A Travellerspoint blog

Thursday, June 13 - Last day in Zagreb

Zagreb Zoo, dinner with Natalie’s first host family

sunny 88 °F
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First, since I’m betting the grandparents have been worrying - No, the kids did not go out last night - I think they wanted to, but they were as tired as Tim and I!

Today we took it a little easier than the last few days - the time change, heat, and SO much walking caught up with us. We went to breakfast on Tkalciceva street, sitting outside under umbrellas which is SO common here. Many of them have mist spraying out to help keep patrons cool.

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After breakfast we took the tram to the Maksimir Park area, and spent a couple hours walking around the zoo. It’s kind of a small zoo but had some cool animials, some of which we’d never seen before. Then we spent some time walking around Maksimir Park, and relaxing on benches there with a cold water. Maksimir Park is 780 acres (all of the green in the map pic), right near the heart of Zagreb- pretty amazing. What I found more amazing was how clean and safe it felt (and Natalie said it really is very safe).... I don’t think that if some of our larger cities had parks that size, I would want to go anywhere near them. :/

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We then took a tram closer to city center, where we ate lunch at a place Natalie knew about - it was delicious - then got a gelato and walked to our apartment to rest, start packing, and freshen up - we were invited to Natalie’s first host family’s apartment for dinner at 8pm.

On the way out for the evening, I took some pics of the entrance to our apartment - I’ve never seen anything like it, but here it is very common for the stores to occupy the front area, and other things (smaller shops, some restaurants, and apartments, to be in behind. You can see that here:

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To get to their apartment, we took a tram then walked. They are a little out of the main area of the city, but still very much in the city, There, after a toast with Rakija - “Zivjeli” (sounds like gee-va-lee) “to life!”), we had another typical Croatian meal - appetizer of cheeses, bread, olives, and prosciutto, then for dinner we had a wonderful salad, cevapi that Amir grilled served with a couple different toppings that I can’t name but were delicious, and onions. All the while we enjoyed lively conversation about exchange (Faris, 18, was near Lansing while Natalie was there), moms (apparently a lot of mom-isms are international, go figure;) ), and a wide range of other topics. When we left (about 11:15pm), it was down to a cool (my word only - the rest thought it was great) 74 degrees.
Here is Natalie with Amir (dad), Latica (sounds like La-teet-za, mom), and Lena (sounds like Lay-na).

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And here are the pics Amir took of all of us:

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Tomorrow we leave Zagreb, by rental car, to head for the coast, starting in the north and working our way down over the next week, ending in Dubrovnik. From there we fly to Thailand!

Posted by Rowlandfamily 15:00 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 12 - Plitvička Jezera National Park

And dinner with Natalie’s 2nd host family

sunny 95 °F
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This morning we got up early, to take the tram to get a rental car, which we drove for about 2 hours to get to Plitvička (Plit-veet-za) Jezera National Park. Wow - incredibly beautiful!

Before we left, Natalie and Tim walked out to the square to buy us burek for breakfast - pastry with meat or cheese that is common in Croatia.

When we arrived at Plitvice, we started at the top, overlooking waterfalls and lakes. We worked our way down to the bottom, where we walked paths and wooden walkways & bridges, around and across the lakes. We made our way to the far side, where we rode a boat across the water, then walked a ways up (wooden steps and paths) where we took a “train” (a long, multi-section bus) for a ways, then again walked trails and wooden walkways and steps, until we finally ended up back at the entrance. All of this took about 3 hours (and, according to my Fitbit, about 24 flights of stairs!). It was amazingly beautiful - bright blue water, large and small waterfalls, and lots of “nature”.

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We then drove back to the city, dropped off our rental car, and returned to our apartment where we got ready for dinner with Natalie’s second host family. They live right on the main street where the trams run, in an apartment on the second floor (ground level being zero, in the US we would say 3rd floor). Irena, Natalie’s ‘mom’ cooked us an amazing traditional Croatian dinner (though they typically would eat this large a meal closer to our lunch tine and eat just a light evening meal or leftovers). We started with a champagne toast, then had an appetizer of sir i vrhnje (sour cream & cheese) - it looked kind of like cottage cheese and was delicious, eaten on bread (one was made completely of corn but not like our corn bread), summer sausage (what we would call it not what they called it), and fried bacon fat (not sure of the name). For the main course we had salad with olive oil & vinegar, osso bucco with vegetables , and rice. Then for dessert (yes - we were stuffed!), we had kremsnita.
While we enjoyed dinner, we viistited with Irena, her son Jure (pronounced you-ray, but he introduced himself as JJ), age 18, who was on exchange in Washington state while Natalie was living there and just finished high school but has yet to finish his final tests, and Luna, age 17, who has one year left of high school. She is in school until Friday, so she has tests to study for, so we also met 2 of her friends who were coming over to study with her. We didn’t get to meet Duga (22), who was working (she is a personal trainer at her father’s gym).

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After dinner, we walked back to our apartment, to let our food settle and relax a bit, and played some cards. We intended to go back out, but as of right now Terri & Tim are going to call it a night - long day in the hot sun and so much walking zapped our energy.... The kids are still debating, since at dinner Luna & Jure told them of some fun places to go/things going on tonight .... they were told to take a nap and go out around midnight :/

Posted by Rowlandfamily 13:36 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

First full day in Zagreb

sunny 88 °F
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Natalie had to drag us out of bed this morning - apparently the long day of travel and the time change caught up with us, We walked around the famous ‘red umbrella’ market, where they sell fresh fruits & vegetables, meats and cheeses, flowers and even a few souvenirs. There’s also a fresh fish market that we went in. Then we walked to breakfast at Amalie where we had quiche. After that we went to the Cathedral, then went to hear to cannon go off at noon (see description with pic). It’s really hot here, and everything is hills and steps, so after that we sat for a bit and had a water before heading to St. Mark’s church, After St. Mark’s, we went to the Museum of Broken Relationships ... some funny, some sad, - realtionships of all kind - romantic, familial, even pizza! - all interesting. Then we walked back to the apartment to cool off and regroup a little.

When we went back out, we walked through 3 parks, including one that they turn into a skating rink in winter, then caught a tram to see the Croatian National Theater. From there we walked to Gric Tunnel, which is a pedestrian tunnel built during WWII as a bomb shelter & promenade. It was so nice and cool that we definitely walked more slowly while inside!

We then took a tram to the Maximir neighborhood - we will go back and do the park and zoo on Thursday, but at this point we were hot, tired, and hungry, so we went to a wood-fired pizza place and ate, then caught a tram back to city center. We walked around the market there a little then got some strawberries (we bought cherries last night) from a sidewalk stand, picked up a few things from the grocery store, and again went back to the apartment for some air conditioning! The guys took a little nap, and Terri worked on labeling pictures (what a job! but - if it’s so difficult after a few hours, I can’t imagine what it would be in a week or a month...). We played a game of cards on our balcony then headed back out for the evening.

We started at a bar that (according to Natalie) has good Rakije (Rah - kee - a) - a drink you can do as shots or can sip, made in Croatia. We hated it when she brought it home last yea, but had to admit that we liked all of it tonight - cherry, honey, and apple. We then went t an Irish pub, and then, since bars don’t serve food and we were hungry, we headed up to Upper Town again for some food - it was really busy with a live band and lots of bars and food carts, and we enjoyed it until it started sprinkling - we are it back to the apartment just in time!

It’s been SO nice that Natalie knows the language, since we’ve encountered quite a few people who don’t speak English. That, along with the fact that she lived here for a year and knows her way around very easily, and also can easily deal with the money ad conversions, have enabled us to get around smoothly, do a nice blend of tourist and non-touristy things, and go places that we otherwise couldn’t have and/or wouldn’t have known about.

Posted by Rowlandfamily 13:49 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

Day 1!

Travels & first evening

80 °F
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We flew out of Chicago around 9:45pm Sunday and flew for about 10 hours, landing in Istanbul for about an hour and a half, but by the time we got off one plane and made it to our next gate, our wait was only about 20 minutes. We then flew another 1 hour 45 minutes on to Zagreb, landing about 7:30pm Zagreb time (1:30 pm Michigan). Both flights went smoothly. When we arrived in Zagreb, Natalie was at the airport to meet us and had already checked us in to our Airbnb. We took 2 Uber’s and unloaded our things and met the apartment owner, then went and walked around Zagreb, mainly Upper Town. There are TONS of sidewalk bars and restaurants, and several outdoor venues with singers/bands. We stopped for a drink at a bar called Carpe Diem then headed back to our apartment to switch SIM cards in our phones and relax a bit. On the way back, we bought delicious red cherries from a street vendor. As I write this it’s almost midnight in Zagreb, which is only 6pm in Michigan, but we’re exhausted from travel and heading to bed,
So excited to be here - love it so far! :)

Posted by Rowlandfamily 15:00 Archived in Croatia Comments (2)

And we’re off!

June 9, 2019

overcast 70 °F
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After planning and anticipating for so long, it's hard to believe it's finally time to go!

We've had/are having a BIG year - SO much to celebrate and be thankful for: Natalie's return from her year abroad as an exchange student and successful first year at CMU, Nick's graduation from FSU and "real" job at Magna Mirrors, Terri's 50th birthday and retirement, and Terri & Tim's 25th anniversary. I used all of that as leverage to convince my reluctant-traveler husband that we needed celebrate in a BIG way... and used the excuse that we won't have many vacations left with the kids, to convince him to make it a "2 for 1" by putting both Croatia and Thailand together in one trip - both vacations that we really want both kids to be a part of, as Croatia is where Natalie was an exchange student in 2017/2018, and our exchange student Nudi (2015/2016) is from Thailand, and will be joining us while we are there.

The planning has been a bit overwhelming - we are staying 4 different places in Croatia, and 3 different places in Thailand, along with an overnight in Istanbul on our way home - but I think we're as ready as we can be. Between cities and countries we are traveling in many different ways - rental cars, buses, flights,.. and even a boat! Natalie has been a huge help with the Croatia plans, as she's done and been to most of the places we are going, and Nudi's stepdad, Patrick, has been a big help with suggestions for timing and activities in Thailand.

Ready or not.... :)

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Posted by Rowlandfamily 18:55 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Natalie's first 24 hours....

Zagreb, Croatia

Natalie was nervous about making her connecting flight in Istanbul, because her flight from Chicago left over an hour late. She made the connection and landed in Zagreb about 7:30pm local time on Monday, but unfortunately her luggage did not, and she had to spend over an hour and a half waiting in the airport in Zagreb to give them her information.

Fortunately, it was delivered to her today (about 5pm Zagreb time).

In the meantime, she's been reconnecting with her first host family, who were kind enough to invite her to stay with them this week, and her first host dog, Lu, who she's missed a lot!

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She's also been doing "housekeeping" things like getting her SIM card activated again, and getting SIM cards for the rest of us, as well as checking on the bus schedule (I've been having a terrible time with it online) for our day trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park.

She sent pics of what I assume to be in and around her first host family's home.... but I'm not positive, so I've labeled them the best I can.

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Posted by Rowlandfamily 10:10 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

Natalie's off!

June 2, 2019

sunny 67 °F

After almost a year of planning, the time is finally (almost) here! Natalie flies out tonight, from Chicago, through Istanbul, and into Zagreb, Croatia... arriving tomorrow (Monday) evening around 7:30pm.

She is going a week ahead of the rest of us, so that she can spend time with her host families and friends, before she has to play tour guide to us.

Tim, Nick and I will take the same flights as Natalie, next week Sunday. In the meantime, I am finishing up my last (EVER!) week of school, and Tim and Nick are both getting things set at work to be gone.

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Posted by Rowlandfamily 17:24 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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