Monday, November 23, 2015

Zagreb and Opatija

Beautiful government building in zagreb

More on Barcelona in another post.  After 3 days at a hectic trade show in Barcelona I met up with my "educational" tour group to head to Croatia.

We are an eclectic group all in the hotel/DMC /travel  business of some kind.  As the only American I was sure to mind my p's and q's and not leave the ugly American impression.  

Our group
2 Parisians, 1 who is German but lives  in Paris and is "very" Parisian
2 Danes- 1 in Copenhagen and 1 in Prague
2 Brazilians: 1 in Brazil and 1 in Johannesburg - female 
2 Germans : 1 living in Munich and 1 I'm not sure ( the straight laced quite serious one) 
1 Guatemalan - female
1 Malaysian - female 
1 vibrant Hungarian who finishes everyone's sentences 
1 American (me)

As with any group people "pair" off or gravitate towards each other.  Soon it was a 4some.. 2 Frenchies, 1 Dane and me the American. 2 of us married with kids and 2 with domestic partners. 

The trip being educational was busy... Meet 8am breakfasts and out and about on foot until 5 touring  the city, hotels, museums, congress venues and the occasional bar and restaurant. We meet at 8 for dinner ( my previous bedtime) and were generally eating dessert around 11:30pm.

The days are long and we get quite punchy so having some new friends who share similar sarcasm was quite fun. We laughed, joked and make fun of each others respective cultures. Of course much fun poked at Americans. At one point I showed them The "people of Walmart" quite horrifying to all. 
fun in the evenings for sure 
best museum in zagreb 

We did engage in some serious conversations about the recent bombing in Paris and how the fear factor is high.  911 was carried out by foreigners whereas the Paris attacks by French.  We  had great fun chatting about Donald  Trump and the upcoming us presidential  elections. We talked about healthcare, taxes and the educational systems comparatively. It's these conversations that make this trip so enjoyable.  Mind you they all speak English as well as their native tongue and most speaking a 3rd language. 

At the various meals we dined with hotels, locals in the tourism traded etc. and it was fascinating talking about Croatia joining the EU, it's new borders, new government etc. Many who were born in former Yugoslavia but now Croatia, parents who have lived in same town since birth but have been Austrian, Italian, Yugoslav and now Croatian. There  is a lot of talk about local currency and how switching to tell Euro will affect Croatia.  I keep reflecting how different  the US is this manner and how we are very US Centric. 

I took great pride in being toasted by my new friend as "least likely to be American" 
opatija seaside town

Zagreb us the Capitol  city and is quaint and enjoyable but not a top 10 destination.  Lower and upper city with historic beautiful old structures  and some niceparks. Small museums and 5 hotels is significance.  Great pride in everyone we met- proud of Zagreb and their 5 star hotels that are 3.5-4 at best. 

wonderful shops with wine and snacks 
Onto Opatija which is 180K to the south and on the Adriatic Sea. A stunning seaside village that climbs up the hillside. In some ways similar to a very old La Jolla. While we did not luck out with the weather we still enjoyed a long walking tour in the rain. Quaint hotels and wonderful restaurants along the sea. In warm weather beautiful beaches, boating and biking. There is a passion in the Opatijans which is endearing - they are so proud of their village and establishments. 

One hotel had a chocolate museum, while I did not rely understand how it was a museum it was really a chocolatier. We walked through the wine and cheese shop with the cusory 3 hanging pig legs and walked downstairs into a heavenly smell.  Chocolate everywhere... Chocolate cups, saucers and spoons laid out with brandy. Over 100 pieces and flavors to sample.  Fortunately for me it was all milk chocolate so I easily refrained  (from most of it) 
all cocolate

The food in Croatia is nothing extraordinary. While I was not impressed my Frenchie friends were even less impressed, however polite.  At Frenchie last night, remarks "we are very far from Paris" 

brandy in a chocolate cup and with choc spoon
1 Parisian, 1 Parisian who is German, 1 Dane and the American
heavenly bread- squid ink
The Croatians are also take great pride in their wine... which is well not French nor Californian. Being a vegetarian here is not easy. There's 1 kind of milk - whole milk.  Don't worry I was not asking for almond milk but I did switch to double espresso. Coffee is strong and bitter so some raw sugar is necessary.  As for the rest, fortunately there is a lot of fish so I was satiated. I worked around the pate, carpaccio and wild boar. The breads are heavenly.  Most bake daily in their establishments and the are hearty and doughy and some black made with squid ink. I cannot resist the warm bread at every meal. Due to a foot injury I am sidelined from running so I fear I will return to the US with a winter layer of fat. 

Today I said good bye to my new friends and am off to Berlin to see my sister and family.  Lots of wonderful euro kidding each cheeks and hugs around. I think I'll stay in touch with 2 of my new friends for sure.

What I am missing most about the US
- John., Roo, Mako
- avocados
- almond milk
- almond butter
- salad
- not pausing to figure out how to make a call or worry about the language


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