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Just Outside Washington
FRANK BERNHEISEL & KATHY CAVANAUGH
VISITING WHAT WAS ONCE YUGOSLAVIA: PART 8
From Zagreb to Opatija
The rain had stopped and we had a sunny, cool, and very windy day. The last stop before leaving Zagreb was Mirogoj, Zagreb's central cemetery. It is known as one of the most beautiful cemeteries in Europe and was built by the famous linguist and leading person of the Croatian national reformation, or the Illyrian Movement, Ljudevit Gaj.
The design is unique; there is an arch and on either side colonnades. On the walls are the names of the families and people buried below. The cemetery opened around 1835 so there are many names listed. In the other sections, which are on the ground and not on the raised walkway of the colonnades, some graves have large and lovely statues. Some memorial sections were totally covered with plants and flowers. We wondered if they had to re-landscape every time someone was buried.
The first president of the Republic of Croatia, FranjoTudman, is buried in this cemetery, under a huge, black granite, modern-design memorial; it's only decoration is his name. In 1995, he authorized a major offensive, which effectively ended the war in Croatia. He died in office in 1999.
We were at the cemetery at an interesting time. Croatians celebrate All Saints Day with the city businesses closed, and families going to the cemetery with flowers to visit the family sites. We saw a lot of activity in preparation; maintenance people as well as individuals arriving with brooms doing cleanup. According to Zoran, all religious groups have their own sections of the cemetery.
Zagreb, a city of 800,000, is not all picturesque and historic -- and a tourist haven. It is a busy metropolis with modern buildings, including the Sky Office Tower, which is 22 stories. It is the seat of the Croatian government.
The transportation system in the inner city is served by trams, the outer city areas and closer suburbs are linked with buses, rapid transit commuter rail, and cars.It is also an industrial hub producing electrical machines and devices, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and textiles.
Our next stop was lunch at a farm/winery, Kezele. This was an interesting place to visit. The family has turned it into an agro-tourism-farm holiday attraction. Here we were greeted with the traditional brandy and entertainment. This time, music and dancing were provided these folks:
While we were there, a group of children were visiting. There is a playground, pony rides, etc. for children. They also have turned one of the barns into a storage area for collections of items, such as pottery, old household items like irons, telephones, clocks, etc. as well as farm equipment.
They fixed a traditional Croatian meal on a large round pan placed on a top of a portable 'stove.' The traditional heat source is wood but they also use natural gas. The meal was chicken, pork, sausages, potatoes, beans, and other vegetables, followed by a desert.
The winery produces approximately 40 thousand liters of wine annually. Frank particularly enjoyed the Gewurztarminer. The table white wine was quite good. Kathy silently toasted her daughter, Diane's birthday!
The red wine was aged in oak barrels.
After a leisurely lunch with good conversation, we returned to the bus for the drive to Opatija. The country changed from the rolling hills and farmland into more rugged, steep and limestone crags. We were greeted by our first view of the Adriatic and Opatija and its suburbs clinging to the shore and hills.
The town was once a simple fishing village, and is now city of 12,000, which functions as a fun seaside retreat for mainly Europeans, but also includes some Americans -- us. Our coach takes us down to sea level and to our hotel, Hotel Sveti Jakov, to check in.
The hotel is right in the center of Opatija with a walk along the waterfront, bars, restaurants and street musicians. We are on our own for dinner and find ample choices.
NEXT: DOING OPATIJA...
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