When first arriving to Croatia I wanted to update this blog once a month. Well, you can see how that turned out. Now don’t get me wrong, I was going to update it on time. However, I kept thinking about how I was going to do something exciting within the next week so I should wait to update so I could talk about said exciting thing. So, here I am, three weeks late.
Well, I’ll start from the beginning. All the exchange students to Croatia arrived within the same week. The first weekend that all of us were here Rotary took us on a trip to the Neanderthal Museum in Krapina, Veliki Tabor, Varaždin, and Plitvice Lakes. It is a lot of walking, I suggest you bring multiple pairs of good shoes. Also, it gets colder faster than one may expect so I suggest bringing clothes for cold weather.
September was a month for getting used to all the changes. The beginning of October was also mostly normal day to day life. Then October 14th came along. The exchange students around Zagreb went to a barbecue at the top of Sljeme with the local Rotary clubs. We walked up the mountain. It took us two hours. It was quite fun meeting the local Rotarians. However, none of us wanted to walk back down the mountain so we ended up hitching a ride with the band. After getting home a few of us decided to go to a soccer game. By the way, if you want to go to a game you need to have an ID on you. The local team in Zagreb is called Dinamo. All around Zagreb there is graffiti about the team and their fan club, the Bad Blue Boys. The game was really fun, Dinamo won the game and we discovered just how crazy the fan club is. They had huge flags, drums, and speakers to blast music. At one point they even threw flares onto the field and the game wasn’t even paused; a firefighter ran on the field and grabbed the still burning flares. After the game, I lost my phone. I left it at a tram stop. Luckily for me Croatia is filled with amazing people and I was able to get it back the next day. The next week, all the Croatian inbounds went to the beautiful cities of Osijek and Vinkovci for a three day weekend. I made good friends with some of the local students, a few of them came up to Zagreb a few weeks later and wanted to hang out. We were also lucky enough to get a picture with a professional soccer team from Split called Hajduk. It was later that I learned that Hajduk and Dinamo are rival teams.
My birthday has now come and gone. I turned 18. When I woke up I was sad. I was feeling guilty that I couldn’t celebrate with my parents back in the US. I was feeling really lonely all week and when the day came I didn’t really want to leave my room but I did and it became an amazing day. When I left my room my host family had prepared a present and cake. Then later I went out to watch Thor: Ragnarok with my friends from school. All in all it was a very wonderful day. Then came along my favorite holiday of Halloween. Now Halloween isn’t celebrated here and that made me a little sad. Still, I wanted to share the fantastic holiday so I gave out some candy and wished my friends a Happy Halloween. After school, I went over to a friends house and we watched Halloweentown and Nightmare Before Christmas.
November 1st is a holiday called All Saints Day. Everyone got off work and school so that they could spend time with family and visit family graves. I went to Mirogoj cemetery with a few other exchange students to see all the candles. There were thousands and thousands of candles filling the cemetery. It was truly beautiful. A few days later I visited Vukovar on a school trip. Vukovar is a city that was completely destroyed in the war 26 years ago. It was a truly eye opening experience for me and I admit, I teared up a lot. This past weekend was the 26th anniversary of the fall of Vukovar and I went with my host father and one of my host sisters to a memorial service on Vukovar street in Zagreb on the 17th. All down the street there were candles lit in remembrance. On the 18th, the actual date of the fall of Vukovar, I was on a school trip in Slovenia. I had been to Slovenia previously in order to go to a water park with some of the exchange students in our language class, however, we didn’t see anything other than the water park. With my school I visited the UNESCO sight of Škocjan Caves and the capital city of Ljubljana. Slovenia was stunning, it is a very mountainous country. There was snow! I love mountains and snow. The caves were absolutely breath taking and again I must recommend that you bring some good hiking shoes. Luckily for me, the tour was in english so I could listen and learn along with my classmates. Next we went to Ljubljana and it was also a fantastic place. There is a beautiful castle on a hill that overlooks the city. I can also now say that I have had hot chocolate in a castle.
Also! Croatia has made it to the 2018 World Cup!! A few other exchange students and I were lucky enough to be able to experience the World Cup Playoff here in Zagreb. Croatia won 4-1 against Greece and I am very happy I got to be there for it. Just a warning, in order to see this game we had to have our OIB which is basically a Social Security number for Croatian residents. Unfortunately, a few exchange students hadn’t yet got theirs and were therefore not allowed to purchase tickets. So, I recommend getting all the police stuff over with as soon as possible because you never know when you'll need it.
All in all, the past few months have been wonderful. I have done and seen so much. I definitely recommend that everyone take advantage of the opportunities they are given. Now I look forward to a Rotary trip to Salzburg, Christmas, and New Years.
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