Friday, September 7, 2018

Croatia Bus Road Trip. First Stop: Porec

Technically, Poreč is my fourth stop on this trip - a journey partly a bit back in time, but we'll get to that later. But the first three stops - Munich, Ljubljana, and Zagreb - were like weekend trips. City breaks. Familiar terrain. The big adventure starts with all these small towns in the middle of nowhere or on islands. Places that I have to find, avoiding getting lost between bus and ferry schedules.


bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels - Porec Croatia
Istria used to be ruled by Venice - and funnily enough, not only the alleys and palazzi of the little town remind me of my favorite Italian city, even the skyline looks a bit Venetian.

So this makes Poreč the first stop of my bus road trip along the Adriatic coast.


I was looking forward to going to Poreč since it has this Italian history and is said to be a very cute, atmospheric little town with incredibly beautiful architecture. And it's on the coast and has beaches.


bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels - Porec Croatia
Rock on: To avoid too many injuries, they've installed ladders. However, I've seen noticeably many tourists with casts on crutches.

So I had high expectations and yes it's true, Poreč has beaches - which you wouldn't call beaches anywhere else in the world since it's actually rocks. The water is wonderful - pretty calm, deep, blue and it looks very clean. To access it without breaking your ankle or neck, you climb down one of the many ladders they installed. Some daredevils - aka morons - also dive from the rocky pier head first. Every mommy tells her offspring not to go with strangers and not to dive into unfamiliar waters. My blood freezes when I see people diving into rocky waters - but hey, just rock on if you please.


bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels - Porec Croatia
The water around Porec is just fantastic.

Sunbathing feels a bit like laying on a - very hard - kitchen floor; like I said, you are laying on rocks. Or on a lawn below some conifers. Or on a beach chair from the middle-class hotel next door; for free....until they ask you where you're staying, then you pay 45 kuna which is 7 bucks. Kuna is Croatian for marten, which is kind of cute. The reason for calling their money that, though, is rather cruel: In the past, they actually used to pay with the marten's fur.

The town itself is very cute and picturesque, indeed. Just like all the small towns that made it onto the UNESCO World Heritage List. I sound disenchanted? I am: Besides huge hotels, every halfway decent house has a sign Apartman. And I'm afraid this is no oversupply since the town is packed with tourists. Packed! And for some mystic reason, about 80 percent of them have a dog with them. On the beach. At restaurants. It's canine paradise.


bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels - Porec Croatia
The Venetian influence cannot be denied.

I'm staying two nights and my Apartman is not in the center, so I'm fine. Because down there, it's a zoo. Not worse than any other typical holiday destination. But by no means better.

What I find really interesting and even fascinating in the area of former Yugoslavia - and this phenomenon already enchanted me in Slovenia - is the multicultural heritage.

You notice the Italian influence - Istria, the largest Adriatic peninsula, used to be ruled by Venice for 400 years - on Croatia especially at night when everybody is coming out, strolling around, having a drink on one of the many, many terraces.


bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels - Porec Croatia
Taverns just like in Italy.
Many local people are actually bi-lingual, and the street signs are written in Croatian as well as in Italian.

You see the Austrian impact - the entire region was ruled by Austria's imperial and royal Habsburgers - during daytime as people idly have coffee at one of the many cafés. Then there is, of course, the Slavic mentality and friendliness - especially in Slovenia people where amazingly nice. Although Slovenia and Croatia are not considered Balkan states anymore - since they've been part of the European Union since 2004 resp. 2013, this is only a terminus technicus - the people didn't change and culturally, they still belong to these peoples with a colorful and often tragic history.





A quick side-trip back in time I

I'm on a beach, it's late at night, it's pitch dark, there is a weak campfire and someone is playing guitar. 


I can see this scene before me like looking through a veil. And I see it in black and white. Maybe because it's so dark that the eye cannot distinguish colors but everything appears in shades of softening grey. Or maybe it's because this scene is so old that there are only pictures in black and white left from that time.

It must have been in the mid-60s. We were living in Czechoslovakia. Socialist Czechoslovakia. Behind the proverbial iron curtain, travelling was very limited. I had just outgrown the toddler age. My mother and I had gone by train from Prague to what at that time was called Yugoslavia. General Tito's Yugoslavia. A socialist country, but open to the west. Mentally, metaphorically, and literally. Here, the reliable communist who would not take advantage of open borders were able to spend their vacation side by side with vacationers from the west who enjoyed Yugoslavia's cultural and natural beauty at a pretty cheap price. In return, they were ready to lower their sights when it came to supply and service.


However, later, my mother always claimed that I had had some sickness that had to be cured under the Yugoslavian sun, which I think was a legend to make things more interesting. I don't remember having been sick. All I remember is this black and white moment late at night on a beach. I must have been two or three years old.



Yesterday, after about fifty-two years I came back to Yugoslavia. To a country that doesn't exist anymore. After Tito had died in 1980, things got out of hand. In 1991, a very complex political firestorm started and became one of the cruelest wars of the 20st century. Old rivalries, vengeance for collaborating with the Nazis in WWII, ethnic and religious conflicts - all hell broke loose.


Today, about twenty years later, they finally are autonomous countries, and Croatia, stretching along the Adriatic coast, became a vacationers' paradise very soon. 


I'm pretty sure that the campfire on the dark beach must have been somewhere around Split.



Since yesterday, all these atrocious pictures from the 90s are haunting me. It began with a picture at the Muzej suvremene umjetnosti, the Museum of Contemporary Art, in Zagreb where a composite photograph hit me right in the gut. I couldn't get the girl's eyes and mainly the inhuman words of the graffiti out of my head. Worst thing is, they had been written by one of the Dutch UN soldiers, a soldier who was sent there to protect Bosniaks, the ethnic group his writing was more than mocking. Somehow it symbolizes the big failure of that Blue Helmet Mission.


bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels - Zagreb Muzej suvremene umjetnost Museum of Contemporary Art Sejla Kameric
Bosnian artist Šejla Kamerić's self-portrait with the atrocious insult a Dutch UN soldier had written on a barrack.

Later that day, I was a bit shocked when the tour guide asked whether we've had heard of the war in Yugoslavia. I mean, I was surprised when a guide in Viet Nam asked the same thing - but however, that military conflict had started in the 1950s. I do remember the news, but I was a child then. Those who have survived as adults are at least in their 70s.
But the Srebrenica massacre was like...yesterday. At that time, I've had a child myself.
The pictures from those camps, the mass-rapes, the ethnic cleansing.
I feel like when I was in Cambodia: I'm searching for traces, I'm looking at places and think This is where it happened; right here, where I am vacationing now.
I'm looking in faces, wondering What did you do? What did you have to endure?
How do these peoples live on with that burden? According to Kristina, my Zagreb guide, there isn't a museum, there is no reappraisal.

I'm sad. And a bit depressed. It makes me sad that only twenty years after such a tragedy, a group of people is asked - probably for a reason - whether they have heard about one of the most gruesome military conflicts of the last century.

I'd like to know: How do you deal with other countries' past and history? Does it affect you in your travelling? I'd really appreciate your comment in the section below.


Note to the curious reader: Like I did during my former trips like e. g. Cambodia, while on the road, I'll be posting little stories and reflections. 
At the end of the entire tour there will be an extended travel guide with all the relevant information including addresses, links etc. 
Until then, just share some thoughts and special moments with me.


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17 comments:

  1. That jetty extending out to the waters is so pretty ! You mentioned tourists with crutches ? What happened ?

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    1. There are many rocks - in the water and along the shores. Obviously not everybody can handle that....

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  2. I love Croatia but never heard of Porec and now I want to check it out. Next time.....

    cant believe that last photo. Not quite sure what to make of it.

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    1. As I wrote: The contempt for mankind really shocked me.

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  3. We're actually going to Croatia in 5 days, really excited for it, but hoping that we won't be underwhelmed! I really like how you structured your blog, with the little flashback. Really interesting to read about your past!! Does sound that you didn't quite like this stop of your trip, hope the rest of it was good!!

    When i visit places that had horrible history of war or even just natural disasters, it really affects me, because it's almost like i feel their heartache myself!

    Really interesting read, thank you!

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    1. I can recommend Rijeka...and Cres! Read about this piece of paradise in today's post. It's just wonderful!

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  4. Gosh what an interesting visit. I guess lying on a kitchen floor instead of sand could be seen as supporting your back :P? Also did you find out why there were so many dogs there!?
    On a more serious note I think it is great that you do mention the darker history of the Balkan states. In terms of how I deal with countries' past when I travel I always try and watch a history documentary or two before travelling to a country. In fact when we went to Bosnia we watched a 5 hour documentary about the Bosnian War on the bus as we felt we knew relatively little. Its such a shame how little history we do learn at school.

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    1. Thanx for your reply, Anna. Yes, I think going to Bosnia where all these atrocities happened must take this topic to a whole different level.

      Lying on a 'kitchen floor' has a big advantage: After a day on the beach, you don't have sand everywhere ;-)

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  5. There is Organ Vida photography festival in Zagreb starting today (till Saturday) https://ovfestival.org/
    And thank you for the review of Triennial in Hamburg - it was so nice to hear that what we did was important to someone. We did our best:)

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    1. Glad you like the post - this year's Triennial was really good. Unfortunately, I've already been to Zagreb at the beginning of my trip, now I'm travelling south towards Dubrovnik where my trip will end. Otherwise I would have loved to visit - there was a good artistic energy in Zagreb, even the guest house where I stayed had some originals by a graffiti artist on the walls!

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  6. I've honestly not heard of Porec befire but it seems like a very beautiful place. Those rocky beaches look like a place where one needs to be careful though the view is amazing! It's sad to learn about the history and war though!

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  7. Porec seems like one of those towns caught in a kind of time warp, where things move leisurely. A place to get away from the mad rush of cities. The effects of war and depravity of Man stares us in the face everywhere, be it Cambodia or Vietnam, had a similar experience in Rwanda at the Genocide memorial.

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    1. Oh my gosh, yes, being confronted with what happened in Rwanda and Burundi must make your blood freeze, too.

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  8. So whenever I read about people's trips to the former Yugoslavian states, I always wonder about the horror and the wars. Thank you for the honesty in this post. Yes, there are beautiful places to visit, but we need to be reminded of harsh realities from the past too. I am sorry that the trip was so crowded and the beaches were not pleasant.

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    1. Thanx for your comment, Lance. Yes, at least among the tourist, the - pretty recent - past doesn't seem to be an issue. And I totally understand that locals don't make it a topic - it would probably chase away travellers. I wonder if they know that there are still land mines in secluded places, though....

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  9. This takes me right back to Croatia, I really can't wait to get the chance to go back and see more of this beautiful place as we didn't get the chance to see Porec.

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  10. Wow you did a Bus trip. Never heard of Porec, but it looks fabulous. Such less known places actually my kind of destinations. I am sure your post will motivate more people to explore old yugYugosla region.

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