In the whir of midterm exams, filmmaking and attempting to make major decisions, the immediacy of Academic Travel had been put on my mental back burner. Sunday rolled around sooner than anyone was prepared for. Quinn, my roommate, was reluctant to get up, after staying up until 4 AM the night before.
“Quiiiiinnnnnnn,” I shouted from the living room. “You have to get up! We have to go to former Yugoslavia!”
If that isn’t motivating, I don’t know what is.
Boarding a bus with about 15 other girls and an intimidating Serbian professor (who looked fabulous in fur and heeled boots that morning, in contrast to our American jeans and sweatshirts), we began the long, winding journey through Italy, through Slovenia, and onto the Croatian coast. We arrived in the region of Istria in the evening, staring out the windows in awe as the red light of a brilliant sunset flooded the landscape. Croatia was unlike anything I had ever seen – what I always imagined Greece should look like, on the occasions when I daydreamed about going there. That said, it fulfilled some of my greatest travel wishes. Imagine white dirt roads, white rock beaches, beige vegetation scattered with the silvery green of olive, cypress and pine trees, interlaced with myrtle bushes. Place this image against striking coastal cliffs and the bluest ocean you’ve ever seen. Add tiny white villas with terracotta tile roofs, clothes hanging from lines outside, and submerge the entire scene in the vintage glow of a seashore sunset. We had arrived in Pula.
I was positively awe-struck. The world beyond our bus windows looked like the ultimate summer destination – until we stepped outside. Bura, the icy north wind, was blowing with ferocious intensity, piercing directly through our clothes and seeping into our bones. We hurried into our excessively fancy hotel and headed directly for the saltwater swimming pool, where in a group of about 9 American girls, we experienced the strangeness of Slavic co-ed dressing rooms and showers. Thanks to strength in numbers, no sketchiness arose, but the looks we got from the old Eastern European men were rather disconcerting. Our latest cultural experience had begun!