Thailand December 2016/ January 2017 Part 6 - Fishing for Mekong Catfish & Closing Thoughts
Balkans Road Trip 2018 Part 2 - Banja Luka, Sarajevo

Balkans Road Trip 2018 Part 1- Zagreb & Jasenovac Memorial Site

It was Kevin's idea to travel to Croatia. The trip then morphed into a road trip over three weeks that included Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Croatia. Part 2, Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6. Part 7. Part 8. Part 9 & Part 10.

Trip Itinerary:

  1. Zagreb, Croatia  2 nights
  2. Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina  3 nights
  3. Mostar, , Bosnia and Herzegovina  2 nights
  4. Kotor, Montenegro  5 nights
  5. Dubrovnik, Croatia  3 nights
  6. Split, Croatia  3 nights
  7. Rakovica, Croatia  1 night
  8. Zagreb, Croatia  1 night

 We flew Denver to Frankfurt. We had a layover in Frankfurt of about 7 hours. We caught the train (S 8) into downtown Frankfurt (Hauptwache station), enjoyed wandering around, and ate lunch, before heading back to the airport to catch our flight to Zagreb. Definitely doable and recommended, rather than spending the entire time in the airport. Baggage hold between Terminal 1, Hall B, Arrivals level. Train station is under the terminal 1 in arrivals. Signage is good. Cannot use American credit cards in the ticket machine. Use cash (euros) instead.

We arrived in Zagreb around 7:30pm. Used Uber to get from airport to hotel in Downtown Zagreb. The Best Western Astoria is very well situated, and after crashing, we enjoyed exploring Zagreb the next day.


This photo was the view from our hotel window, and it was one of our first sights of Zagreb. We were so jet lagged we were up and awake very early. Our strategy after a nice hearty breakfast provided by the hotel, was to do some exploring. The old town of Zagreb is very walkable, and accessible. There are lots of tourist maps and signs about. It really doesn't take long to explore on foot. The currency used in Croatia is the kuna. ATMs are plentiful and are easy to use to get cash. Always decline the currency conversion.

From our hotel it was a short and easy walk to the square which was in the midst of celebrating the Vegan lifestyle. For a big city we found the city quite clean. We appreciated the street art.






From the square we ambled until we came across the Zagreb Cathedral


The Zagreb Cathedral was initially completed in 1217. Over the years due to attacks, fires and an earthquake the Cathedral enjoyed a number of reconstructions - resulting in 1880- 1902 the general restoration which gave the Cathedral its current appearance. As we walked around the square and followed the signs to the various sites we could see locals and tourists mingling;- locals getting to work or going to church, and tourists following tour guides around. We walked north on Kaptol, turned left and ended up in Tralciceva, a shopping zone with lots of shops, and restaurants. We ended up going back to this zone for lunch, and then later for dinner.

 I bought some lavender sachets from a vendor in the flower market.


We had to get back for a nap (we were still very jet lagged.) We set the alarm because we had scheduled to pick up our car rental at the rental company (pick up only 2 blocks from hotel.) After collecting our car, we parked it in the hotel's parking lot. We were weak with hunger so decided to return to the nice street with all the restaurants.

We had a lunch at "Bela Kod Mike." This restaurant was located in the Tralciceva street. I had pork stuffed with cheese.


We walked to St. Mark's. It is unexpectedly up an incline, and one comes across it unexpectedly (at least that is what we felt at the time.)


The roof is really quite striking.


Closeup of roof.

While we were there, a wedding party arrived for photographs. It was quite striking - the bride and party in the foreground, St. Mark's in the background.


Just down this street where the wedding party was, we found the Museum of Naive Art. We decided to visit it. It had a small entrance fee. I found the art works quite charming.


This one was my favorite.

We continued heading back "down".

As we walked we found pictures to take. I loved this old man playing Beatles tunes.


We found to our surprise that the street we were on opens up to look out over the city.


This is the square below, teeming with locals and tourists alike. There was a vegan festival as well as some food and movie festivals happening in the city at the same time we were there. It made for a really nice vibe.


 Here is a photo of the food and movie festival being held at a park that was close to our hotel.


The weather was warm, and families enjoyed the nice warm weather. The plane trees reminded me of my grandmother - she had plan trees in her yard outside her bedroom window.

It was a fun time made for ice cream.


 After yet another nap, we headed out again - to enjoy the city on Saturday night. Crowds of families, groups of teens, as well as college age kids socialized with their friends, and mingled with tourists and out- of-towners. We ended up at the Brew House - Lebanese cooking. We had hookah smokers on either side, but did not find the smell unpleasant. We sat outside and people watched (this became one of our favorite activities as the trip progressed.) I ended up with an off menu dish of the most amazing grilled chicken - garlicky and lemony- just divine.


 After our second night in Zagreb, our plan was to eat a good breakfast the next morning, check out and then make our way to our next stop - Sarajevo. (Part 2.)

However, Kevin had done some reading about the Jasenovac concentration camp memorial, and he wanted to visit it.

Our GPS and Google Maps on Sally's iPhone together worked very well in getting out of Zagreb and getting to the memorial. The roads are very well signposted. The toll roads make for quick driving. Luckily we were traveling on a Sunday so we did not have to deal with crazy rush hour traffic (it was a good way to become accustomed to driving in a foreign country.)

The memorial is free and open to the public. When we arrived, there were actually quite a few people who had stopped to visit. It was a compelling and moving museum and memorial. We spent quite a bit of time there. I had no idea the role that the Croatian fascist group Ustashe had played in WW2 with their allies, the Nazis. Apparently the Ustashes' particularly savage treatment of their prisoner/victims repelled even the Nazis (hard to think that was possible.) The Ustashe rounded up Serbs, Roma, Jews, Croats and Muslims. Some 82,000 people perished in the Jasenovac camp, the largest of the 20 concentration camps run by the Ustashe. Over 20,000 of the Jasenovac victims were children. The primary target of the Ustashe were the Serb residents of what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. Over 300,000 Serbs were murdered by Ustashe forces in 4 years of genocidal killing 1941-1945.

A monument called the Flower was erected at the location of the former camp in 1966. It symbolizes the indestructibility of human life.


As WW2 came to an end the Ustashe did whatever they could to cover up their foul deeds. Even today, this memorial is not well funded, or advertised. It's as though this infamous piece of Croatian history is being ignored or overlooked.

The only evidence of the camp that remains are these mounds,


 the testimony of survivors, and the names of those that fell:- lists of names -in white letters, that glow forever in the darkness.


The evil committed here, had to be remembered and transformed into the eternal opposition of the good and evil in man, history and nation. In creating this monument Bogdan Bogdanovic, created a monument to the concept of human faith and hope that violence and evil must not and will not happen again. (Adapted from quote from Tea Bencic Rimay, The Genesis of Bogdan Bogdanovic's Flower.)


It was soon time for us to tear ourselves away, and cross the border of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and head to Sarajevo, via Banja Luka.