Home, I learned, can be anywhere you make it. Home is also the place to which you come back again and again.
-Margaret Mead, 'Blackberry Winter: My Earlier Years'
Now that I've been back in the U.S. for exactly six weeks, I occasionally find myself reminiscing about the intimate, pedestrian-filled old towns of Europe. (The grass is always greener on the other side, right?) Don't get me wrong, I'm enjoying being in one place for more than a month and it sure is nice to have a library card again, I just can't help but daydream about sidewalk cafes and safe spaces for pedestrians and cyclists. Croatia and Slovenia were among the last two countries I visited, and while Croatia has mastered the art of people-friendly public spaces, Slovenia is a brilliant example of releasing a city center from the choking grip of the car. I found myself returning to Croatia and Slovenia many times in my eighteen months traveling, learning something new and interesting about urban planning each visit.
But even in Croatia and Slovenia, I've come to realize that ugly buildings and cars are a problem for cities all over the world, not just the U.S. It's hard to tell if the problem is getting worse or better, but there are cities like Ljubljana making conscious efforts to stave off mediocrity. Let's hold it to other cities to follow suit.
As an urban planner, it's hard not to be amazed by what this beautiful city is doing. Ljubljana is an excellent example of what communities can do to best realize their potential while prioritizing historic buildings, people, and sustainability. I was lucky to visit Slovenia's capital twice, enjoying car-free Old Town, Christmas lights, and a city blanketed in a thick layer of snow. I have a sneaking suspicion that I'll be back.
Split, such a gorgeous city that I had to visit twice. The stunning Diocletian's Palace bathed in a cotton candy pink with the setting sun, the soothing sounds of pelicans and water lapping against the limestone retaining wall. Stylish locals and tourists fill cafe chairs along the Riva to drink strong coffee and people watch. It's hard not to fall in love with charming Old Town within those Roman walls, and even harder to leave.
What's better than a visit to Zagreb? Four visits to Zagreb, which is exactly what I did in the span of a year. Croatia's capital has a special pull on my heart, and every time I visited I felt relaxed and at home. As a solo traveler, I found something magical about the city, from its understated Austro-Hungarian architecture to the charming old trams rumbling down the street.