I met Dominik.
To this day and probably always, I laugh and poke fun at him for not talking to me the first time we met. I really wish we had because I know we would’ve hit it off right away(like we did months later), but hey, diving appropriate timing right?
He always says that if he went back in time and saw himself then, he probably would’ve punch himself lol. It’s ok though. I love him because he is just so like that- a clear wall up, hard to reach, handsome, stoic face. I wouldn’t expect any different from him.
But it does make us laugh to know that sooner, rather than later, we would be married after that first meeting.
The day came when it was finally time to fly home. We ended up spending the last night hanging out in buksa, until 3 am, then woke up at 5 am to head to the airport for my flight.
Tina and I couldn’t even talk about me leaving the day before. My eyes welled up when I would think about it.
You just have to understand one thing.
I did not want to leave.
I didn’t want to go back to the States. I wanted to stay in Croatia. I felt like I belonged. I loved the life. I enjoyed.
You might say it was because I was on vacation but I really don’t think so. I loved everyone that I met- Tina was like my sister and Monika was like a mother or fun auntie. I felt in place, accepted, welcomed, safe, secure and, most of all, happy.
While we sat at coffee in the airport before my flight, I told Monika and Tina I was coming back. I just had to go home and take of a few things. They told me I was always welcome, and welcome to live there.
“Come,” they said.
And that’s exactly what I did four months later.