As mentioned in previous post, we wanted to go to Croatia to visit our maternal 2nd cousin Jim. He recently relocated to the capital city of Zagreb after 6 years in Kiev, Ukraine.
Jim is one of the more outstanding human beings I know. Extremely smart, hard-working, and endlessly nice and funny. A California native, so naturally laid back when he needs to be. He's been everywhere, done everything (Peace Corps, Fulbright, State Department, now based with the United Nations, on and on...). When Court asked him how many languages he speaks, his response, with a laugh, "I don't know!"
One of the more eligible bachelors out there, for all you ladies reading. Just sayin!
I couldn't argue that Zagreb is the best place to visit in the middle of winter, but we had a great time nonetheless. I enjoyed walking around in a new country and city, seeing the architecture, churches, drinking grog (hot whisky of some sort), sampling the food and local beer, watching ridiculous Ukrainian candid camera films that Jim had in his catalog, and listening to the language, though, battled a bit more with the words than in Hungary. The three words I managed in Croatian: "Svala" (thanks) "Hvratska" (Croatia) and "Schivalee!" (Cheers!)
Closing time at Dolac Market
Outside of St Mark's Church
By my request, we got in some time in nature. We made it to the top of Zagreb's local Sjleme mountain, only to find the International "Snow Queen" Slalom/Skiing competition going on. Actually- we knew it was going on, but weren't intending to attend, but rather, go to the top of the mountain, check out the views, and have a hot drink.
It was really funny and confusing. We got to base of the mountain and realized you needed a $20 ticket to get up, and had to ascend by bus. The ticket-checkers looked at us and laughed, said something in Croatian, gave us free tickets and pointed to the shuttle. I think they thought that in our blue jeans, we weren't dressed properly for the mountain, or wanted to walk all 3000 feet up to the top, who knows?
I can't remember which team won, but USA's Jimmy Cochran was horrible, coming in 25th out of 29, beating only Slovenia, Slovakia, Sweeden and France. The event was funny. Lots of people were wearing outfits resembling the red-white checked Croatian flag. Lots of people were cheering. The announcers were drunk. They gave out free lemon tea, because it was freezing cold.
Another funny thing happened at a local restaurant that Jim's Croat colleague recommended. We realized that the only way to actually order something listed on the English/Croatian menu was to order it in Croatian, otherwise the waiter would say they didn't have it.
Jim: "...and a hot chocolate please"
Jim: "You don't have hot chocolate?" (points to menu item)
Waiter: (with a You-Americans-Are-So-Stupid kind of laugh), "No no no no!"
5 minutes later, Stenise pulls the waiter back to the table:
Stenise: "One "çokolada" please"
(Waiter nods and brings hot chocolate).
All in all, it was a relaxed, relaxing, fun and familial vacation. I flew back to Edinburgh via London, and the girls will continue on to Italy, France, Belgium, Netherlands, London and back to Edinburgh where we'll visit again before they fly home to DC.
This successful trip to Croatia has inspired me to come back and check out the famous Dalmatian coast in Spring, when flights are cheap and weather is great. For now, Happy New Year! So far, so good in 2010!