Puneites ‘GoT’ the best of Croatia
Croatia might not be everyone’s first choice for a European summer holiday (except perhaps Game of Thrones (GoT) enthusiasts) but professor Mohini Khot highly recommends it. The Puneite describes it as beautiful, green and unspoilt (possibly because it is thinly populated) and not yet commercialised.
Khot points out that the people are too young in their aspirations. Their economy isn’t doing too well at present.
She says, “The one industry that looks promising is tourism. It earns Croatia 20 per cent of its GDP. People from across the world are beginning to discover this little gem tucked away in Central Europe. Beware, they do not like their country referred to as ‘Eastern Europe’. Boys and girls as young as 15 are interning in hotels and travel agencies, men and women as old as 50 are turning to tourism for their livelihood, scouting for jobs as waitresses, hotel personnel, tour guides, drivers, and so on.”
When Khot and her husband arrived at Zagreb, it was with mild enthusiasm. Actually, they had thought of Zagreb as a mere pitstop on their way to allegedly beautiful lakes in Croatia. But they were told that the city was worthy of a couple of days of sightseeing, after all it was the capital of Croatia. She adds, “Chastened, we promptly readjusted our itinerary only to discover Zagreb, to be quite deserving of a panegyric. It was quite easy to talk to people in English since English is taught in schools as a second language.”
The place to start your tour of Zagreb is at the imposing equestrian statue of Ban Josip Jelacic (once governor of the state) who abolished serfdom and fought against Hungary for Croatian rights in 1848. “Nearby is the Mandusevac Fountain built around a natural spring. It is said that the town got its name from the word ‘zagrabati’ which means scooping up water from a spring. From there it is a short stroll to the Dolac, the central city marketplace. It is the equivalent of our mandai lined with intimate little cafes on the sides. It also includes stalls of traditional Croatian arts and crafts: wooden toys, baskets, fans and parasols.”
On the other side of the Dolac appears the Cathedral of the Virgin Mary with its soaring twin towers in neo-Gothic style. The cathedral is surrounded by a protective wall built in the Renaissance era. “Tracing our steps back past the statue, we caught the funicular (modes of transportation which uses a cable traction for movement on steep inclined slopes) up to the Upper Town where we were able to see the picturesque St Mark’s Church with its distinctive red and white tiled roof depicting the colours of the Croatian flag and the Croatian emblem,” recalls Khot.
Walking through the little roads on the hill you will notice that each house sports a lantern outside it. From Zagreb, the Khots travelled to Plitvice, an ecosystem of some 16 interconnected lakes. Meanwhile, Split is the little-known paradise on the Adriatic coast in the county of Dalmatia. “The blue sky, ocean and a medieval castle built out from the blond rock. Such combinations make summer holidays!”