God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Beauty and the Beast

Yesterday was a day of contrasts, moving from the exquisitely beautiful and awesome to the heartbreak and scars of war and violence.

The first was God made—the numbing wonders of Plitvice Lakes National Park, a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site. There are uncountable numbers of waterfalls as well as lakes with colors so beautiful and water so clear that the only response is the awe that accompanies pure, unfiltered beauty. To come to Croatia and not walk the trails and marvel at this fairy land of waterfalls and lakes is to leave the country too early.

In mind-numbing contrast to the park are the surrounding villages and towns that still show the horror of war between the Croats and Serbs in the 1990’s. The area around the park was a major area of violence and atrocities born from hate. As you drive the road to the park or, more telling, turn off the major road and explore small side lanes, you become aware of house after house still peppered with bullet scars, sometimes partially repaired, other times being lived in just as they were left 15 years ago, sometimes abandoned.

Worse, by far, though, are the remnants of homes and buildings that were totally destroyed. They stand now as shells, with sightless windows. The sun streams in where roofs once were and interior walls are non-existent. Many are so encroached upon with weeds and foliage that seeing the structures is difficult. They were abandoned and left to time. Knowing that thousands of people were massacred during those years, the haunting question is what happened to the families living in the houses when the guns and bombs came.

Many were far worse than this one but by the time I decided to take a picture, this was the last one we saw. I really did not feel right taking photographs.

Now, 13 years later, Croatia is rebounding, showing the resilience of people. At least this is true in the urban and tourists area as well as in some of the more rural areas we explored. I am told, though, that there are many areas where daily life continues to be rough and demanding. Doubtless many people are as scarred as the landscape but they give testimony to the adage that life does move on.

Today we arrived in Trogir, a charming but totally touristy island close to Split. Our hotel, which was recommended by friend Gail, is perfect. This is the view from our window looking over to the old town center—don’t you like that? We do.

Hotel Villa Sikaa is a small hotel, dreadful looking from the outside and stairway but delightful upstairs where it really is. Anyone headed this way, would do well to check it out and ask for room 16—the best. It comes complete with a spa/sauna shower, double paned windows (to block the disco noise from next door,) delightful attention to detail and nice people. The room is air-conditioned which may seem like a bit of unnecessary information; however, if you were with us, you’d know just why this is important. And...there is free wireless access.

Finally for now, I can’t say enough about the food—fish, shell fish, fish and more fish. It is beyond good. Maybe because it is truly fresh or because preparation is pure and simple, whatever, I will dream of it all when I order fish in the states—probably accompanying the dream with “if only this were Croatia!”

Now, it’s time to shower and get ready for dinner. Hopefully, I can upload this tomorrow.


gail hecko said...

I, too, was so moved by the war damage still to be seen.

The Croatians are so proud of their country, and try so hard to accommodate.

Glad you liked the hotel! It really is scuzzy from the outside, but the inside is perfetto.

Trogir is very touristy, but I really liked it anyway.

I know you're having a great time.

janie said...

Glad you are enjoying your trip. I really want to visit Croatia some day. Thanks for the updates and photos.

As I was studying Italian today I thought about Casey and how he can speak it-oh to be young and learning Italian instead of my age!

Terry (teaberry) said...

Jane, I'm LOVING your insights and what you're sharing about your visit. I was quite impressed with the resiliency of the Croatian people. They ARE their landscape. Keep blogging - it's fascinating reading.

Anonymous said...

Jane, I'm here reading and loving your experience. I really, really want to visit Croatia. Thank you for writing and for the photos. Barb Cabot

Jane said...

Thanks, as always for comments. Any one who blogs knows that it's nice to know that people read it.

Yes, Janie--we envy Casey, too. We old folks just don't learn easily.

Judith in Umbria said...

It is my only too clear memory of war, hate and ethnic cleansing that has kept me from visiting Croatia. I'm not so sure of telling who is a survivor and who got away with murder. The ferry leaves not far from me, I think of doing it and then I hesitate. How will I know, I ask my self?

Anonymous said...

The first time I went to Croatia with my native husband was in 1997 and as we drove through the countryside I broke down into tears. My mother in law nudged my husband and in her native tongue told him to tell me to take it easy and slow down...because it gets worse. Town upon town bombed and burned to the ground; the horror I felt was like none other. Almost 13 years later, I go through those same towns and see huge houses that have been built and life returning. Now I wonder how do they afford to build such huge homes...did they use their land as collateral? Will the World Bank be there to collect unpaid debts by taking the land that has been in the families for dozens and dozens of generations? I can only imagine and hope that the appearance prosperity isn't false and the people of Croatia will fully recover from the war that tore them apart.

Jane said...

Anonymous, thank you for your comment and sharing of your experience and insight. I share your questions and concerns. What happened to the people? I wonder. Question: Do I know you?