Without getting into the ancient history and the meshing of countries and city-states that make present day Europe difficult for Americans to understand, let's just say that the country now known as Croatia was once included when you said the word, Yugoslavia.
In 1991, the Croatian parliament passed a declaration of independence from Yugoslavia. Six months of intensive fighting with the Serbian-dominated Yugoslavian army followed, claiming thousands of lives and wreaking mass destruction. But all that is past, and what is left is a beautiful country a short distance across the Adriatic Sea from the east coast of Italy.
When we visited Croatia while on a cruise in 2007, the nation, soon to be admitted into the European Union, was booming, bustling and beautiful. It has a different "feel" to it than the other Mediterranean countries- more laid back, less embroiled in stodgy ways and political squabbling, much more interested in being enjoyed.
Rovinj is an important meeting point of the North Adriatic, and there has been some sort of "town" there that dates back before the birth of Christ. The architecture is typical medieval, with its "skyline" dominated by the central church, high on a mountain overlooking the town.
As we were going up the hill to the church, we passed this enchanting doorway, open to the sea. If you will, please ignore the seabird perched on the rock and concentrate, instead, on the hand-hewn stairs and hallway down to the water. Look at the outside door, encrusted with centuries of detritus. Can you now close your eyes and picture yourself here, say, 500 years ago? What would be doing? Where would you be going?
The streets are heavily cobbled and would be quite difficult to navigate in a conventional wheelchair. In fact, we saw no other people in wheelchairs at all. Made me appreciate the "Dune Buggy" all the more. (Note: See Chapter 6, About Wheelchairs, in The Disabled Travelers Guide to the World).
Coming down from the church, we spotted two children, out for the day with their "babies" and strollers.
Yeah, it looks easy, but we are near the bottom, so the incline is not as steep as it is higher up. And do you notice the really rough patch of cobblestone just ahead of the girls- especially the child with the yellow shirt and pink stroller? Murder on a wheelchair!
But it is the expression on her face that caught my eye. You may not be able to tell because the picture is so small, but her face reflects great concern for the safety and comfort of her "baby" as she and her friend come down the lane and near that bumpy patch.
Sweet, beyond belief.
We were so enchanted by the country, its people, and the "feeling" we got being among them that we planned to come back as soon as possible for an extended stay. Even considered buying a place to live.
Using the recommendation of Wendy Perrin, travel writer for Conde Nast Travel Magazine, we contacted Wanda Radetti (http://www.visitcroatia.com), recognized as being the top travel contact for Americans planning trips to Croatia.
As we have stated before, we usually do not make mention of specific agents, hotels, etc., but in this case, it is necessary to make an exception. Prior experience has taught us that disabled travel in countries not used to dealing with the physically challenged presents a set of unique problems, and the disabled traveler is well advise to enlist the services of specialists in arranging trips. Ms. Radetti admitted to a lack of experience dealing with travelers like us, but also demonstrated a true desire to learn what was necessary to be of service to those following us.
She planned a five week excursion through Croatia for us. Unfortunately, a medical situation forced to cancel the trip, but the experience she gained during the planning should be of great advantage to any of our readers who want to go to Croatia.
The language is difficult, and it is not as easy to find speakers of English as it is in other European countries. But the people in Croatia do not look at you as just another source of money- they are truly pleased to have you in their country. For those people seeking "nuts and bolts" links in Croatia, there is a fairly new website that does an excellent job of presenting possibilities in the country for you, www.total-croatia.com
Please feel free to contact us if you have questions, suggestions, comments or just some friend words by clicking on our contact form