August 23, 2012

Sheryl Sousa, Day 8 and 9: The metropolitan city of Zagreb, and the tour winds down

August 23

We spent yesterday touring Zagreb, the capital city of Croatia. We had a local guide who took us though the sights in the morning and then we had the afternoon on our own to explore the city.

Zagreb is the center of Croatia culturally, economically and politically. It is the home to many museums, a cathedral, a huge farmer's market, a very cool tram system for public transportation and many, many cafes.   I don't have much to compare it to, but Zagreb seemed to exemplify what I think of when I think of Eastern European, while our time on the coast felt more Mediterranean. The buildings throughout the city show the Austria-Hungarian influence, compared to the Greek- and Roman-feelings I got from our time in the smaller cities.

Most of the buildings in Croatia, including Zagreb, have red tile roofs.  In touring the city it was hard not to notice the different shades of red tiles, marking the old tiles and new tiles.  The roofs with many new tiles had been bombed during the war and later replaced.  All of us on the trip have been keenly aware of the challenging past Croatia has endured. We have learned much about their many different rulers and most recent Homeland war which ended only twenty years ago. Without knowing the history, Zagreb looks like any other major city, but understanding their past gives us a greater appreciation for them as a nation.      

In the afternoon, after visiting a couple of museums, a small group of us sat at a cafe in the center of downtown.  Cafes in Croatia are everywhere. It is very much part of the culture to sit, relax and enjoy coffee, tea and the company of your friends.  We sat for hours, talking and watching the people moving around us.  At one point, a street band set up near us and began to play jazz music.  They were excellent, and only added to the wonderful atmosphere. It was a great way to spent the afternoon, sitting, with friends, in the heart of this vibrant city soaking up its culture and being a part of the scene.  

August 24

It has been very hot here - 100 degrees the last couple of days - so today we made a day trip to the coast.  We traveled to Crikvenica, which our local boys kept refering to as the "Hampton Beach" of Croatia.  There was a large boardwalk with shops, pizza, ice cream, t-shirts for sale, stuff like that.  But the surroundings were beautiful. New Hampshire is nice, but this was something else, with mountains in the distance, and the ever-wonderful Adriatic.  

We pack up tonight and begin our journey home tomorrow morning.  It has been a fantastic trip and I am grateful to have had this experience.  I'm proud of the men on our basketball team.  They are complete gentlemen - respectful and very polite - and they are also a lot of fun to be around, a cast of characters.  I'm looking forward to when I can travel with them again.

Sheryl