Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sept 25 2012 - Croatia in review!

Tasty and beautifully artistic octopus salad everywhere!
Unofficial Popeye's restaurant?
as seen from bus in Split Croatia
We had been warned, in particular by our guidebook, that the Croatian definition of service can be very curt. With his firmly implanted in the backs I our minds, I would say we had as many negative or mediocre service experiences as we did above-and-beyond exceptional experiences. I want to highlight those exceptional ones here:
• An instructor at Blue Planet Diving in Dubrovnik drove me back to my hotel and bought me a drink after an evening dive.
• The staff at the Hotel Astoria in Zagreb acted like old friends when we returned to Zagreb towards the end of the trip.
• A purveyor of fine chocolate in Zagreb snuck some out of the stockroom so I could sample it before making a purchase decision, all the while protesting "it is impossible" and "this didn't happen."
• The staff of the Technicki Museum in Zagreb let us into the museum as it was about to close - for free - so we could have a quick look around.
• A taxi driver from Zagreb to the airport - on our way out of the country - emphatically insisted we take a map of the city with us, at one point chasing us through the airport after we "forgot" to take our map and receipt.

OLGA graffiti in Ljubljana

Nice cars, but houses about to collapse

Back in the 7th century or so, when the Slav tribes were migrating to Eastern Europe, some of them settled in Croatia. It was a beautiful region with fertile soil, abundant edible aquatic life, and moderate climate. Others made it to what would become Russia, home of dark skies and abundant... beets. Who got the better deal? :)

We encountered a staggering amount of ice cream and gelato - particularly in Dubrovnik. The amount of ice cream sold per capita and per square kilometer must break all European records.

Urinal so I high had to
stand on my tippy toes
We watched the orange moonset
from Buza 2 in Dubrovnik

We ran across several products manufactured in USA, perhaps more than we might realize on a daily basis. The glow stick (used during my night dive), plastic net at the bottom of the urinal, Zagreb-brand lip balm, and Tabasco sauce were all made proudly in the USA. It's nice to know we still have an export market for some (quirky) products!

One of the few surviving pre-war roofs in Dubrovnik
The building in Zagreb where everyone
gets married is named Palača Dverce

Croatia is systematically trying to grow its tourism industry, which currently encompasses 20% of GDP. This was their biggest summer in recent memory, they are pleased to have extended the tourist season from 3 to 6 months, yet they really want to stretch it out to an all-year-long tourist flow like many other countries. I hope more people have a chance to visit this special place!

Lots and lots of parklets in Zagreb!
Magazine shop on a
pedestrian street in Zagreb

The necktie was invented in Croatia. Apparently a unit of the Croatian army, serving Louis XIII in France, tied their scarves in such a way that attracted French fascination. The French named it the Cravat, a corruption of Croat or Hrvat (what Croats call themselves), and it evolved from there into the staple of business attire we know today!

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