Monday, August 17, 2009

It's all over.

We returned home safely almost exactly a week ago and we've been vegging out as best as possible -neither of us has finished unpacking.

Today is the last day of my summer vacation - a tragic day understood by my fellow teachers and a completely unsympathetic whine to the rest of the world. I am currently posting the photos and a few videos (one with sound overdub) from our recent trip. They appear in the new Picasa gallery on the right side of the blog or you can click the link.

Friday, August 07, 2009


We have been here for a few days now - what a bustling and beautiful place. This is likely the hottest tourist spot we've visited on this trip (rivaled only by Munich). There are lots of crowds and buses - and with good reason - the city is filled with beautiful buildings, rich history and great food!

Many of the great buildings are complemented by the great views one can get of them - views of Pest from the heights of Buda and views of Buda lit up at night from the riverbank in Pest.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Sports day in Zagreb

Sure, we saw a museum and a few churches but the day was bookended by two of the premier sports franchises in Croatia.
First was a trip to the Drazen Petrovic Center, home to a museum (closed during basketball off season), a monument to Petrovic and the court of Cibona, the powerhouse of Croatia's league and successful in Euroleague as well. Although Petrovic died with many games yet to play, he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame a few years ago and there is a touching memorial to him here.

In the late afternoon, we noticed a lot of blue Dinamo shirts moving around town (not on their own - people were wearing them). We asked around and found that the popular Dinamo squad had a UEFA Champions League match in a few hours. After very little debate we found out how to get to the game and went. Although the home side lost, we had a great time and learned a few cheers (and jeers).

Homeland Hrvatska

After we made our way around the breathtaking Cathedral of the Assumption, "Zlatko", a proud local caught us eyeing a guide to the place and appointed himself our tour guide. Zlatko found out we were from USA and gave us two great facts connecting our history to Croatia's. I think he could have done that with any nation and would love to hear how Croatia relates to Iceland or Korea or Namibia. If you remember the father character from "Big Fat Greek Wedding", it was kind of like that - an endearing nationalism.

Croatia's youth as an independent nation is so strange given the long history here (the same is true in Slovenia). In a wonderful bit of perspective picked up today, we learned that the provincial capital RETURNED to Zagreb in 1776 (it had originally been here for a few centuries, left, then returned) the year the USA declared independence.

We leave Croatia on August 5, the national holiday "Homeland Day", commemorating the end of their war for independence.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Can I get a Linguistics credit for this?

When I was a kid, I learned about the language of Yugoslavia: "Serbo-Croat" - noteworthy due to it's use of a Roman alphabet (by Croats) and a Cyrrillic one (by the Serbs). While a few universities outside the area still teach "Serbo-Croat", the locals refer to their mother tongue by a more nationalistic moniker - Bosnian, Serbian or Croatian, depending on locale.

Well, we learned "hello" and "thank you" on the train, because, as the saying goes "everybody there speaks English". We have found that to be almost as true here as anywhere else, but with a few twists. First, it is important to note that everyone also speaks German and Italian - actually, many older folks have a combination of those without English. The older woman who rented us a room a few nights ago gave a "pah!" at English and we began discussions in bad German until she frustratingly asked "Italiano?" and we offered back "Francais" and "Espanol". She loved that and spoke Italian to Lisa's Spanish and was very happy - it was only as effective as the German conversation but made our hostess happier.

The most surprising thing to see is that English ranks no better than third alternative. That is almost unprecedented in our prior experience. Many things appear in a second or third language, but you have to hit 4th or 5th language to get English. The more time we spend here, the better Lisa's Italian and my German become.

We suspect this is an indicator that the strong tourism industry here is extremely regional: Italians and Germans abound. Either group outnumbers all others combined and we feel like we might be the only Americans in the whole country.