Archives for posts with tag: Croatia travel

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Here in Croatia, the people are mainly of the ethnicity “Slavic.” The Slavs are an ancient and numerous people who came out of what we now call Ukraine. They migrated west and south into what we now call Eastern and Southern Europe.

An historian from antiquity described them as “tall and robust, while their bodies and hair are neither very fair or blond, nor indeed do they incline entirely to the dark type, but they are all slightly ruddy in color. And they live a hard life, giving no heed to bodily comforts…”

They haven’t changed a bit. They’re big, ruddy, dark-haired people. I’m reminded of the antagonist in the movie “Highlander” but maybe that’s because I identify with the protagonist Connor MacLeod, the good-looking Scotsman with a big sword.

I like to think I could hold my own in a fight with most Europeans, except of course the Germans. Well, OK, and except the Irish because they’re crazy drunk and the Scots because they don’t care whether they live or die and the Dutch because they’re giants and the Italians because they fight dirty and maybe a few others. But I don’t fancy a fight with a Slav.

Like that ancient historian, I’ve taken note of the Croat skin color, since under the new rules it’s racist if I don’t. (But I’ve been careful not to take note of the content of their character, since under the new rules it’s racist if I do.) Their skin color is indeed neither that of a fair skinned person nor that of a person of color. It’s ruddy.

I realize I’m generalizing here, but it’s a fair generalization. In two days walking around the capital of Croatia, I’ve not seen a single person of color. Perhaps I should start inquiring in the cafes for one. “Soooooo, where do the POC’s hang in this neck of the woods?”

Maybe the Slavs are their own POC’s. Muslims conquering Southeastern Europe in the early Middle Ages enslaved the people they conquered (did you think slavery began in 1619?). Many of the conquered were Slavs — so many that the word “Slav” became the root word for “slavery.”

I detect no hard feelings today, a thousand years later, among these former-slave Slavs. They have not demanded reparations from the invading Huns who drove them west out of Ukraine nor the enslaving Muslims who conquered them from the south.

They instead seem to reserve their hostilities for one another. The Balkans are now roughly divided between Catholics and Orthodox. You and I in the undemanding comfort of American pseudo-Christianity might say, “What’s the difference? They’re both mumbo-jumbo ritualists with lots of smoke, mirrors, robes and real estate.”

But they don’t see it that way. To them, there’s a difference worth fighting over. In the breakup of Yugoslavia (a word meaning “southern Slavs”) in the early 1990’s, they killed a couple hundred thousand of themselves over this.

The Orthodox wanted to dominate the Catholics, and the Catholics wanted nothing to do with the Orthodox. They fought a war over the issue. The Catholics won the war. They became the coastal country of Croatia while the Orthodox became land-locked Serbia to the east.

While Serbs use the Cyrillic alphabet, Croats now use a variation of the Roman alphabet. But they seem to have forgotten about the vowels. Their words constitute constant consonants. They have about 18 ways to say “c.”

By the way, what is now Croatia holds a treasure of Neanderthal archeological sites, especially in the northern mountains of the Istria peninsula where I’ll be hiking next week. I’ll certainly keep my eye out, since I love those guys.

I’m curious whether modern Croatians have more than the standard 2-4% Neandie DNA but I’ve been unable to find out. Maybe that’s another question for the cafe crowd after I get an acceptable answer to my question about missing POC’s.

Some of you know that locked-down, masked-up me is now unchained. I’m in one of the few European countries that an American can visit with a vaccination card and without a legitimate reason.

I’m in Croatia hiking, trekking and roustabouting for the next month. You gentle readers can follow my every exploit by simply checking this page occasionally. Relax, there won’t be a quiz afterward.

I’m currently staying in the capital city of Zagreb for a few nights at the Grande Dame of the city, the Esplanade Zagreb Hotel.

Upon arrival in my hotel room, I was greeted by this screen on the TV:

And here is the car that picked me up at the airport:

About the car, manufactured just a few hundred kilometers across the Adriatic Sea, I can’t back that up. And I mean that in both senses. My actual transportation from the airport was not that fast, not that sporty, and didn’t drop me off anywhere near that close.

But even after my arrival in a smoky shuttlebus (they smoke in this part of the world, a lot), I’m confident that European royalty on the Grand Tour never had it so good.

Of course, I personally would never spring for such accommodations. My traveling companion found this place last month when helping me plan the trip, before abandoning me. My abandoning companion is much more discriminating than I about things such as food, wine, lodging, wine, food and wine. More about that later.

Croatia is one of those countries into which Yugoslavia split when the Soviet empire collapsed. This happened back when socialism was considered a failure just because it failed every time it was tried, without considering the “fact” that it had never been tried correctly. That added up to dozens of failures. They weren’t a bit woke in those days, and had little faith that they could make socialism great again if only they did it correctly.

And so after half a century under the yoke of dehumanizing, demoralizing, dis-incentivizing, destructive socialism, Croatia is relatively poor. But not Third World poor.

I know I’m not supposed to say that poor countries are “Third World.” Because that suggests they aren’t just as good as countries that are First or Second World. But let’s be honest. They’re lucky we don’t rank them by their order of wealth. If we did, we’d call Mexico not a Third World country but a “71st World” one. And Ethiopia would be a “139th World” one. Croatia is certainly poorer than France and Switzerland, obviously, and even poorer than Portugal. Heck, they’re waaay poorer than Mississippi which, as most people don’t know, is richer on a per capita basis than Great Britain.

But some of the pre-socialism splendor of Croatia survives. Such as here at my hotel. In fact, both of the restaurants in this magnificent little gem are Michelin rated.

This evening I enjoyed delicious perch wrapped in grape skin. Is there anything that grapes properly grown, handled, blended and fermented, can’t do?