Daily Archives: August 6, 2011

The Lessons in Hospitality

Author: Steve

When we left for this trip we knew we would need to work hard at teaching the kids educational facts in each country throughout the year.  It has not been easy for any of us to try and absorb each historical fact (there’s just so much intriguing information out there) especially when you’re traveling each week to a new location.  This blog is helping us reign in our thoughts with what we see and learn each day.  So no complaints, we will stay the course and continue to take in as much information as we can.  However, one powerful lesson we did not count on hitting us so impressively were our lessons in hospitality.

The one area we know for sure we and our kids have already been given a huge lesson in is hospitality.  From our first day in Gelsenkirchen, Germany with Annetta and Werner and how they picked us up from the airport, gave us great meals, let us stay in their lovely home and showed us their region and their lives; our time there was too short with these great people. We never met them before this trip. In Greece our warm Greek family in Paro’s at Hotel Afrodite taught us that it’s about enjoying each other and being happy and not always making that extra buck.  Now to Croatia, our final stay on this leg in Europe, the hospitality we were given was unbelievable.  We will never forget the warm family service we were given at the beautiful Hotel Magdalena in Krapinske Toplice and would stay there again in a heartbeat.  Zlatko and Gorinka our hosts from the same village, were such fun people and allowed us to truly be a part of their family.  From the baptism and how they sat all the Americans in the front row of the church (and they sat behind us), to the huge gift baskets they gave us that were waiting in our hotel room when we arrived, to letting us join them in Brela on their family vacation, and their motto of “when in Croatia you will never be hungry or thirsty” (and we weren’t).  I personally loved my long talks with Zlatko, we talked about everything from Croatian history, how he grew up in former times, our marriages, our kids etc.  I will always cherish my time with him.  I cannot say enough on how humbling it is to have been given such hospitality during the last 2 months.

Annetta and Keegan going at it - they could have played all day

Saying goodbye to our friends at Hotel Magdalena: Marijana and Dubravka (the owner)

Gorinka, Zlatko and Daniel; it doesn't get much better than that

As I sit in our hotel in Johannesburg, South Africa and write this, I am glad to say this lesson in hospitality has put tears in my eyes and I know I can and want to do a better job of giving hospitality at the level that has been given to me and my family.  My kids have seen first hand “the giving” not for any other reason than love – no matter what country you are from, what language you speak, what religion you practice or the color of your skin…we all have more love to give.


Posted by on August 6, 2011 in Croatia


Zagreb, Croatia

Author: Steve

We have a good friend from our hometown that was born in Croatia and her parents still live there.  We also met up with another family on their summer vacation in the village where Toni is from. We were so fortunate to be invited to visit and as Keegan wrote about in his blog we were invited to the wonderful baptism of their very cute daughter, Layla.

We started the weekend by taking a short trip up to the family’s wine vineyard.  Many family’s have small wine vineyards in this village that they work as a hobby. This is a beautiful piece of land that also has a small house with an outhouse, sort of a studio apartment above the wine cellar where the barrels are kept. The views were incredible from all angles.  After a very nice evening drinking some wonderful homegrown white wine a few of us adults went to the village festival (everything is walking distance as Keegan mentioned).  We stayed out probably (ok not probably) a little later than we should have but we had a wonderful time in the big tent listening to live Croatian music and dancing the night away.  It was a fun night with a lot of laughs and catching up with friends.

The view over looking the valley from the wine house in Krapinske Toplice

Amy and Kenda checking out the wine cellar

Zlatko and Gorinka's vineyard

Amy, Kenda and Toni enjoying the wine and the laughs

The Christening was approved by a Christian, a Hindu and a Jew - I think that means good luck for Layla!

The next day our friend’s father, Zlatko, gave the two American families a wonderful tour of the sites in Croatia’s capital; Zagreb.  We visited the church of Saint Mark’s and Trg Bana Jelacica, Zagreb’s main square, just to mention a couple.  We also visited the Trakoscan Castle in northern Croatia.  Zlatko was able to rent a large van from a friend that made it so convenient to have one vehicle for all of us. We had incredible hosts.

In front of the church of Saint Mark's

Coleman, Keegan, Kendal and Brooke enjoying the city view of Zagreb

Atop the Trakoscan Castle.

Zagreb is a wonderful city with not only old, rich history but recent history as well.  The entire country has a population of about 4.5 million.  It is, at this point, still not a member of the EU but it is said to be close to becoming a member country.  Some would love for it to happen sooner than later because it would open the doors to new opportunities and growth however many would rather it not happen for those same reasons.

The recent war in this area is complicated to understand because it has so many factors spanning over such a long period of time.  But the more I read and talk with the locals I realize this was a war in the making that was realized over many centuries of turmoil, with a strong springboard from World War I and II during the reign of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.  After the death of Josip Broz “Tito” (Yugoslavia’s charismatic yet controversial leader) in 1980, economic, political, and religious difficulties started to mount and the federal government began to crumble during this decade. During this time the Kosovo War Crisis occurred as well as the rise of Slobodan Milosevic.  So the area was unsettled all around.  On Easter Sunday, March 31, 1991 the first fatal clashes occurred in the beautiful Plitvice Lakes National Park (we took a day trip and hiked this incredible park-we would recommend this visit) between Croatian and Serbian forces.

Plitvice Lakes National Park

Plitvice Lakes National Park - waterfalls were endless and everywhere

Plitvice Lakes National Park - the water was crystal clear aqua

Plitvice Lakes National Park - this was a slightly overcast day which made it a great day for hiking

And then again during the same year, 1991, the Battle of Vukar took place, which lasted from the middle of August to November 16.  At least 3,000 people were killed and this battle completely destroyed the city of Vukar (the largest complete city destruction since WWII).  On October 1, 1991, the walled-city of Dubrovnik was attacked by the Yugoslav People’s Army, led by Slobodan Milosevic, he declared that Dubrovnik would not be permitted to stay a part of Croatia because it was historically a part of Montenegro.  The casualties of this 7-month conflict were 166 people.  In May 1992, the Croatian Army lifted the siege and liberated Dubrovnik (we also took a day trip to see this amazing city-we would recommend this visit as well).

Dubrovnik - we walked the perimeter of the wall with an audio tour, it was about a 2K walk

The walled city of Dubrovnik - we could have definatly spent more time here

Conflicts continued on a small scale and sporadically in Croatia until 1995.

On August 4, 1995, the Croatian Armed Forces in conjunction with the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina effectively carried out a large-scale military operation known as “Operation Storm”.  They had received strategic instruction from the US based firm, Military Professional Resources Inc. (MPRI), this engagement was approved by the US Government. This conflict lasted about 4 days with complete victory for the Croatian forces.

The history of this country is so vast and still so fresh that I can’t help but wonder if the younger generations, from all sides, are strong enough to put these differences aside and move forward toward a more peaceful future.


Posted by on August 6, 2011 in Croatia