The Adventure of Driving Into the Unknown in Croatia

Songwriter Nathalie Merchant croons: “Go west. Paradise is there.” And she is mostly right. But sometimes you should slip a little to the south and a little to the east and you will be surprised, and you will be amazed.

Travel books are okay for general information, but when you just stick to their advice, the same thing happens as when you strictly follow recipes: you end up with someone else’s chocolate soufflé.

When we end up traveling someone else’s travels, we experience some of the joy of the unseen but none of the joy of the unknown.

Stepping out of the boundaries in life is every bit as important as staying within them.

One of the great pleasures of travel in a foreign land by car is the opportunity to turn left down a road at the drop of a hat to see where it goes—to look for a squiggle instead of a straight line. Sometimes you will simply find the end of the road, but sometimes you will find the beginning.

As the four of us head away from the island town of Korcula in Croatia, we follow the road and realize that we are not interested in driving the whole length of the island to find our night’s accommodation. So we head back towards Lumbarda, a fishing village on the southeast tip of the island.

And as we head back, we decide to turn right down a road with a sign for a “plaza” or beach. At the start, 5.5 kilometres doesn’t seem so far until we realize that 5.3 of those kilometres are heading straight down what appears to be a tiny, craggy road, that only gives us an inch to avoid plunging car-first into the alluring blue water of the Adriatic.

In fact the water is so blue and so alluring that if instant death wasn’t certain to ensue, one might be tempted to Thelma-and-Louise it.

We head straight down, that is until we have to take a sharp hair-pin turn that requires our car to corner on a dime in a way that our rental, while sporty and zippy in her own right, is not able to.

I believe negotiating those turns is what leads citizens of Croatia to be observant religious believers, because to know that you’re going to make it in one piece, well, you gotta have faith. ??

Just when we decided that nothing could exist at the bottom of such a distinct crevasse in the rock, we find a smattering of cars. A smattering of cars is very important in Croatia. It means that there is something worth seeing but not something so easy to get to that tour-bus-people or cruise-ship-people are likely to make the effort. ??

So at this particular smattering of cars we get out and follow a path surrounded by crickets inviting us along. The path leads us through a grove of olive trees, and past grape vines to a restaurant perched on the rocks overlooking the most exquisite private bay.

Sea-polished, sun-bleached rocks turn to sea-polished, sun-bleached pebbles. Clear, turquoise waters turn to cobalt blue. The water meets the sky in a way that fills my heart and soul with a strange sensation of longing for what I have just found.

And while it’s not necessary to talk in hushed voices, it somehow seems fitting in the circumstances, for this is a place of intensity. All the churches in Europe cannot hold a candle to how humble and inconsequential we feel in the presence of such natural power. And we know how blessed we are.

And so the lesson is that every so often you’ve got to zig and zag because what you might get is a cacophony of crickets leading you down an olive?-laden path to glory.

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