At what point does one become “churched-out?” I think on my first trip to Europe, I was sufficiently churched out.
It’s amusing and kind of sad. I was reading one of my last journal entires from my previous trip and I had noted every significant place I had been. In the entry I had actually written, when trying to convey the enormity of my experience, that I had walked past the Duomo. Walked past.
Who writes that?
I also walked past the Sistine Chapel. I never made it inside. I had arrived to the chapel just as the doors had shut, and at that point, I was ready to head to Florence, you know, to walk by the Duomo, and didn’t want to stay another day in Rome just to go there. Ridiculous.
In reading that journal entry, I realized I wasn’t really about hitting all of the hot spots. Yes, I have every intention to go and walk IN the Duomo and the Sistine Chapel. And, soon. But, the true beauty of traveling in my mind isn’t those places that everyone says you must go to — it’s the places that you discover on your own.
My first morning in Zagreb, one of the first things I discovered all on my own was the McDonalds. I had promised I would not eat fast food. I don’t in real life and in travel life, I try to stay pretty healthy (at least in terms of food). But, after a night of binge drinking, chicken nuggets and a Diet Coke fountain soda soundly godly.
Of course, no one believes in “Diet” in Europe, so I settled for a Coke Zero. Ice-free (they don’t believe in that either. Even if you get a shot, it comes with one pretty cube of ice and that’s it). And chicken nuggets.
As I walked around Lower Town’s Trg Josipa Jelacica (the main square) and its meandering streets, I ate my breakfast of chicken nuggets chased with Coke Zero and tried to figure out where I was going next.
And, by “try” I mean “walked around aimlessly.”
When I had arrived at Fulir, they gave me a nice pocket guide detailing walking tours in the city. I left that in the room. Along with a New York Times article detailing how to spend a good 36 hours in the city. And the map.
Here’s the thing — I don’t believe in maps. Or tours. I prefer to just move. Learn as I go.
So, it was just me and my gut instinct which guided me back towards the hostel, first to the Katedrala Marijina Uznesnja (Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary) and then to a street I had seen the day before.
There was a large crowd gathered at the church, which didn’t surprise me much since the day before in my quick wanderings to get my bearings, I had seen numerous tour buses parked on the street. This time, the buses were absent, and just people filled the area. People and television trucks.
I walked up to the entrance of the gothic structure and was pretty much stopped by the wall of people at its doors. I could hear mass taking place and when I peaked in, there was a massive crowd, cameras on dollys and studio lighting. Something was going on.
I asked a monk and he explained it was something like the 800th anniversary of the order. We couldn’t communicate that well, but I gathered it was a pretty big deal to the people there, so instead of being an obnoxious tourist and fighting my way in so I could say I was there, I settled for exploring around the church instead.Continue reading “The unconventional tourist”