Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday thoughts

It's been a busy week. Monday I had class. Tuesday night I gave a presentation at a youth counseling center. Wednesday I went to Osijek, 2 hours to the east, and gave a lecture to high school students. And Dennis's mom and aunt arrived, so yesterday we did a little touring. And today I went to Zadar, down on the coast about 3 hours away, for another lecture. Tomorrow night we leave for a week in Venice.

It might be a good time to get away from Croatia for a little bit: today a former general whom Croatians consider to be a war hero was convicted of war crimes and sentenced to 24 years in prison. It's hard to escape occasional reminders of the war here. The beautiful library where I lectured in Osijek sports what I'm pretty sure are bullet holes:
 Osijek is only about 20 miles or so from the Serbian border and was badly damaged in the war. Zadar was also hard hit. The library was destroyed by shells. The new library, where I lectured today, was built in what used to be army barracks. I find that very appropriate. And the new library is very nice. But I've also seen minefields that are still marked with warning signs and I've seen a few buildings that were destroyed and never rebuilt. And today someone told me what it felt like to be taking shelter in the US embassy basement as rockets were attacking.

But I've also seen some wonderful things. Like this neat old building in Osijek (built in 1802):

 Buildings like this are not in the best of shape, not because of the war but because of communism. During the communist years, private ownership was taken away and nobody had the incentive or money to keep buildings in good repair. After communism, it took years and years to sort out who owned what (it's still being done, in fact). And then Croatia's not a rich country, so funds for repairs can be hard to find.

But here's the river, viewed here from a hotel cafe (it was cold on Wednesday):

 And some interesting graffiti  near the riverfront:

I don't know who painted the swastika and iron cross, but they were painted over by someone who sympathizes with Crvena Akcija, a radical far-left group.

The drive to Zadar today passed through beautiful scenery, such as this cool little hill, with snowy mountains in back of it:

Along the way I saw deer and we went through several long tunnels. The road to Zadar is an excellent one. They've built a bunch of bridges over the highway so wildlife can cross without getting hit.

And Zadar is a beautiful city. There's a marble sea organ you can walk on. We saw a school of fish there--sardines, I suspect:

 This is standing on the walkway, looking towards the harbor. That big boat is the ferry to Ancona, Italy. The sea and islands here were just gorgeous.
 Zadar also has some interesting old buildings. This is a 9th century church. If you look closely, you may see that they used the columns from the Roman ruins in the church's foundation:

 The courthouse in Zadar:
 A marble column from the Roman forum, with the remains of the forum itself behind.

In addition to deer and sardines and the Adriatic, I saw a single motorcycle rider today wearing a jacket that read "Hell's Angels Croatia." I wish I'd had my camera available. I've had some really lovely chats with the folks in Osijek and Zadar. And after today's lecture (which was sparcely attended because they were announcing the verdict in the war crimes case at about the same time), a lady in the audience gave me a packet of wild asparagus as a gift.


  1. There is so much to love about this post, but these three nuggets are my faves...
    Sea Organ
    Fauna Overpasses
    Gift Asparagus