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Murray Edwards College
University of Cambridge

Martha Bevan: Independent travel to Croatia

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    12 Dec
    Martha on a Croatian hilltop

    This summer, using the funds generously given to me by Gateway and the Rosemary Murray Travel Exhibition, I travelled to Croatia, visiting (amongst other places) Dubrovnik, Split and Zagreb. 

    “So you’re getting a free holiday?” is the first thing a friend asked me when I told them about the trip. This is, to a certain extent, true: I chose to spend my funding not on an internship or on volunteering, but on a trip to the beautiful land of Croatia. But it was also so much more than lazing about on beaches all day and eating good food – preparing for the trip really taught me a thing or two about organisation, and travelling with just myself and a backpack meant I had to improve my budgeting abilities, and fast.

    There were many highlights to my trip, one of which has to be witnessing the natural beauty of Croatia: whether it was visiting the Plitvice Lakes National Park, hiking up Mt Srd and looking down at Dubrovnik or the scenic (but very slow!) train ride between Split and Zagreb, there was always an incredible view to look at.

    I also enjoyed discovering the rich culture and history of this tiny and often-forgotten nation. Aside from visiting the many visually impressive synagogues, monasteries and cathedrals, I even had the opportunity to visit St Mark’s church in Zagreb during mass to get a taste for local life. I also explored Diocletian’s Palace in Split, and witnessed the cannon-firing ceremony in Zagreb. However, what I found most interesting was getting an understanding of how Croatia has come to terms with its recent past, and how it chooses to memorialise the Homeland War and those lost in it. The most poignant reminder of this recent tragedy was to be found in Dubrovnik, where at each corner of the pilgrimage trail up Mt Srd stood an image from the Stations of the Cross, as a monument to those lost in the siege of Dubrovnik.

    On a lighter note, what, so to speak, “made” this trip for me was definitely the people I met on it. To go diving in waterfalls, to explore abandoned villages and to even cook pasta with people you met mere hours ago was an immense privilege. I met people from all sorts of places and all walks of life, from Chile to Australia, and have made friends that I hope to stay in touch with.  This trip was full of unforgettable experiences and incredible moments. So where does the “challenge part” come into it? From the moment I got off the plane in Croatia, I was outside of my comfort zone, living off a small budget and out of a small backpack. I couldn’t speak the language – although I know a few phrases now, I’m proud to say. I knew no one, and most dauntingly of all, if something went wrong, I would have to sort it out myself. 

    I’m grateful that nothing did go dramatically wrong, but most of all I’m grateful for the personal development I experienced as a result of this trip. I’m much more confident and independent, and I’m now willing to step out of my comfort zone to experience more of life – qualities which I hope will set me in good stead for my year abroad. 

    For me, at least, this was more than just a holiday, and for that I’d like to thank Gateway and Rosemary Murray Travel Exhibition, as without them, this trip, with all its ups and downs, would not have happened.

    Martha Bevan
    History and Modern Languages