by Robert Bush: September 17, 2018



What do you think of when someone mentions “Croatia”?  Although Croatia is an increasingly popular international travel destination, that is a recent phenomenon and I suspect that many of you are like me – and really have no idea at all about what Croatia is like.  So I thought it might be of interest to see some photos and hear some stories about the journey we are currently on to Croatia.  I will try to keep the words to a minimum – but it may be worth setting the stage a bit.

Peggy and I are currently on an almost four-hour ferry trip to Rovinj, Croatia from Venice, Italy where we just spent three days.  Venice is directly across the Adriatic Sea from Croatia and is therefore a convenient place from which to get to Croatia.  It is also a historically apt starting point for a story about Croatia since the northern part of Croatia was once part of the Venetian empire.


Venice is also an apt starting point for a little historical background about Croatia.  Although most of us have never visited that part of the world and might not have any idea about what it is like, it is much more likely that we do remember the horribly violent breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s that introduced us to the term “ethnic cleansing.”   Ultimately, that breakup resulted in the creation of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Slovenia and Macedonia.(









In preparation for the trip, I have done a little reading about the history of this region and the causes of that violence.  It is an incredibly complicated history, going back almost a thousand years.  I could not explain it all even if I wanted to – but what is quite obvious is seen on a map.  Beginning in the about the 12thCentury, three major powers continually fought over the area that ultimately was known as Yugoslavia. To the west of the region is Italy – from whence we are traveling now – and where the Venetian Republic was centered. To the north is present day Austria and Hungary – where the Austro-Hungarian Empire was centered.  And to the south is Turkey, where the Ottomon Empire was centered – the third major antagonist of the three headed monster that fought over and exploited these peoples over the centuries.



These territorial conflicts were not just imposed from without.  They were translated into the fabric of society by the alliances that each of the major ethnic groups in the region made with various external political forces.  Each group can point to brutality imposed on them by the other.  Imagine today’s resentments of the Israelis and Palestinians and the surrounding nations, magnified by centuries of wars, where each side can point with justified angry resentment to unimaginable brutality and murder imposed on them by the other.


One of the most acclaimed books about the past history of this region is Black Lamb and Grey Falconby Rebecca West.  It is haunting not only because of the eloquence – but also because it was written just as German Fascism was consolidating its power in Germany and many years before the violent breakup of Yugoslavia.  In summarizing this history of the region, she writes:

“Were I to go down to the market-place, armed with the powers of witchcraft, and take a peasant by the shoulders and whisper to him, ‘In your lifetime, have you known peace?’ wait for his answer shake his shoulders, and transform him into his father and ask the same question, and transform him in his turn to his father, I would never hear the word ‘Yes’ if I carried my questioning of the dead back for a thousand years.  I would always hear, ‘No, there was fear, there were our enemies without, our rulers within there was prison, there was torture, there was violent death.”

Remember, this was written beforethe Nazi death camps and the creation in the region of one of the most brutal Nazi puppet regimes.  And it was written before the horrific breakup of Yugoslavia.

Today, if you mention Croatia to someone, they are more likely to say “Oh, I’ve heard it is beautiful.” And so, thankfully, at least for a time, this fearful history has receded into the background.  Hopefully, it will stay in the history books and Croatia and its neighbors will enjoy a well-deserved happy future.

And so, next stop – Croatia.