After 500 days of traveling together we needed a break. And by 'needed' I mean we were at the point where we could argue about toothpaste formalities for minutes on end. So Tamara bought a ticket back home to Denmark where I would meet her in a couple weeks. Leaving me to explore the coast of Croatia alone. Honestly I was a bit scared at first, I had almost forgotten who I was or what I was like alone. We had spent so much time together that we had almost formed a new 'person' composed of the two of us. It was time to find myself again and I was ready to embrace the isolation.
I came across Rovinj the same way I usually do, hearing about it from a wealth of travel blogs and recommendation sites. Famous for it's medieval design it really had a magical appeal when looked at through pictures. I knew I had to see it for myself somehow. So I bought the next bus ticket there and reserved a bed at the only hostel in the city.
The hostel was adorable, in a way I've never felt before. When I first arrived I noticed a feeling of calm and love coming from throughout it's rooms. The owner greeted me with a warm, real smile as though she had been waiting for me. When she showed me my room I instantly felt at home. There was only one other person in the room with me, a quiet older woman the spent entire nights reading in bed. I still don't understand why someone would travel only to spend entire nights reading in bed.
My first day in Rovinj was spent walking in the rural outskirts. I barely even made it to city center as I was so taken by the unique feeling of Croatia as a whole. There really are no words for the feeling I get here. If you could combine the aesthetics of a California suburb and Merida Mexico you'd be close. Things were warm and safe. Shops were small and local. Honey was being sold everywhere for one reason or another. It could be home if I willed it, I could raise children here.
Second day, things changed a little. The magic of the suburbs fade slightly when you witness tourism causing a mass homogenization of the city center. There are no local shops or restaurants to be found. Nothing real, nothing honest, no grandmother baking bread in the same shop she's been in since the 60's. You'll first notice it when you walk along the pier and search for something, anything, to eat. You have absolutely no option but the ubiquitous multicolored tourist menus I've come to resent from my time in Spain. There is nothing left genuine here but the ancient stone roads I walk on.
But follow those stone roads long enough and you might find something real.
After walking rather aimlessly through the barrage of tourists I finally found what I was looking for. A private cafe carved into the rockface facing the ocean waited for me right as my feet began to hurt. I was in shock at my sudden luck, I just couldn't believe something so beautiful could exist in a convoluted city like this. I was elated with my new find, and instantly ordered a cappuccino. Of course it was one of the best I've had in my travels thus far. Outstanding.
After sitting a while and watching the waves I felt overwhelmed with the urge to create. I wanted to work with my hands, draw a landscape or paint with watercolors. It was too much for me to handle just looking at all this and not putting it back out in a physical form. There's only so much capacity in my brain for beauty, after a while it begins to spill out everywhere.
I continued to come back to 'my' spot day after day for my entire stay in Rovinj. Really, nothing else in the city could compare. I felt spoiled and jaded now that I understood the real potential of this city. Rovinj deserves to be as great as this small cafe proves it can be. Composed primarily of winding back alleys and castles overlooking a massive ocean; it has all the key ingredients to be a spectacular destination. However, Croatia depends dearly on the tourism industry and it's littering the once beautiful streets. Shop after shop selling selfie sticks and t-shirts with such classy slogans as 'I <3 Shoes, Bags and Boys' exemplify the issue.
I left Rovinj feeling empty. I was overwhelmed with the beauty of the sunsets and cobblestone walkways but it wasn't enough to ignore the piles of tourist shops begging for my money. This was a lesson for me on how important culture is to an area. Beauty can only go so far, a smile from a local shop owner goes much further.