Discovering Croatia’s Proud Heritage

Looking down on Zagreb from Mt. Medvednic (Bear Mountain)

Looking down on Zagreb from Mt. Medvednic (Bear Mountain)

If someone were to ask you, “What do you know about Croatia?” your answer would probably be a lot like mine – not much. Today, that perception is changing as we were shown around by professional guide, Hrvoye Kuček, or just ‘Harry’ to us Croatian-challenged types.

Entering Mirogoj Cemetery near central Zagreb

Entering Mirogoj Cemetery near central Zagreb

We first visited the 150 acre Mirogoj Cemetery. What sets this cemetery apart from amazing cemeteries like Recoleta in Buenas Aires, Argentina, is the greenery of gardens, trees and lawns that give the site a park-like setting with over 30,000 gravesites. Harry tells us families will come to Mirogoj Cemetery to walk stroll. November 1st, All Saints Day, is when everyone comes to place flowers or light candles at burial sites for loved ones and national heroes.

One of the most famous Croatian heroes is former NBA star Drazón Petrovic, who died in a tragic auto accident at the peak of his career. He is pictured at his burial site in the uniform of the Croatian National Basketball Team, which he captained.

In a newer section of the cemetery is The Wall of Pain on which are inscribed hundreds of the names of the 16,000 soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the War of Independence in 1991. Not all of the names are known to this day. This is one of the memorials with an eternal flame honoring those who fell.

St. Stephen's Cathedral is undergoing complete restoration.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral is undergoing complete restoration.

We visited the main square of Zagreb with its shops and banks lining the perimeter. This is one of the few city squares in predominantly Roman Catholic countries that does not feature a cathedral. One block away is the Cathedral of St. Stephen which has undergone complete restoration. Also within easy walking distance is the open air market featuring a vast array for fruits, vegetables, nuts, and fresh breads and pastries. One floor below the street surface are the refrigerated stalls for fresh meats, cheeses, fish, and everything you could want for your kitchen.

We took in two museum tours, the Natural History Museum which sits on one corner of the medieval city of Zagreb, and the Technology Museum featuring the inventions of Croatian inventor, Nikola Tesla, whose contributions include neon and fluorescent lights and the alternating current induction motor upon which all generators and alternators in use today are based.

A warm summer day in Zagreb is perfect for water sports at the Jarun rowing center alongside the Sava River.

A warm summer day in Zagreb is perfect for water sports at the Jarun rowing center alongside the Sava River.

We enjoyed a feast for lunch prepared by our hosts at the family-owned Hotel Puntijar, which we were informed was a typical sit down lunch in Croatia. For the non-vegetarians there was a cheese-based soup starter, grilled pork fillet with bacon, a grilled veal steak in an egg yolk and pine nut coating, and veal sautéed in lemon sauce. Dessert was traditional apple dumplings served with a plum sauce and ground cinnamon.

Our tour took us to the Jarun athletic park which includes a two kilometer long rowing lagoon. Several of us got into kayaks for an invigorating paddling experience and an informal race. I am pleased to say they did not throw the victor in the water to celebrate.

We are in love with the people and the sights of Croatia, and we are just beginning this amazing adventure. I am learning this country offers an amazing quality of life. We look forward to living here one day.

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7 comments on “Discovering Croatia’s Proud Heritage

  1. Wonderful post Mike. It looks like Croatia agrees with you. 🙂 I don’t know if you’ve run across her blog, but Carol at http://essenceofdubrovnik.com/ is a transplanted American in Dubrovnik and a wealth of information. Looking forward to more as you wander Croatia. All the best, Terri

    • Mike Lince says:

      Terri, thank you so much for this link. I will see if there is a possibility of connecting with Carol when we are in Dubrovnik at the end of September. It would be great to make a local connection. – Mike

  2. amamic1 says:

    I’m happy you find that Croatia offers an amazing quality of life, and I can see how it would appeal to foreigners because I’ve spoken to many who’ve made it their temporary or permament home. But try talking to locals and they’ll tell you that quality of life here is a relative thing. Sure, if you’re sitting around in cafes all day, as you’ll find most people do here, this can seem like the good life. But if you’re sitting in a cafe around noon on a workday, it means you’re unemployed. And the unemployment rate in Croatia currently stands at 18%. I know, this is a very un-touristy comment.

    • Mike Lince says:

      I think your comment is a valid one. We are not being shown much of the challenges that Croatians face in every day life. I do know that tourism is the number 1 industry supporting their country, so if more people visit Croatia, they will not experience a beautiful country, but they will also contribute to strengthening the economy. That would be my hope for these incredibly warm and hospitable people. Thank you for your comments. – Mike

  3. As you say, I know little about Croatia, but from what you’ve shared so far it sounds lovely. It seems to have made an impact on you guys too since you say that you may live there one day. This tour sure has you guys busy!! Great post Mike! Celeste 🙂 PS – It doesn’t sound like a very vegan-friendly place, however. 😉

    • Mike Lince says:

      You are right about the not-so-vegan. If we had our own place and we were able to buy our own fresh fruits and vegetables everyday, that would be one thing. Fortunately, on this tour, the restaurants we are visiting have been told ahead of time that two of our team are vegetarians, and the food has been quite good. I would even say ‘excellent.’ But the Croats love their lamb, pork, and beef. And seafood. – Mike

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