Budapest To Bucharest 2014
May 11 - Vukovar and Osijek, Croatia
I was a bit disappointed in our shore excursion today. First, Ann had a cold and did not want to spread it in close quarters on the bus. So she stayed on the ship. It was a peaceful way to celebrate Mother's Day, though. Second, the sites that we visited were not what I expected.
We departed on our buses at 8:30. We did a quick tour of our port city of Vukovar. This port city was heavily damaged during the Croatian War of Independence in the 1990s. A lot of the buildings have been rebuilt but some of them still lie in ruins. There was not much to see here except rubble.
We drove on to Osijek which is eastern Croatia's largest city. It has been populated by Romans, Ottomans and Hapsburgs over the years. It was also heavily damaged during the War of Independence. A lot of the city has not been rebuilt. According to our guide, the unemployment rate is around 37%. The economy is very bad. There are a lot of empty store fronts and a majority of buildings are pockmarked with bullet holes.
We were taken to Tvrđa, the old run-down fort and walked to its monastery. Inside its church, we were treated to a concert where a young woman played the piano and sang Christian pop songs to us. Although the acoustics were very good and the singer had a nice voice, we older folks should have been presented with something less contemporary.
After the concert, we toured the town's main square and walked back to the bus.
We drove out of town to the house of one of the local residents. Houses in this area are narrow in front and very deep along the side. This house was deep enough to entertain two bus loads of tourists. The side yard was filled with all sorts of clutter - fishing gear, farm tools and souvenirs for sale. We were offered a shot of slivovitz as we walked in. Our host herded us inside where he gave us a light-hearted talk and a video presentation about how the Croats chased away the Ottomans. We were then offered snacks of salami, spreads on bread and a specialty bread. Wine, blackberry juice and flavored schnapps were also available.
We rode back to the ship contentedly.
Ann met me as I arrived. After cleaning up, we went to lunch. Good salads and pasta were on the buffet menu. My favorite salad was shrimp with avocado. Of course we had wine and then a rhubarb brûlée for dessert. We dined with the couple from Missouri (he was the one who knows where WMDs are stored) and a man from England who used to sell industrial safety clothing and has been in every state in the US. Both of these men are 85 and very alert and active.
We had a lazy afternoon mostly sitting on our veranda and reading. Wine was good before dinner. Wine was also good during dinner. We sat by ourselves at an isolated table. Ann's cold was better but she did not want to spread it to someone else. Asparagus was the featured vegetable. Ann had asparagus soup and pork loin with asparagus. I had an asparagus and rhubarb salad along with my pork loin. For desert, Ann had a cheese plate while I settled on rhubarb cake. I sure am glad that portions are small.
After dinner, the captain have us a presentation of all of the facts about our ship.