CROATIA: Land Of A Thousand Islands

Posted by on Jul 21, 2015 in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

I have almost two weeks to spend in Croatia, and I begin my journey in Zagreb, the capital city. I was gratified to find my hostel to be perfectly located and equipped with excellent air-conditioning. The staff was incredibly helpful as well, and the walking tour gave me a good rundown on the city. It has been a good base to plan the next couple of weeks in this country as well. Croatia is the land of a thousand islands, but outside of Zagreb not so many smiles.

 

 

                                     Zagreb

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Yet another statue of a famous Croatian author whose name escapes me now. Looks like she could take Mary Poppins in a fight though.

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The Necktie – Invented in Croatia – I could have done without that invention after wearing the goddamn things for ages. I’m through with neckties! If I have to dress up, it will be in a tailored black suit with a crew-neck, top-quality t-shirt.

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King George with a slain dragon at his feet, symbolizing the victory of Christianity over unbelievers. I take exception to a comparison to a deceased, fire-breathing reptile.

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And right next door to that symbol of Christian love is the building where they tortured heretics before burning them at the stake. If you were lucky they would show you mercy by adding a propellant to make the fire burn hotter.

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And next to that is a shrine to yet another miracle of the Virgin Mary. In this case, a small painting of the Virgin Mary survived a fire and thus was dubbed a miracle. It would have been nice if all of those thousands of victims of the inquisition had received the same dispensation, and been spared their grisly fates. I guess God only prevents the burning of small paintings. People not so much.

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A church with the coat of arms of Zagreb and Croatia

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Nikola Tesla – Croatian

Now finally a monument I can get behind. Tesla helped move civilization forward, and if it weren’t for greed we would probably all have free electricity because of him. A lot of people hired Tesla and stole all of his glory. Henry Ford was one of these. Tesla didn’t care about fame and money, just about science and making his inventions work. What a guy!

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A few victims. This is actually a great museum.

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A.G. Matoš – Croatia’s most famous author gazing over the city he loved so dearly.

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Main Square – The clock where everyone meets.

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Many years ago a young man climbed up one of the steeples of this church and started to do handstands on the cross at the top. He continued to do various forms of acrobatics until the fire department showed up. It seems he wanted to be a fireman and was refused the opportunity on a few occasions so he figured if he pulled this stunt they would have to show up and see his talent. They did show up and begged him to come down. He said that he would, only if they would give him a job. He worked for the Zagreb Fire Department for forty years, and it is said that he was doing handstands for his grandchildren past the age of seventy. That steeple on the left has been under renovation for over twenty years.

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A cheese dish that is truly a national treasure.

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Fini Zalogaj – My absolute favorite restaurant in Croatia. Inexpensive sandwiches based upon the famous Cevapi sandwiches Croatia is known for. An image of this delicious creation is visible in the flat screen in the picture. They are just off the main square in Zagreb. I foresee they will become a franchise, and become available all over Croatia in three years. Yes, they’re that tasty!

 

                                             Zadar

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Zadar – One of Croatia’s gems by the sea. The view from my Hostel window.

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The Main Square

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Bell Tower

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Croatian Buskers picking up a few kunas here and there.

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Park At One End Of Town.

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Roman Bits And Pieces

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This is a keyboard indicating that we are next to the sea organ where the waves cause organ-like sounds to usher forth from holes in the pavement caused by the interplay of the waves with the seawall.

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One thing I missed during the day is that the sea organ has a visual element as well, a light show on the ground that pulsates and undulates to the sounds.

 

                       “Game Of Thieves”

                             Zadar to Split

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This is the subhuman in charge of taking tickets and collecting money for the luggage stored underneath the bus. He is also the thief who kept thirty dollars he was supposed to return to me. Unfortunately, I only had a 200 kuna note for a 10 kuna luggage storage fee, and he shot me a look like I was nuts. I figured he needed to make change at the next stop or something.

So I waited until the next stop where he very conveniently played dumb and said he didn’t remember me giving him the 200. He tried hiding behind the language barrier so I found a local who was appalled at his fellow countryman’s dishonesty and he translated for me. He called his office and was supposed to count his funds to see if he was over. We reached the final destination and sure enough, he refused to give me my money.

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This is the hand that stole my cash. On the right is the bus driver who sat by and probably split the money with him. He is also the person who attacked me when I took his picture and tried to take my camera.

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Once again, the scumbag that took my money, this time trying to run me over with the bus as he tries to flee the scene of the crime. You can see me reflected in the windshield as I photograph him in the act.

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This is another one of the same bus company’s useless and offensive employees. I think I should mention that not only did this representative refuse to give me my money, but he also stood by when the bus driver attacked me. Of course, this was after he gave me the finger. I sent the company an email describing my experience with the accompanying photographs and never received a reply. A policeman parked at the bus station was equally useless.

I spoke to the receptionist in my Hostel in Split, and she apologized for the behavior of her countrymen. She said that her country had become overrun by rednecks and that the educated people had fled the country. She knew of some young ladies that had taken a bus from Split to Dubrovnik, and evidently, you need your passport. They didn’t have theirs and the bus driver screamed at them, was going to put them off the bus in the middle of nowhere.

My British roommates in Split had encountered a lot of rudeness and indifference in dealing with people in the hospitality business. So far the country is beautiful and so are the women, but overall they are in serious need of an attitude adjustment.

 

                                                      Split

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One of the entrances to Split Old Town.

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Remaining Mosaic Floor

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Bell Tower

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Indoor Ancient Mall

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Homeowner showing off his wealth by installing a piece of Egyptian sculpture in the outside wall of his house.

 

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A very nice air-conditioned restaurant that I enjoyed. It’s been a real heat wave, and all of the crowds and the fact that this is a walled-in city isn’t helping matters. It’s nice to have an air-conditioned room to escape to. In fact, if the hostel was not city center and air-conditioned, I’d have nothing to do with it.

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A tourist getting a nice souvenir picture with a couple of Roman Guards. I could have used these guys with those stinking bus drivers. Where are those Romans when you need one anyway? I don’t think they had donuts in those days.

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They had a performance of Aida in this space. I caught a bit of it from the wings, and it was quite a setting.

 

 

                                                       Hvar

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A catamaran coming in for docking just like the one that dropped me off.

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My trusty little air-conditioned hostel right off the main square.

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How about that, another hilltop castle! Let’s have a look, shall we?

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Yet another obligatory selfie for friends and family. I’d also like to mention that I did selfies long before digital cameras and editing. That’s back when you could actually waste a shot. I usually got the shot, and it was a lot more rewarding.

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COME ON DOWN TO THE PRISON DUNGEON

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A PLACE RESERVED FOR UNETHICAL BUS DRIVERS

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A PRETTY PICTURE IF IT WEREN’T A JAIL CELL

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The view of the island from Hvar Castle.

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MORE OBSCENE MOTOR YACHTS

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                                     Korčula Island Pit Stop

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                                                 Dubrovnik

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Hot as hell and overrun with tourists, but good news for you “Game of Thrones” fans. Much of that series is filmed right here in Dubrovnik’s old town. There are many “Game of Thrones” tours, but I didn’t take one because I haven’t seen the show. See if you can see something familiar. News update: “Game of Thrones” will no longer be filmed in Dubrovnik. Guess the charm of the locals took its toll on them.

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Same vantage early in the morning before the tourist onslaught.

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Hordes of sweaty tourists on the main street. Do not visit in July/August.

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The beautiful cathedral that was badly damaged during the Serb’s aggression in 1991.

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This church was one of the few buildings that were not damaged by the 17th. century earthquake. Not due to any miracle, but small size and good construction.

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A poster showing the damage sustained by Serbian shelling in 1991.

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For about 12$ you can get a ticket to walk around the perimeter of the walls that enclose the city. It affords views that you just can’t get at street level struggling past the crush of tourists.

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The city water source with filling stations all around its perimeter.

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Main Street

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Protected Harbor

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Quarantine Area – Adjacent to the harbor, this was where people were housed back in the day to make sure they didn’t have the plague or some other noxious disease.

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THE ZEALOT DOME

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THREE ADDITIONAL DOMES OF DUBROVNIK

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Roofs sporting the original amber hued tiles seen in the foreground. Many of the roofs were damaged or destroyed in the Serbian/Croatian conflict. All of the terra cotta colored roofs are replacements.

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Original Amber Hue Tiles

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Barely visible on top of the mountain are the ruins of another fortress built by Napoleon. I will not be hiking up to this one in the heat again. The good news is that the pole on top of the mountain belongs to a cable car which I gratefully rode to the top.

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Gratefully taken from an air-conditioned restaurant.

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This is that Napoleonic fortress which has now been converted into a war museum dedicated to the brave people who endured the Serbian siege of Dubrovnik which lasted from 1 October 1991 – 31 May 1992. Aside from targeting civilians, the Serbian army targeted the Unesco World Heritage Site known as the fortified medieval village of Dubrovnik. They used 20th. century weapons against a place built when they were using the bow and arrow.

At any rate, they occupied the surrounding hills, patrolled the seas shelling and shooting mortars, and used snipers to kill civilians. They set buildings aflame, blasted holes into the pavement, and reduced buildings to rubble. The Croats held the high ground at the former Napoleonic fortress above the city which the museum now occupies. The city outside the city walls was also targeted. Hotels and apartment buildings were among the casualties as were citizens by the score.

The siege and a naval blockade by the Yugoslav Navy caused the deaths of between 82 and 88 Croatian civilians and 194 Croatian military personnel. The Croats managed to hold out and emerged victorious. The Montenegrin president even apologized to Croatia for his country’s participation in the aggression. This was a sporting gesture that was not well received in Serbia.

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Weapons used against the superior Serbian forces.

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Hallways walked by Napoleon’s troops as well as the defenders of Dubrovnik.

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Photos on the right and left show smoke rising from the harbor and a tattered image Main Street.

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Dead Pigeon (sky rat) – The only positive outcome of the Serbian aggression.

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The pearl of Croatia restored to its original glory, and now seen the world over on HBO.

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All is well as the moon rises over Main Street in the fully restored city of Dubrovnik as generations of tourists lay siege to the city once again. Now it’s Dubrovnik’s turn with restaurants charging excessive prices for pasta dishes with barely a whiff of tiny shrimp. It’s Eastern Europe for crying out loud, you might as well be in Paris given the tariffs they’re charging. I really didn’t run into any crime other than those bus drivers of course. It’s a beautiful country, but when you leave you might feel as if you’ve been pickpocketed.

6 Comments

  1. Jason B.
    July 29, 2015

    Loved the added commentary! Really funny, really great. Are you having a great time there?

  2. The Travel Zealot
    July 29, 2015

    Hey Jason,
    I’m just getting warmed up. Check back in for the bus driver who ripped me off in Split, and then tried to run me over with the bus. Pictures included!

  3. Jason B.
    August 1, 2015

    That was amazing. Those guys are real grease balls! What kind of attack did that idiot launch. Was he trying to bitch slap your camera?

  4. The Travel Zealot
    August 1, 2015

    He was trying to wrench it out of my hand to remove the evidence. Not that the company gave a damn anyway. I’ll be glad to move on tomorrow. Food is very expensive here, and it’s hotter than Hades. I was on a day tour in Montenegro today. Things were cheaper and the people were nicer.

  5. Karen Devers
    August 2, 2015

    Hey, John,

    Really stupid of them to steal your money and bully you. They need to realize that such acts get telegraphed all over the world and have negative consequences for people who might want to visit their country. I wonder if you went to the U.S. Embassy if they might help you. At least a formal complaint would be on file. That may be more trouble than it is worth for you but it might be satisfying, especially if they follow up with a communication to the Company.

    It sounds like the rest of your trip was more pleasant. Is this a place you would revisit?

    I’ve been reading in IL about housesitting as a way to visit and experience different places. That is appealing to me and I’m going to looki into that option.

    Your photographs are stunning as usual and I appreciate your honest commentary. I wonder if you could give a photo presentation at one of the IL conferences. The fact that you are experiencing a very real journey and not sugar coating your experiences makes it more interesting. Maybe an article for the magazine?

    Keep having fun!

    Karen

  6. The Travel Zealot
    August 4, 2015

    Hi Karen,
    I just found a special email on the bus company website especially for complaints. So I’ll give it one more shot. It’s one thing to put up with crap in Vietnam where my country behaved badly, but Croatia has no excuse. Not to mention that our HBO Show “Game of Thrones” is bringing them an enormous amount of tourism. Actually these experiences tend to serve to make the blog more interesting anyway. I’m now in Sarajevo in Bosnia which is much cheaper, and I found a great hostel to boot. I’ve learned a lot about the conflict here in the early nineties, and had a wonderful tour from the hostel owner. The Serbs were laying siege to Sarajevo for three years when he was sixteen. I got some good material for my Bosnia thread.

    The housesitting is a good option for you especially since you are good with animals. I’m in Central and South America in 2016 so maybe we’ll meet up in one of those great retirement destinations like Cuenca or the Central Valley of Costa Rica.

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