Monday, March 23, 2009
We got to Frankfurt with 5 minutes before our overseas flight boarded. No time to shop, unfortunately! After a brisk walk through the airport, we were loaded onto our plane and ready for some long napping. The flight was long, but we all watched movies and slept a little. The worst part of the trip was a 6 hour layover in Washington, D.C. We played games, napped, called our parents and friends, and found lots to eat. It was nice finally being in the States! At 10 pm we left for Indianapolis. We got in around midnight, got our luggage - Yeah! It all made it!! - and took a bus to Kelley. It was about a 24 hour trip home, but so worth it!
Wednesday we'll have class together and it will be fun to be reunited. Class will be dedicated to debriefing the trip and thinking about ways to improve it. Based on our experiences, I don't think there's much to improve!
Thanks to everyone who was involved with the trip planning and facilitation. It was quite a success!
Today is the last day of our trip (minus the 24 hours of travelling we'll do to get home tomorrow). We spent the morning with Juge, our tour guide. She took us to the old city and gave us an hour tour. We learned that much of the city had been bombed during the 1991-92 war with Serbia. The city looks really old, but many of the buildings and roofs are reconstructed. For Americans, it's difficult to understand why anyone would want to destroy such a wonderful piece of cultural heritage.
After the tour, several groups of students and chaperones paid to walk along the city walls. This was highly recommended by last year's Croatia group, and it was well worth the 50 kuna price. Unfortunately, the weather wasn't ideal. It was very windy and it even snowed!! Yet we all were really happy we did it, and we got great pictures.
We did our last shopping (and old town Dubrovnik is a great place for that!) and took naps. Our last meal in Croatia was at a restaurant near to our hotel and it was a very enjoyable last evening out. What good memories!
Friday, March 20, 2009
Today we woke up late and ate a rather poor breakfast. Then we took off for the first of two business visits. We walked about half an hour to a luxury hotel. It was a brisk walk and it helped to wake us all up after a late night out. The hotel was so nice! We tried to listen to its general manager, but it was difficult because of a fancy waterfall cascading behind her. We then took a tour and several students wanted us to contact our dean to get more money to stay there. Wishful thinking! We spent a lot of time in the spa, fantasizing about swimming there. The hotel had several restaurants, and some of our group had dinner at their sushi restaurant this evening. They report that it was fabulous. It was the first sushi restaurant here in the Dalmatian coast.
We then took a bus to Old Town and had a pizza lunch. Then we visited a fancy restaurant and bubble lounge (although I still have no idea what a bubble lounge is!). The place was cool and caters to high end tourists. So, we did some more fantasizing.
After our business visits, we split up and wandered around the old city, which is spectacular. Many of us did some serious shopping, too.
After waiting for Abbas to do his hair, we began a series of of tours in the Split area. First we drove to Salona, a "town" of Roman ruins. The weather was great so it was a beautiful promenade among the old stones.
Afterwards we took the bus to the town of Trogir. Trogir is a small medieval town filled with narrow, winding streets. It was neat because there were very few cars. The highlight of Trogir was its church. Neat stonework surrounded the front entry. The stoneworker had carved scenes of various occupations, including winemaking and farming. Inside, our favorite thing was a ceiling sculpture that showed God descending from the heavens.
Finally, we toured downtown Split around Diocletian's Palace. We loved the winding, narrow streets and the touristy shops. Our favorite spot was probably the basement of Diocletian's living quarters - it was dark and had a very old feel, but was filled with neat shops
After grabbing lunch, we boarded the bus and headed towards Dubrovnik. Our drive was 4 hours and we got to briefly enter Bosnia-Herzogovina. We even made a pitstop so we could say we walked around Bosnia.
Upon arrival at our hotel, we had a group dinner thatleft something to be desired. our hotel is pretty nice, but it is swarming with teenage soccer player who are "active." Between our loud American group and the soccer players, I think the hotel staff will be happy for the week to be over!
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Next we spent a couple of hours at Croatia's most beautiful national park, Plitvice Lakes. It was gorgeous! We walked along the numerous lakes with cascading falls. It felt so good to walk in the fresh mountain air, and the sky was bright blue. The good thing about going this time of year is that there weren't really any other people (it looks like it's really bustling in the summer). The bad thing was that some of the upper lakes were closed due to snowmelt and flooding, and there were no leaves on the trees. We did see some primrose blossoming and some pussy willows. We also took a very slow boat ride across one of the lakes. To top it all off, we had to climb up 300 steps to get back to the bus!
Monday, March 16, 2009
Last night, after napping, a large part of our group went out for dinner together. We chose a restaurant the tour guide had recommended, called Hansel and Gretel (although I don't know the Croatian name). Everything is cooked fresh and homemade. Their ingredients are ogrganic and mostly hormone/chemical-free. The restaurant looked like an old farmhouse, with heavy wooden chairs and decorated with farm implements from the past. The food was great! Most people chose ravioli of some sort, a few of us had pork kabobs with potatoes, and one daring soul tried wild boar. He found it tasty!
This morning we rose early and were escorted to the Zagreb Chamber of Economy. There we listened to a presentation about Croatia and their economy. The students asked good quesions.
Afterwards, we took a bus ride outside of Zagreb to a company called Magma. Magma is a retailer specializing in clothing, sporting goods, home goods, and toys. They have four store divisions. It was interesting because we've seen three of the stores arond Zagreb (the clothing, sport, and toy stores). We learned about Magma's history and then ate some messy pastries and drank funky fruit juice. Then they took us on a tour of their large warehouse and talked about logistics. After that, we visited their clothing design department and talked about fashion trends. Magma is proud because they designed the outfits for Croatia's olympians in Beijing and won an award for their creativity. When we were finished at the headquarters, we boarded the bus and they took us to a large retail outlet that sold just about everything they make. I think they hoped we would spend some money there, but no one bought anything.
Many group members had lunch at a nearby McDonald's. I had a quarter pounder with cheese and fries and it tasted pretty much the same as in the states. The main difference we noted was that they didn't carry mustard and they charged for any extra ketchup.
Tonight our group had dinner at a fancy club, Klub Knjizevnika, in downtown Zagreb. It was hosted by the International Graduate Business School and our students got to dine with MBA students from IGBS. They all got along really well and it was fun to hear about life as an MBA student in Croatia. We had the best brownies for dessert and tried some rakija brandy, too!
By the way, one of the students is also keeping a blog at http://ksb-eecroatia2009.blogspot.com/ . Be sure to check it out!
Sunday, March 15, 2009
After what was a late night for many (afterall, it was our first night in Croatia!), we had a good breakfast at the hotel and were met by a tour guide. Jelena, the guide, took us on a 3 hour walking tour of downtown Zagreb. We all enjoyed it immensely.
Downtown Zagreb is divided geographically into the lower part and the upper old town. The lower town is made up of mostly late nineteenth-century neoclassical buildings. Zagreb suffered a horrendous earthquake in the 1880s, so this is all "new" construction. Our favorite building was the National Theater (the yellow building in the group photo).
Upper Zagreb has an older feel and contains little cobblestone streets and older buildings. It's where one finds the Parliament building, the old palace of former kings, and the cathedral. It is Sunday and masses prohibited us from entering the cathedral, but I think many of us will return to visit tomorrow.
Jelena told us about famous Croatians, inventions from the region (including the necktie and the pen), and lots of intersting history. We heard about everything from the persecution of witches to the more recent torture of an archbishop who helped Jews and gypsies escape Nazi encampment only to suffer at the hands of the Communists.
After our tour, we all decided to eat lunch together - an indication of our group's strong cohesion. We ate pizza and pasta at a neat restaurant, and it was warm enough to sit outdoors. Now, I think many are napping and I plan to join them!
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Zagreb is surprisingly beautiful and we're all excited to be here. I think most of us went out for a walk right away. Our hotel is in a convenient location and there are lots of parks and boulevards for walking safely. We even ran into a St. Patrick's Day festival and saw men in kilts and heard live Irish rock music. Getting to the historic city center is an easy walk, and we're looking forward to a tour with a guide tomorrow morning. It will be nice to see more and to learn more about this city.