Archive for June, 2010

Zagreb Hrvatska

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

Croatia in Croatian is written Hrvatska. The capital city, Zagreb, is pronounced Za’-greb, with the emphasis on the first syllable. A walk through Zagreb reveals what feels like all of European history: from Roman walls, medieval gates and baroque churches to grand Austro-Hungarian buildings with Art Nouveau flourishes. On one corner might be the clean lines of an early modernist structure. On the next is a line of brutal housing complexes put up during the communist regime. Our hotel, the Regent Hotel Esplanade, located across from one of the city’s many beautiful parks and near the train station, was built to accommodate travelers on the fabled Orient Express. From the minute I walked into the Habsburg-style lobby, with its marble, stained glass, and ornate metal, I was transported to that glamourous era. 

The country of Croatia has been independent only since the early 1990s, after a millenium of subjugation under the Ottoman Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Fascists,  and the Communists. Standing in the middle of Trg Bana Jelacica (Ban Jelacic Square), surrounded by Viennese Secessionist architecture, artists making site-specific installations, and children playing around the spring that gave Zagreb its name (the place to scoop water), you get the feeling of a vibrant city emerging. I loved the open-air market, where locals buy fruits, vegetables, and fish; the impressive cathedral; and the many outdoor cafes. Tim and I spent hours wandering the streets in search of the perfect cravat—ties were invented in Croatia. We tried to visit an exhibition by Robert Smithson (of Spiral Jetty fame), titled Snoring in the USA, but unfortunately, it was closed. 

I definitely would have liked more time in Zagreb. With so much history, the capital is a fascinating city. But because of our schedule, we could spend only two days there. Up next: the neighboring country of Slovenia.



Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

Dubrovnik, Croatia is considered one of the most beautiful fortified cities in the world. Yesterday, Tim and I walked around the top of the wall that surrounds it. The great views of the roof tops made me appreciate why so many painters from this part of Europe choose that perspective as their subject. I learned that Dubrovnik is where the concept of “quarantine” developed. Crew from arriving ships were isolated for 40 days to ensure that new diseases were not introduced to the local population.

To me, the most spectacular part of Dubrovnik is the stone streets, polished by the feet of pedestrians to an almost unnatural-seeming shine. My photos unfortunately cannot capture this quality. I can show you Tim and me at the restaurant where we ate fresh seafood caught a few hours earlier right outside the door in the magnificent Adriatic Sea, and a photo of me with the young artist we met whose paintings I admired and bought.  Below that, a photo of the rooftops new and old. Today we leave for the capital city of Croatia, Zagreb.


My Village

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

Never is the expression “It takes a village” as true as when parents plan a trip alone together and need to arrange childcare. For me, the prospect is so daunting that it’s always been easier to stay home. Who else besides Tim and me would perform the million tasks a day that parenthood requires: the meals and lunch-packing, school drop-off and pick-up, the lessons/playtime/homework, the bath and bedtime routine? What trip could be worth disrupting that order for chaos? For the past eight years, the answer has been “none.”

But a few months ago, Tim was invited to lecture to a group of physicians in Croatia and Italy. If I wanted, I could go along, too. Tim forwarded me the invitation from his office with this subject line: “Childcare?” (more…)