Monday, May 28, 2007

There is more to Croatia than Dr. Luka Kovac on ER

Yes, I will admit that prior to yesterday the only thing I knew of Croatia was Goran Visnjic from ER was from Croatia. And there was that war we tried to ignore in the early 90's. But after today, I have a new curiosity about the country. I guess that is the whole purpose of travel, to expand your world.

Backtracking a bit, last night was the sail away from Venice. It's about an hour and a half of beautiful Venice vistas.

The history of Venice was interesting, especially the convoluted government they established. They had layer upon layer of checks and balances. Lots of intrigue and mistrust. A cautionary tale for us…. 1400 years of existence, 1100 years as an independent rich and free republic and just shut down when Napoleon came to town at the end of the 18th century (actually May 12, 1787). They voted the last Doge out of office and handed the keys to the French. The Austrians took over for a bit and then in 1866 Austria handed Venice to the newly formed republic of Italy. It took a few hundred years for all the glory that was the Venetian Republic to fall apart. They didn't recognize that 2 important events, the fall of Constantinople to the Turks and the Turks subsequent blocking of their trade routes as well as da Gama opening up the east via the west would sap them of their power in a very short time. As we walked through the Doge's Place and the massive Grande Council's chambers, I could not help but think of tourists a thousand years from now trudging through the US Capitol building's House of Representative chambers and learning the history of what was America. We did hear the interesting story of Casanova, how he was imprisoned at the Doge’s Palace and his own detailed description of his escape. I’ll have to pick up his memoirs to get a real slice of 1st person history.

Earlier in the day we caught a Vaporetto to Murano. Back in the 11th century, for safety reasons the Venetians banished their glass makers to the neighboring island of Murano. Venice has a long history of glass making. In fact, if a tradesmen was caught sharing the secrets of glassmaking with an outsider, it was an offense that was punishable by a long stay in the jails inside the Doge’s palace. We took a tour of one of the furnaces and we were able to watch a glass master whip together a vase and a small horse in about 10 minutes.

Last night was a first formal night. We pulled out the tuxes and evening dress, but we really weren't in the "formal night" mood just yet. We were still dragging from the scorching Venetian days and travel. We have 2 more formal nights left so; we'll be sure and do the whole picture thing later in the cruise. We had a real treat for dinner. Our tablemates for the cruise are a 30ish couple from London, Jon and Tracy. Jon is actually the guest port lecturer on board with an academic background in history. He's been on Celebrity for the last 8 weeks through all of their Europe itineraries. We spent 3 hours at dinner and they just flew by. Even Alex and he swapped stories about WWII. I am so incredibly jealous of his job. He gets paid to live on the ship in a regular cabin (not a crew cabin) and his only responsiblities are to give 3 lectures on the sea days. I spent some time asking him how he came upon this job. He created a sample lecture and presentation on several ports of call, then he auditioned for an agent that books talent for cruise lines, spent a few years doing it on local British lines and then moved over to Celebrity. He doesn't have any special training, just a history degree and what he has taught himself. This seems pretty much like a dream job for me. I've got 6 years before Alex goes off to college.........hum..............!!!!!

This morning we arrived in Dubrovnik, Croatia. Croatia is a newly formed and thriving democracy, one of the remnants of Yugoslavia. The weather was beautiful, a refreshing change from the 95+ of Venice. Dubrovnik was an independent medieval commune and eventually became a free republic. It reached its golden age around the 15th and 16th century. During that time they built a walled city which is still inhabited today. Dubrovnik is one of the few remaining examples of a medieval walled city. It's a total time warp, until you step inside a restaurant or a shop (which is modern). We spent the first 2 hours climbing to the top of the wall and walking the wall that encircles the city. Alex was in heaven exploring the fortifications, towers, hot pitch spouts and cannons. The views of the red tiled roofs from the top of the walls were stunning. The actual landscape reminds me of the California coast. As we sailed away this afternoon, I was looking back at the coast and you if you changed the buildings, made the water a bit more polluted, you could be staring at the Malibu hills. I hope the pictures do it justice.

You can hardly believe the just 16 years ago this city was being shelled by the Serbs from the land, air and the sea. The city was under siege for almost 2 years without water or electricity. Hard to imagine this was just 1991. We picked up DVD of actual footage from the war. Now on the DVD screen was mortar rounds landing and exploding on the same streets we had just walked on 2 hours earlier were. The same waters I am sailing through now, just off the coast, were filled with warships. I've never been this close to war before. 16 years isn't yesterday I know, but think about it, unless you have actually served in wartime, any battlefields you have been near were probably at least 40-50 years in the past and most likely 100 or more years in the past. It made the Normandy beaches seem like ancient history.

The have done an amazing job getting the city back to its original state. You can see the contrast from the wall, of the newly replaced roof tiles and the old roof tiles. Some of the damage is still evident in shell scars on the buildings, but this is a town that is rising.

Everyone was amazingly nice, the food was fantastic and their were hundreds of interesting shops, nooks and crannies to explore. This is a time and place I will learn more about when I return home.

Well it's time to get ready for dinner. Alex is having dinner with his new buddies in the Kid's program. Look like it's parent's night out. We have a sea day tomorrow and then on to Santorini.

Till then...I leave you with pictures from the Venice sail away and Dubrovnik.....go ahead Google Croatia and learn more about this slice of frozen history........... Love to all, Mickie

PS: Hey if you are reading this let me know...drop a quick comment!

Alex’s Venice Sail Away

Alex Dubrovnik

Venice Sail Away and Murano


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Amanda and I love this. all the pics are awesome... we check everyday hoping for an update...