27 May 2000
For the entire trip we had been planning to go to Croatia, and it kept getting put off. Croatia seemed facinating and had been highly recommended. Of course it was also a sensitive topic and many people over reacted when we mentioned it. We avoided even mentioning it to some people, to prevent worry.
On the train from Ljubljana, Slovineia to Zagreb we shared a train car with a Bosnian Muslim, living in Zagreb (for 20 years) and working in Austria (for 6 years). It was facinating to talk to him, and exciting to beable to carry on a 3 hr conversation ALL in German!
It was a stunningly gorgous train trip through deep green river valleys with rusing mountain rivers.
He told us a lot of things, some of which was clearly propaganda, some was not... but the most important thing was that he told us that Croatia is now "Normal". That is how they phrase it... Everything is normal. The best expression of it came from a 13 yr old girl Cheryln spoke to ... she said "People are happier now."
We were not worried, but even less after that. We only changed trains in Zagreb... we took a night train to Split on the Dalmation coast. THis gorgous part of the Adriatic was long a part of the Empire of Venice.
The water is crystal blue and very clear, the mediterranian mountains dive straight into the sea and the villages and walled cities balance on the edge. There is an amazing Roman palace in Split.
We stayed in a private room in a home -- it was extremely nice... and very comfortable. The woman met the train and was looking for people. She seemed friendly enough and so we went. We were glad we did!
We were lucky enough to be able to take a boat 10 hours through the islands to the famous ( and infamous) ancient city of Dubrovnik.
The 25 meter walls are stunning and swimming in the crystal clear Adriatic in front of a bombed out luxury hotel was amazing. I can't stop using that word.
We left Ljubljana Slovinia after only one day... we really liked it, but we were hurrying. We took a night train to Split Croatia, on the Dalmation coast, the old domain of Venice. On the first leg of the train we shared the compartment with a Bosnian man who we had a facinating 3 hour conversation with ALL IN GERMAN! On the overnight portion of the train we had 40 school kids in our car and only one seat between the two of us. However it was as hard to sleep on the floor as in the seat so it was no matter -- Cheryln had a wonderful time chatting with the Croatian 13 year old girls. They said the best thing i think i have ever heard, when asked about the war they said: "Everyone is happier now." From the mouths of babes come the deepest wisdom!
Split was faciating and enjoyable although exceptionally hot. It is an old Roman vacation spot with amazing ruins. We stayed in a private home, finally went home with one of the old women at the train station. It was a GREAT experince, very comfortable, very cultural, very nice. And we did go swimming a couple of times too. Facinating town, Split, and no visiable war damage at all -- although comming in on the train we saw some abandoned villages, but it was impossible to tell if they had been abandoned for 5 years or 50.
The we took a ship down the adriatic coast 12 hours through the Islands to Dubrovnik. Now this is gorgous territory (not as nice as the islands in Washington and Alaska, but then, what is?!) and the old cities on these islands (Marco Polo hailed from here) are stunning. We wished we had a couple of weeks. I think there is a kayak trip waiting for me there.
Dubrovnik was quite stunning. The 25 meter city walls are really something you have to see to believe and the crystal blue Adriatic sets them off well. All is repaired from the war (according to who you talk to, some people told us that any news report of Dubrovnik being attacked was just propaganda!), although if you look hard around the old town, you can find some evidence: Boarded up houses, unmatched roof tiles, even a sign detailing damage to the walls. But to quote the people (and EVERYONE used this word), Every thing is Normal.
Outside of the old town we went swimming in the adriatic infront of the Hotel Libratas -- a 5 star ultra luxery hotel that was heavily shelled and bombed and has not been replaced. WE had to walk around the 5 meter shell holes in the patio and every opulant room had a bomb hole in it. The swimming was great with fish swimming around our feet and the water is so salty that it is impossible to sink!
Then we took the bus to Sarajevo.
© Copyright Mark Canizaro 2000
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