How fitting that "ciao" can be both a goodbye and a hello. This morning our merry group checked out of Valomar Riviera, boarded our big white bus for the last time, and Mr. Iggy pointed it toward Venice. We had a beautiful time in Poreč and Pula.
Coming from a place where something 200 years old is "very old", it was awe-inspiring to stand on a Roman road, tour a basilica that dates from a time when Christians met in secret, and to see a coliseum that the Croats thought had to be built by giants! But perhaps my favorite experience was the opportunity to talk to people who live here. Our guides, our driver, the server at our lunch restaurant in Pula, the son of the owner of a souvenir shop -- all had interesting and diverse opinions on the economy, border politics, changes in the region with the change in political structure. It confirms my sense that what makes us different and what makes us the same are all worth celebrating.
Last night I went to dinner in a building of Islamic origin (that deserves its own post!) with my friends from 4 nations. At the table 6 languages were represented. (If you go back a generation, we can add 3 more nationalities and at least that many languages.) The menu was printed in at least 3 languages. We tried foods that were new to some of us (a bony fish called turbot, rabbit, local cheese, and a special variety of wine recommended by Tin, our walking tour guide). We talked, laughed, and said "taste this!" The waitstaff tried their best to tell us about the building, with elaborate gestures. They invited Ying into the kitchen to see what turbot looks like.
Everywhere in Croatia we were welcomed warmly, and helped when we stumbled with a few simple words. In my limited experience, trying a few simple phrases like "dobro jutro!" (good morning!) and hvala pulo! (thanks much!) shows an effort at appreciating local culture that, in turn, opens other doors for conversation. I'm looking forward to trying out my fledgling Italian this afternoon.
I hope to return some day, but for now-- hvala pulo, Croatia, and Ciao!