Croatia: Medieval Modernity

Thanks to the wonderful Schengenraum 90/180 rule, I had to leave Vienna and go to Croatia for three weeks. In that time, I was enchanted most by the blue and beautiful Adriatic Sea, and the old towns of Split, Dubrovnik, and Zadar.

First, a quick history lesson. Croatia officially became an independent state in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of Yugoslavia. But in the 24 years, the culture has done its best to become European, with the women made up and teased out in high fashion and people sitting in cafés at all hours, when people in America would most definitely be working. In Split, where I spent the majority of my time, I began to wonder whether people had jobs with fixed schedules or just came and went as they pleased.

I began in Zagreb, the capital, which is a little grittier and the poverty leaks out of the edges of the new façade of the city. Zagreb had some architectural commonalities with Vienna, but on a much smaller scale. I did a lot of walking rather than sightseeing, but the Mimara museum was quite a treat, and the Cathedral was truly impressive. Walking around the hollowed out, traffic-free city center during VP Biden’s visit was an Orwellian experience. Two days in Zagreb was just about right.

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Split was the ancient home of Diocletian’s castle, and the entire area has been converted into an old city with high stone walls and narrow alleyways. The Adriatic is at its finestin Split, and the salt air and the smell of fish mingles with the sea breezes and the coffee and mulled wine so representative of the holiday season. I lived off of wine and bread, local cheese, local olives, local anchovies, and the veggies at the fresh outdoor market and once I treated myself to shrimp from the fish market. AirBnB led me to a great apartment on Marjan Beach outside the city center, and this was home for about 11 out of my 21 days.

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The fishing industry is alive and well in Split, and the fresh fish market is active every day until about 2pm.


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Dubrovnik, further south and occupying a strategic corner geographically, has city walls with ramparts and what must have been an impregnable defense back in the day. Walking the city walls, something I had only ever done in Jerusalem, was a pleasure that was almost worth the 100 kuna ($13.50) I paid. Dubrovnik also has a synagogue, which was unfortunately closed for renovations.

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Zadar had a more compact but no less impressive medieval Old City, and the Riva (sea promenade) boasted the Sea Organ, the coolest piece of organic architecture I have ever seen, and the only one I’ve ever heard.

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The video of the Sea Organ was too big to upload. See it on my Facebook site: https://www.facebook.com/eyebox.productions

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Defenders of the Old City

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I also braved the freezing cold and frosty trails to explore Plitvice Lakes, a national park between Zadar and Zagreb. Photos will do more than words to describe it, and even then the photos don’t capture it all.

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All in all, even in the low season (winter), Croatia is beautiful, and from what locals tell me, every year the summer brings more and more visitors. I didn’t even go the islands — many ferries and services close down for the winter. But for all the tourism, the people manage to keep the Adriatic blue and beautiful. Croatia was a unique and highly cultural experience, and its independence from the draconian Schengenraum agreement made it the ideal place to go while I waited in limbo. Today, a day trip to Bratislava, and then, next stop — Atitlán!!

Balance and the IB

Hard to believe it’s already been more than a month in Vienna. Although I’ve been out a few times, life has been for the most part subsumed with work. I’m not starting the music program from scratch, but it’s pretty damned close. And because it’s an IB school, and I’ve never worked at one before, there are very specific requirements, all of which I am learning from scratch. Without boring you with all the details, one thing the IB Learner Profile stresses is “Balanced” — that students should have a balanced life intellectually, physically, socially, emotionally. I am wondering if this applies to IB teachers, because I should be enjoying my free time way more than I have been able to do. Even so, a few photos from around the city.

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Vienna vineyards

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Drinking Rotstürm, a cloudy fall wine, seasonal. It comes in white, too.

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My apartment building, 18th district.

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Hofburg

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Gaming exhibition outside the Rathaus

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MuseumsQuartier at dusk

 

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Ummm…..

Rate of Change

Waking up to a Sunday morning with hot coffee and a homemade breakfast in my apartment. And that’s saying a lot. After the whirlwind of coming to Vienna and immediately jumping into a job sight unseen, I haven’t had a chance to unwind, relax, or have a space to call my own.

But through cosmic coincidence I did manage to find an apartment, and I am almost moved in – meaning that most of my stuff is here but there is work to do to make this apartment my home. This modern life gives us the gift of travel and the ability to observe, interact with, and be a part of several different cultures within the span of a lifetime. That is beautiful. I am now teaching in my fifth country on my fourth continent (5th if you count Central America), and I consider myself blessed to be able to hang my hat in Europe for awhile. But I this morning I realized that in the past three months I have used four different SIM cards in my phone — China, USA, Guatemala, and Austria. Thank you Hong Kong, for producing & selling unlocked phones for the world-weary traveler!

I also realized somewhere along the way that traveling in space also means traveling in time. Vienna is older than god, and my apartment, a simple dwelling, is over 100 years old and it is in a part of the city (18th District) that used to be a village! So there are places much older, that have withstood the slings and arrows of human history. Vienna is grand, stately, civilized like nowhere else I have ever been. The streets are clean and the people respect — nay, revere — their artists. I can’t wait to get settled and take the opportunity to see the best the world has to offer in classical music, as well as the jazz and other music that comes this way. But for now, for next weekend – Oktoberfest Vienna!

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The simple things – morning coffee in my own apartment.

 

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Steeple of the church in the Bischof Faberplatz, up the block from my place.

 

Cambodia pix revisited

I never have the time or the patience to do this, but this morning was a rare exception. Enjoy a few snapshots…

Sheni at Bayon

 

Terrace of the Elephants, Baphuon

 

Holding the Light

 

Nature eventually has her way with all of us.

 

 

Selfie on canoe at floating village of Kompong Plok

 

Next installment: Hong Kong photos from February 2014. Stay tuned!