Posts Tagged Bosnia

Croatia (part 2)

The Bethel in Croatia is in the capital city of Zagreb, a sleepy capital with worn concrete buildings and angry drivers.

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Instead of continuing on our journey, we jumped at the invitation to spend a night and tour the translation center, or Bethel as we call it.

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50 full time volunteers work here to translate literature for the Croatia people and provide support for disaster relief and hospital stays for the Brothers and Sisters. Jehovah Witnesses were legalized in the country in 1953 but communism limited their growth. Then came the breakup of the Soviet Union that led to ethnic and religious killings. I remember the wars in the 90’s and how little I paid attention. Of course the Brothers (like everywhere in the world) would not join a side or support any faction. This lead to some being killed but many times their reputation of neutrality helped save the lives of many JWs. You can read more about their trials during this genocidal war, in one of the recent Yearbooks.

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One last thing on the Bethel, they had a display setup that showed the time-line of the Bible in Croatian. In 1665, some guy translated the Bible from Latin to Croatian but Pope after Pope would not let the Bible be released to the populous until 1831. Jehovah’s name was used in this Bible over 6000 times. The Witnesses used this (difficult to understand because of the old translation) Bible but noticed that every time it was republished (by a for profit publisher), that a few instances of Jehovah’s name was removed and replaced with “God” or “Lord” even though this was inaccurate. Eventually, the translation was deemed not good enough for use and after 10 years of work, the New World Translation was released in Croatian in 2006. The 60 congregations in Croatia now have a easily understood Bible that they can study.

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The southernmost city of Dubrovnik has what has to be one of the best ancient walled cities in the world….it was just unfortunate that we have become tired of old cities, ancient walls and medieval fortifications. Tamara and I faked it, trying to enjoy exploring the city. While we were disappointed with the level of commercialism in the city, the incredibly old buildings were impressive.

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Then we discovered that the fortified walls were open to being explored. They have maintained the wall enough that you can walk around the entire city, pretending the city is under siege by some foreign force! The funny thing is that during the ethnic war of the 1990s, the city of Dubrovnik was besieged by a modern military. They with-stood the siege but the city was heavily damaged by rockets and artillery. Most of all the damage has been repaired.

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Eventually, my “itchy feet” got the better of us and we were off driving around the countryside. We visited a few towns in Bosnia and Montenegro bringing our visited countries to 43. In case you are wondering, they are similar to Croatia just not as nice and more farm equipment on the road.

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Soon we turned our car north and headed to Slovenia, one of the least known countries in Europe. Hope to share more soon!

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Croatia (part 1)

The train from Budapest to Croatia snaked along the shallow valleys and rich countryside. At some point the train stopped and a group of uniforms entered checking everyone’s papers. Four sets of differing uniforms looked at, stamped and examined our passports before the train continued on into Croatia.

I know next to nothing about Croatia or any of the Balkans. When I was in school, most of these places were part of a artificial state called Yugoslavia with a guy named Tito as the celebrity of state.

We found the Croatian people to be emotionally controlled people, maybe a bit stern and when dealing with them they didn’t seem to respond when I smiled. (Americans are have wide reputation of being overly smiley and friendly) Eventually, I found that if I winked or made a silly face, their shells would crack and they would be much more friendly and even helpful.

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We picked up our rental car and it turned out to be a Fiat 500. It had enough room for our bags, both of us and a bottle of water. The 6 gears helped me control the massive 72 horsepower! The road signs were unreadable but the overly aggressive drivers gave us little time to ponder what they said. With the GPS we brought, it was quite easy to get around.

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Croatia is a small country but 10% of it is national parks. One such park is Plitsvice and we have looked forward to visiting it for quite a while. The park is centered around a valley filled with waterfalls and pools flowing over white marble limestone. It has to be one of the prettiest places on earth.

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We must have hiked for hours and hours along a wonderful trail that at times lead along the edges of waterfalls. If something like this was in the USA, it would be a major tourist attraction to rival Yosemite of Yellowstone. We really enjoyed our time hiking and exploring the park.

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Zadar, Croatia was our first stop along the coast. Pushed right up on the Mediterranean, the road followed the shoreline until an ancient church or fort blocked the way. We saw many signs of the war that they had in the 1990’s, including homes damaged by machine gun fire, burned out or shot-up with mortars. More than once, in-between the road signs for cows, deer or wild boar, we saw bright red warning signs that told you (in 4 languages) not to leave the roadway because of the danger of land mines.

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Being on the sea, the culture here has grown up on sea food and with so much to offer, we found a few dishes that left us wishing for Mexican food!

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The city of Spilt was our next port of call and like most of towns in this area, has an old Roman ruin at its core. The difference with Split is that many of the towns inhabitants still live and work inside the ruins! In fact, one of the Pharmacies here has been in operation since 1320, one of the oldest in the world.

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Usually, we try to self-cater (buy our own food from markets and stores) but this trip we tried to eat out a bit more and explore the culinary offerings. Below is a funny photo of me learning that olives in the Mediterranean…. come with pits!

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Tamara enjoyed the truffle pasta dishes but mostly the gelato!

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