On the way back home, Brooke, Ali, Mike, and I had the same flight. Thankfully, we got to sleep in – we had to be at the airport at 11:00 am. An RIT bus picked us up from our hotel and took us through the airport. The flight from Zagreb to Munich, Germany was a breeze: no delays or anything. However, the plane did come in later than expected and our connecting flight from Munich to Washington D.C. started boarding while we were still on the flight. The group somehow got separated and I had to run from one terminal to the other all the way on the other side of the airport. I got there just in time and luckily so did the others. My 9 hour flight was actually pretty great; there were no screaming babies.
When we arrived in Washington Dulles it was pouring and we got soaked getting on our last plane. The guy sitting next to me on the flight was actually really nice and we talked the entire flight. His name was Alec and he just graduated from Michigan State. We chatted about our study abroad experiences (he went to Germany a couple years ago). I reached the Rochester airport late at night; Philip picked me up around 11:45 pm.
Overall, my study abroad experience was amazing and I’m so glad I did it. Learning about the Croatian culture, going to the national parks, and drinking and eating local foods was an unbelievable opportunity. I would definitely recommend traveling to Croatia and just going abroad in general.
I’d would also like to thank you all for being a part of my once in a lifetime adventure. Although they were a pain in the ass, I genuinely am glad I did these blogs. Now I get to look back years from now and reminisce.
At the pre-departure meeting, my advisor said that studying abroad would be a life-changing experience and I would grow as a person immensely. Although at the time I thought what she said was complete and utter bullshit, after being in Europe for a month I wholeheartedly agree with her. Being away from the people and places you love make you appreciate them a lot more. Don’t take what you have for granted because we are all so incredibly blessed.
Saturday was our last day together as a group before we all flew back home. A bus picked us up at 12:30 pm, taking us to an unknown destination; we had absolutely no idea as to what we were doing that day. We arrived an hour or two later at Kezele Winery and Farm. To actually enter the farm, the staff told us we had to take a shot of homemade grappa. All of the alcohol was made right there at the farm.
Lunch was outside and set up like a buffet. We ate everything from lamb to roasted pig and potatoes with an amazing strudel for dessert. After lunch, the staff gave us a tour of the grounds. We got to take a quick look at their own little museum, pottery shed, and farm. After the tour, we were taken to the wine cellar/production area to taste two of their best white wines: Skrlet and Moscato. Both were somewhat sweet and fruity.
We were pretty much at Kezele’s the whole day and when we got back it was relatively late. For dinner, Brooke, Ali, and I had McDonalds. Don’t judge, it was the closest food place to our hotel and we were exhausted haha.
Thursday, June 25th was a Croatian national holiday and we didn’t have any class. As a result, I slept in until 2:30 pm. For breakfast/lunch I walked over to the bus terminal where there are a bunch of different shops and restaurants. Here they have an amazing chain called Good Food where you can get salads, wraps, and sandwiches. The description of the food was in Croatian which made ordering a surprise. During my time in the city, I probably ate here about 4-5 times because the food was so fresh. I decided to order my Caesar salad to-go and sit in the city gardens people watching.
The rest of the day I spent doing my final paper and presentation. At night, to celebrate the holiday, there was a fireworks show that I could see from my hotel room.
On Friday I had my final presentation on what I learned during my time abroad. I talked about how because I was so ready to get out and go to college/travel I never really took the time to appreciate Buffalo. I only just went to the new Canalside and food trucks once right before I left for Croatia. When I get back, I want to spend more time exploring my own hometown.
After the presentations, we took the tram with Rob to a local brewery and restaurant called Pivnica. We each ordered a couple of their specialty beers to try. The third picture below shows from left to right the light beer, fruit beer, and dark beer. For a snack, I tried a local favorite, grilled corn on the cob. Corn stands like the one I went to are all over the city. It tasted a little like popcorn but with a thicker consistency.
For Rob’s farewell dinner we went to Boban again. I ordered a shrimp scampi which was equally as delicious as the last pasta dish. The rest of the night Allie, Brooke, Ryan, Sam, and I hung out in the hotel playing cards and drinking wine.
Tuesday was basically an all class day at the RIT Zagreb campus. Rob gave us more details on our final presentations and paper due later in the week.
Wednesday, we didn’t have class but we still had to go the campus for a conference call. The study abroad office wanted our input on how the trip could be improved for next year. I told them about the bed bugs in Pag and the Wi-Fi situation.
After the conference call, Brooke, Allie and I had time to shop. City center has a huge H&M three floors high we went to. I actually got lost and separated from the two for a little bit amiss the racks and racks of clothing.
Five o’clock Stasa had us go to a cute little restaurant for an assignment: to taste orange wine. No, the wine isn’t actually made from oranges despite the name. It gets its orange color from being buried underground for a couple months in a wooden box. The wine was very dry and had earthy notes. After we tasted the wine, they gave us all free shots.
Dinner was at a place called Boban famous for its homemade pasta. I ordered penne with a cream sauce, chicken, bacon, and mushrooms that tasted amazing. Stasa told us about life during the war and the terrible tragedies he and his family had to endure.
After dinner, all of us hung out in Brooke and Allie’s room playing cards and drinking jug wine.
Ryan, Allie, Brooke, and I went to the country of Slovenia for the day on Monday. Slovenia is a small former Yugoslavian country to the upper right of Croatia. Our excursion came with all private tours and our own van which was really nice and not like the other two countries we visited.
The first stop was Ljubljana which is the capital of Slovenia. Ljubljana was by far the most gorgeous city I have visited on this trip. The buildings are extremely colorful and have their own unique style. Singers and street performers are everywhere and people generally just seemed happier. An architect named Joze Plecnik designed most of the bridges, sculptures, and public buildings in the city. His work has a fun, slightly weird look to it. The heads alley fountain and the brick/stone library pictured below was designed by him.
Our tour guide was absolutely amazing; she was around our age so she really focused the tour on things we would actually care about. Two hours we spent walking with her and it felt like 10 minutes.
Next, we went to the Postojna Caves: a 25 km cave system found in the 17th century. In the beginning and end of the tour, we rode a cute little train through sections of the caves. The train ride reminded me a bit of the It’s a Small World ride in Disney World. We learned a lot about how the cave was formed and the animals down there. I got to see a Proteus anguinus which looks a bit like an albino salamander. Proteus anguinus can live up to 100 years and can go without food for 7-12 years. Unfortunately, I couldn’t snap a good picture in time.
Our last destination was Predjama Castle which holds the Guinness World Record for the largest cave castle. We each received a walkie-talkie looking device that gave us information based on the room we were in. The castle itself is massive with some walkways and spaces outside. Looking outside the front windows, one could see the entire village.
When the tour ended and we arrived back in Zagreb, we picked up some sandwiches and wine and hung out in the hotel with everyone for the remainder of the night.