Using a rusty, dirt-caked knife, she sliced a perfectly ripe pear and passed me a piece dripping with juice. In the space of a split-second, I was caught between craving the connection and fearing the lack of sanitation. My desire to experience, to interact, to connect grew greater than my doubt. As I reached for her offering, her suntanned, wrinkled face lit up. The pear was sweet, tender and delicious.
Earlier I’d awoken in Split, Croatia and realized blissfully that I was without plans. I had previously explored the beautiful, historic Diocletian’s Palace. I had already enjoyed a day swimming in the crystal clear waters of the Adriatic. I’d even seen an impromptu game of picigin, a local ball game, played on Bacvice the only sandy beach. So on this day, I had decided to simply walk without destination relished the warm October sun and the never ending photographic opportunities.
After several blocks, I turned a corner and found myself in one of my favourite places – a local market, or a tržnica in Croatian. Located just steps away from the harbour, the market offered views of bobbing sailboats and smelled of the sea breeze. Slowly, I began to wander around the packed stalls with their mountains of sweet, ripe, fly-covered fruits. I had no intentions. No thoughts of where to wander. No plans for what to buy. I just observed.
The tables were overflowing with local apples, oranges, lemons, grapefruits, pears and the seasonal star – pomegranates. The warm climate in Croatia creates ideal growing conditions for citrus fruit and nearly every backyard has at least one fruit tree. My AirBnB host said that in the height of the season they would have so many fruits that grapefruits and oranges simply rotted in the streets.
As I wandered a broad smile spread across my face. No matter where I am in the world, I always love to visit markets. They offer the smallest glimpse into the unfiltered lives of the local population. Seeing my grin, the elderly vendor had called me over using a mixture of Croatian and gestures. She had been giving her friend a sample of pear and wanted to offer me a slice.
The moment I took that slice of pear I said yes to the very essence of travel. Yes to being open to creating a connection with someone new. Yes to sharing simple acts of kindness. Yes to richness without a price and to understanding without language. Yes to celebrating the commonalities that unite us all.
Taking my inspiration from the moment, I chose a bunch of pears to purchase from her stall. She was so busy serving locals as they bought peppers, lemons, pears, figs and tomatoes, I could barely find my place in line. I simply waited and watched. I was in no hurry. Standing in the bustling market surrounded by people it hit home, this is what I love about travel. I couldn’t speak a single word of Croatian and the vendor spoke no English but through handsigns, we eventually completed the transaction. Our shared appreciation for the tantalizing sweetness of fresh fruit required no translation. I may not have haggled or spoken a single word, but I left feeling richer and well understood.
Do you have a travel memory that had no words but left a lasting impression? Tell me all about it in the comments below!
Now It’s Your Turn! When you visit a city for the first time, make it your mission to visit a local market and buy one seasonal item. Even if you can’t speak the local language, you will learn a little bit about the culture and cuisine of the region simply by immersing yourself in this quotidian activity.
A special thank you goes out to Jennifer Durkin for several of the photos in this post.