Some Photos from Croatia
Here are some photos from my recent trip to Croatia. I’ll add more later, but here are photos from two of the places we visited.
The first place we visited was on the far eastern border between Croatia and Serbia in a town called Vukovar. Vukovar is located on the Danube River. It was an amazing place, but was completely devastated when the Serbs invaded during the Croatian War of Independence from1991-1995. Visiting Vukovar was a mind-boggling experience. The people were so friendly, the weather warm and sunny, and the food plentiful and tasty. Try to imagine that with a town completely devastated by the war. When I was there, there were bullet holes on just about every surface imaginable. Doors, inside homes, ceilings, floors, streets, gates, signs, roofs, walls…. Everywhere. Bullet holes everywhere. When we were walking through downtown Vukovar, the head of our Croatian partner ministry was keen to point out the divots in the street. I imagined they were potholes or shoddy road construction; I was wrong. He soberly told us that they were, in fact, from grenades. When he said this, I noticed that these divots were everywhere. It’s a terrifying thing to imagine, let alone experience.
According to our Croatian ministry partner, Damir, Vukovar has done its best to recover from the war, but it remains a sort of ghost town. A great deal of people left and, nearly twenty years later, they are very slow to return. The devastation, internally and externally, still exists. Unemployment, I was told, was around 30-40%. It’s no wonder, then, why people would rather stay somewhere else, where there is plentiful work and a nice buffer from the horrors of the past.
To give you an idea of what Vukovar looked like, go here: http://goo.gl/1UxvL
I’d post the images myself, but because I don’t have rights to the images, I’d rather not break the law.
If you clicked the link, you’d see some pretty destruction. It’s more than sobering. It’s downright terrifying.
People in Vukovar have done a good job of trying to recover from the war; that was apparent. Many of the homes had the bullet holes patched over and freshly painted. I applaud the homeowners for trying to move on, but, with careful eyes, the bullet holes were very much still there. I could see the lighter colored plaster and how it stood out with the bright orange and yellow paints, leaving a lighter, mismatched splotch on the wall. They were everywhere. It’s certainly no fault of the Croats for not being able to mask the destruction. I found it strangely appropriate for the mentality of it’s people. They are doing the best they can to move on and return to normal life, but the memories and pain still cling tightly.
In trying to put this in perspective with Christ, it was apparent how crucial Christ is to reconciling beyond the bitterness, hatred, and sadness shared by both Croats and Serbs. With such violence, such destructive forces on such beautiful people, who else but Christ could inspire love between enemies, among neighbors?
Towards the end of the day, we made another long trip to Zagreb, Croatia, the capital city. This place was beautiful. I was so surprised. I did not expect much beauty from a former Yugoslavian state (no offense intended). I expected swaths of communist-era apartment blocs. I was surprised to see something so beautiful and classical in style. Zagreb is a beautiful example of a combination of Germanic architecture with Slavic culture. The city was beautiful. The people were beautiful. The people were smiling. I noticed that nearly everyone in Croatia smiled, looked me in the eyes when we spoke, and was very courteous. It reminded me of being home in South Carolina. The level of respect was pretty surprising. Very generally speaking, former communist states bear their hard history in their demeanor and society. This was not the case, surprisingly, for Croatians, it seemed. The cashiers all smiled and laughed and engaged me in a friendly, hospitable way. The city transit was elegant, futuristic and clean. I told my coworkers that the city trains looked like something out of Star-Trek. Musicians were playing in the street. Mobs of people were gathered around the many pubs, cafes, and restaurants in the city to watch the Euro Cup (soccer/football). I loved it. Zagreb was a really interesting city, one that I wouldn’t mind spending time getting to know.