My impressions of Croatia, when I was there for seven days (back in 2008 for a speaking engagement):
The Croatian language sounds, to my ears, a mix between Italian and Russian. My hosts were excellent. My hotel arrangements, travel, dining, were all efficiently organised.
The last war was still on people’s minds. It remained a sensitive topic. Somewhat taboo. Complicated history.
Graffiti everywhere. In Pula, Rjeika, Zagreb.
Values seemed very “Asian” to me. I was told that might be due to their Slavic roots.
Their service staff were warm and personable, which I found surprising. I had expected them to be like Europeans — more ‘cold’ and ‘business-like’. I remembered Vienna’s waiters seemed to tell you things by rote. And only when you asked. In Croatia, the service staff proactively approached you to ask if you needed anything. It’s also in their tone and body language.
Croatia’s city roads were generally clean but I also noticed enough litter and trash.
Felt quite safe.
Food tasted familiar, if you’ve eaten in restaurants in Singapore that served Italian/ European food – meat, potatoes, bread.
Second-hand cigarette smoke in enclosed places (it seems from 2009 January, there would be a ban on indoor smoking).
In speaking with the Croatian librarians, I had the impression that they were like familiar friends. Even though I’ve only met them over seven days. They didn’t come across as ‘brimstone and fire’, like how I tended to see the Italians and Greeks. I sensed that Croatians tended to be rational and resilient.
Warm but not loud.
I asked the three Croatian librarians at my table to name three things that Croatians view as ‘Most Important’.
They unanimously agreed: “Family, Friends, Food.”
Sounded like home.
Zagreb, Pleso – 30mins bus trip to Zagreb central bus station.
4 hour ride to Pula.
Pula to Rjeika in 2hrs 15mins
Rjeika to Zagreb in 3 hours