We had just spent a long cycling day crossing the isles of Krk and Cres then were dropped by ferry on the Istria peninsula with a steep climb yet still ahead of us to reach our accommodations. Terrain here rises sharply from the sea. Then it was three tired and sweaty cyclists trying to find an address on downhill lanes that google maps chased us down. Some helpful neighbors corrected the problem and we were soon on a deck overlooking the sea far below us with three beers our host kindly provided happy to end our day. All that was left after showers was a hike back up 300 meters to the restaurant.
We questioned our middle aged waitress about how slow the tourism seemed to be. Was it too early in the season? Residual effects of COVID? “No, COVID has been over. That’s in the past. The season is not early. It’s the war. No one is traveling. The memories run deep here.”
For people here, the war between Bosnians, Serbians, and Croats in the 90’s was like just yesterday. The bullet scarred buildings, those shattered by artillery fire, and the rock skeletons left by bomb blasts we’ve seen in so much of Croatia reflect the even deeper scars in the people themselves. We in America can have no idea. Our battles have been overseas. Our homeland has been untouched since the Civil War. We are seeing remnants of destruction from World War I, from World War II, and of course the 90’s as we travel through Croatia. It must be gut-wrenching for them to see war erupt again in Europe.
Tonight at dinner we overheard a conversation between the waiter and a younger couple at another table. Ukraine had come up. Lindsay asked them as we left if they were from Ukraine. One was from Russia and the other from Ukraine. They had left a business in Ukraine, and fled the country with their child. The man shrugged the situation off but the woman’s glistening eyes reflected the pain.