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The Medjugorje Experience

As mentioned previously, I have had a strong yearning to visit my father and grandparents homeland for many years.  Military service and war delayed my visit to my dreamland.  Finally in 2014 I decided that I would go and visit the land where my ancestors toiled and suffered to make a meager living so that future generations would thrive no matter where they had departed for to start a new era of our family heritage.
In September 2014, I purchased my ticket for Medjugorje and Croatia to travel in April 2015.  I had a calling to go to Medjugorje to cleanse my soul, have full conversion, and follow the path of our Blessed Mother Mary, Ever Virgin, and her son Jesus, before going to Croatia. 

The 21st of April rolled around and my journey was about to begin.  I was greeted by a beautiful sunrise, bright orange in color and no clouds in the sky.  Hopefully this was a good omen.  The taxi was fifteen minutes late and then at the airport, the puddle jumper was late as well.  We did have a decent flight to Dulles with just a little jarring over the Appalachians.  At Dulles, I was able to get a wheel chair and thank God for it.  I would never have found my way to the International connection and would have missed my flight, especially through the maze I was subjected to. 

The nine hour flight from Dulles to Munich was very nice.  Very good food (I had requested a heart healthy meal and received it), numerous snacks and drinks and free movies if we wanted to watch them as well as other free programs.  I was seated next to a young German lady who was coming back from a business conference in Washington, D.C.   After the conference, she had gone to Alabama to visit her Oma (grandmother). I had a drink of cognac and that put me to sleep. After waking up we chatted until the plane landed.  It was now the 22nd.  The flight to Dubrovnik was quick and peaceful – also good food – thank you Lufthansa.  After landing at the Dubrovnik Airport and receiving my rental car and GPS, I was on my way to Medjugorje.  The Croatian coastline was beautiful and lots of sunshine and I was in heaven.  Then my luck changed.  The GPS battery went out on me before reaching the city of Metkovich.  I had remembered that I would have to turn off at an exit to Medjugorje when I got to Metkovich.  I did so and crossed the customs checkpoint into Herzegovina.  I was cruising along and missed the sign to what would have taken  me to Medjugorje.  I wound upon on the edge of the city of Mostar.  I saw a sign for Medjugorje and took it.  It was a windy and steep hill and half way up, what do I encounter, but a truck.  There was no way to pass so I just enjoyed the winding curves and rocks of the mountain until we reached the top where I was able to pass the truck. The road took me through Citluk (pronounced Chitluk), another important city of the visionaries, and into Medjugorje where I found my pansion for my stay in Medjugorje.
I was greeted by Marija Barbaric, one half of the husband and wife team that manages Pansion Crnjac.  I was told that they had started a continental breakfast and if I wished to partake in the breakfast I may do so.  I agreed, but before going to bed, I was invited to sit down with Marija and her husband Vedran, having a nightcap or two, while they explained the location of the pansion to St James Church and Apparition Hill.  I explained that I promised God that if I was able to make the journey to Medjugorje, I would walk to Apparition Hill and Cross Mountain.  Vedran said that it was a distance and that I may want to consider using the rental car to go there.  I was adamant because of my promise to God.  The next morning, the 23rd, after a very nice continental breakfast, I set out for Apparition Hill at 9 o’clock.  As Vedran had stated, it was quite a distance from the pansion, but it was a beautiful morning and very quiet.  The first noise that I heard along the walk was a dove.  The sound made me feel at ease as I walked on.   As I turned up the street that would lead me to Apparition Hill, I was struck by all the stores that were selling items about the Medjugorje experience.  As I walked on I noticed to the left side of the road that there was a very small trail that led somewhere up the mountain.   Of course you had to take a giant step up the stones to start your walk.  I took it as just another trail leading to someone’s house or plot of land.  Yes, this was one the trails to Apparition Hill.  As I walked on I started getting dehydrated so I stopped in a shop and ordered water.  After a refreshing stop, I continued my journey, looking for Apparition Hill.  I was starting to get tired and dehydrated, so I stopped again, this time at an open shop that was selling walking canes (Yes, I forgot mine at home).  There was a big parking lot with big busses parked there.  This should have been a clue that possibly there was another trail to Apparition Hill from there.  I introduced myself as a Jerkovic and he became excited.  He told me that Medjugorje has many Jerkovic’s and it is possible that our ancestors came from this area and followed the Neretva River to the Dalmatian coast and on to Otok Hvar.  I bought some much needed water and a cane and we chatted for a time.  I asked him as to the location of Apparition Hill.  I believe he was confused and gave me the directions to Cross Mountain, or Krizevac as it is called by the locals.  He told me to continue on the road and when I got to a small church to follow it to the right.  It is also the location of Communita Cenacolo, a community founded in the 1980s by Sister Elvira Petrozzi, a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity in Italy, to help wayward children.  There are now 33 such communities around the world helping children reform their lives.  I took some pictures and ventured into the courtyard, but did not go further as there was a large group of tourists there and I wanted to continue on my journey.  I continued on, praying and saying the rosary, until my body started to shut down on me – a journey of over 2 hours and 30 minutes.  My legs were cramping on me terribly and getting weak.  I was totally spent.  I feel that this was my cleansing of the soul as directed by God since I may not have been able to climb Apparition Hill because of my bad knees and the warm weather.  During my walk, I also spotted Cross Mountain and realized that I would not be able to climb it until I got a new pair of knees.  It was just too steep.

While propping myself against a wall to rest my weary body, I was lucky to hail down a vacant taxi to take me to St. James Church.  As I got out of the taxi, I was fortunate that there was a water fountain nearby.  I went to it to fill my body with liquid nourishment.  As I struggled up the steps to St. James Church, a dove appeared besides me and walked besides me.  I knew this was a message from Gospa, or the Virgin Mary, that all would be well.  This strengthened me and I continued across the street to a local open-air restaurant and viewed the menu.  Right away I noticed that Cevapcici (small rolled linked of beef, pork, lamb, and seasoning) was on the menu.  I sat down and ordered the Cevapcici plate and a half liter of beer (I was so dehydrated).  When I got the plate there were ten links on it with a large portion of french fries.  I did not realize that you could order a half plate of five links.  I said, “Oh well, I am in Medjugorje so I will make an exception.”  The sliced bread was great as well.  I sprinkled olive oil and vinegar on it and it melted in my mouth.  Being so thirsty, I had to order another beer, but this time, a quarter liter.  I was refreshed and ready to go.  I walked the main street for a while looking at all of the shops and just enjoying the sites.  I then walked back to Pansion Crnjac.  I sat down in the dining area and talked and drank with Vedran and Marija until 9 p.m.  I got back to my room, meditated and prayed the rosary.  That night was a very deep and long sleep.

The next morning, the 24th of April, after having another nice continental breakfast with coffee (I’m getting used to the European coffee by now and it actually tastes good), I chatted with Vedran and Marija.  They were concerned as to how I felt after my venture of the previous day.  I told them that I was fine and was going to go to St James to find out the schedule for confessions and mass.   Before walking to the church Vedran took me to find Marjana Dragicevic-Soldo’s home.  I wanted to meet Marjana, who is one of the six visionaries, to see if we might be related through Nona, our grandmother, who was a Dragicevic.  I was able to get to the gate of her residence and Vedran explained to an elderly lady inside the compound why I wanted to meet with her.   She told us that Marjana would be back at 2 p.m., and to come back after that time.  This was very unusual, being told to come back at a specific time, because so many tourists just wanted to have their pictures taken with Marjana.  This was at 10:30 in the morning and as we went back to the apartment, my cold got worse.  I did not go back as I was coughing more and I did not want to possibly spread my cold to her or others in the house.  That was also the reason why I did not climb the path to Apparition Hill.  It would have left me weak and made my cold even more unmanageable. 

Vedran continued telling me about things to look for in my walk behind the church.  He told me about the Fallen Cross behind the amphitheater and that I should go there.  As I was leaving, Vedran told me to take an umbrella that it may rain.  Like a buzdo (dummy) I did not listen to him.  The walk to St. James was very refreshing, but it did start to sprinkle.  I checked the schedule at the church and continued on to the amphitheater, taking pictures of the alter.   The rain started to come down a little harder.  As I stopped along the way to observe some mosaics, the rain turned into a drizzle.  I finally got to the fallen cross and there was a large crowd there.  Women were reaching up with handkerchiefs and wiping the knee.  I did not understand why they were doing this.  I took a picture and departed.  It really started raining hard now, but a nice little Italian lady saw that I and my camera were getting wet and she came over and she wiped down the camera and in verbal communication, she said she would share her umbrella with me.  As we walked down the path to the confessionals arm-in-arm, she asked me my name and I told her Robert.  She was excited as her husband’s name was Robert as well.  Faith had interceded here.  This was amazing.  Here are two strangers in a foreign land, we meet and find out that we have something in common.  God sent her to me.  We got to the stairs; we hugged and went our separate ways.

Confessions were not supposed to start until 4:30 p.m., but there was a group of Italians that were in line receiving confession.  There was also a German lady waiting in line at the door of a confessional that had a sign with German and English on it.  I got in line behind her and we waited a long time.  Finally she was able to go in and I waited even longer.  In the mean time, two or three other Americans got behind me and waited.  When she came out, the priest came out and said that he was going to lunch.  The German lady spoke to the priest in German that I had been waiting a long time and to please take me.  The priest agreed.  I went into the confessional and started to kneel, but he saw that I was struggling and he told me that I could sit.  We were face-to-face; I liked that.  I bared my soul and the priest gave me absolution.  I felt wonderful after confession. 

It was now way past 1 p.m. and I went back to the same restaurant.  I noticed that Pljeskavica, a Balkan burger, was on the menu.  That did it for me.  Again, the beer was great, as was the sliced bread with my treating it with olive oil and vinegar.  The Pljeskavica was seasoned to perfection as were the french fries.  I thoroughly enjoyed the meal.  I hated leaving, but time was my enemy.  My clothes were damp and I needed to get back to the Pansion to change.

As I started walking back to the Pansion, the rain started to stop.  I decided to stop at a little shop where I bought my rosaries and other things and chatted with Anja, the sales person.  I talked her into taking a picture with me, promising to send her photos when I got back home.  She was having a difficult time as she broke up with her fiancé about five months ago because she caught him with another woman.  She said that this was a normal thing in Medjugorje for young guys.  They show no loyalty towards their significant other.  When I got back to the Pansion, Vedran and Marija greeted me and we chatted at length.    Marija showed me a honey jar where she made her first honey and the flower it came from.  I asked about the scene at the fallen cross.  Vedran said that there is seepage of water coming from the knee and people believe it is holy water.  The individual who built the cross is at a loss.  The statue of Christ is built of solid copper and it has been x-rayed and no crack is shown in the film.  Is it a miracle?  No one knows.
The morning of 25 April, I woke up with a cough.  I sat down for another breakfast, but Maria had a surprise for me.  The breakfast included a big glass of wine.  She wanted me to try her father’s home-made wine.  It was quite good.  Vedran and I talked about everything, including politics.  We were becoming very close friends. 

I walked to church and sat down in front of the church and started talking with an American lady.  She had been living in Medjugorje since 1986, spending part of the year on the Chesapeake Bay of Maryland.  She said that she battled cancer and had many surgeries before finally conquering the Big “C.” She said it is difficult for her as she just lives on her social security, but if God wishes that, so be it.  We wished each other the best and I went into church and attended mass, the Feast of St. Mark.  I noticed that there were many chairs placed around the alter and was wondering what they were for.  Then 10 priests come out and sat on them.  I’m thinking, O.K. because it is the Feast of St. Mark, we are going to have a high mass.  I was wrong. When it was time to receive communion, we got up and stood outside of our pew and the priests came to us and we received communion there.  The mass was beautiful as it was also in Latin.  A commotion started to develop around 10:30 (mass started at 10:00) as Italians started to come into the church and had no respect for the mass.  One lady came into the isle in front of me and stood on the bench and looked around and waved.  I wanted to grab my cane and hit her.  I decided that I was in church and that she would be judged later.  When service was over with, we had to struggle to get out of church as we were nearly knocked over by the rude Italians coming into the church wanting to get a good seat.  Italians are not looked upon favorably in Medjugorje.  

I walked back to the Pansion and Vedran and Marija were sitting outside.  I joined them and we talked at length.  We were developing a very close friendship.  My cough was getting worse so I went to my room and slept most of the afternoon and evening. 
My stay in Medjugorje was coming to a close.  I woke up at 6:35 a.m. on the 26th with a bad head cold and congestion.  Vedran and Marija met me in the lounge, I had breakfast, and we said our goodbyes, but exchanged email and postal addresses and said that we would remain friends.  They are two of the loveliest two people I have ever met.  They are meant to be in this type of business.  They are a natural for an apartment type environment.  I got into the car, set the GPS for Split and set off on my next part of my journey.

The Joy of Split

Thinking I had set the GPS for the shortest way to Split, I took off in the direction it told me to go.  But as I went along, I noticed that I was in the countryside and moving parallel to A-1, the super highway that I wanted.  I said “Oh well I will just enjoy the small villages and countryside and eventually get onto A-1.”  I enjoyed seeing the small little villages scattered along the way.  And as I was ready to exit the country road to get onto A-1, I was smack dab in the middle of a funeral or some type of feast day at the local church.  I had a hard time getting through the cars as they were parked everywhere and anywhere.  There was no way that I could stop and take a picture and it did not look appealing because if there was a procession, it was over with and there was mass humanity everywhere.  I eased on through and headed for A-1.  The highway was super.  Better than any highway in the United States.  I don’t know if it was because it looked as though it was recently completed or what, but it was gorgeous.  As I got off A-1, a toll road, which was well-worth it, I finally crested a hill and saw Split for the first time.  I got chills and nearly started crying.  It was just the emotion and adrenalin coming to a head for me to see one of the main cities of my relatives and ancestors.  It was a beautiful sight to see.  I had no trouble navigating Split and reaching Apartment Zuvela.  I was impressed by the courtesy of the brothers waiting for me and helping me to my room.  That was another thing I was impressed with; modern room, with television, small ice box, safe, double bed, and modern bathroom.  Oh, and did I mention they had a Wi-Fi connection also. The apartment was located in the higher end of Split.  There are three areas of housing in Split – the higher, the middle, and the lower end.  I come to find out the lower end is just that it is in the older section of town and I found nothing wrong with it at all.  After getting settled into the room, I called Lendi.  They were anxiously awaiting my arrival.  She said that she would come and get me as it was confusing to get to their place.  Olga was anxiously awaiting my arrival.  I thought she was going to fly down the stairs to greet me.  I met everyone else and had a wonderful Croatian supper.  The soup included tripe and vegetables in it.  Olga asked me if I knew what was in the soup and I said yes and that I had not had it in over 50 years.  She was astonished by my answer.  Of course the prosciutto, cheese, bread and wine came out.  I had not had that good of prosciutto since Dad had it at Christmas time at home – what a joy.  After a wonderful time of socializing, it was time to go to bed, but before doing that, Lendi took me on a short tour of Split at night.  She took me through a tunnel that goes under Hill Marjan and she said she was the first car to drive through it and her signature is someplace at the entrance.  I thought that was neat. 

The next morning the 27th, Ivo came by and I followed him to the apartment.  I met Tanja and Renzo and in a little while Dasa and her two children came by to meet me.  Her sweet little daughter, not even knowing me for 15 minutes, started making me a gift out of play dough.  It was real sweet of her.  I brought it home with me.  The rest of the day was spent with Olga washing my dirty clothes and the two of us communicating through the Croatian translation program that Tanja set up for me on my smart phone.  Olga was a very good teacher in pronouncing the words back to me very slowly and for me to say them.  But when I tried saying them fast, my tongue got all twisted up and we laughed.  It was a great day, with just the two of us, and Ivo popping in and telling me that he wanted to give me a massage on my bad knees.  He really worked on them, with me grimacing a few times.  It was a temporary fix, but appreciated.  After that, we became best friends even though we had a communications barrier.  Olga prepared some more of her delicious soup with rice and thin noodles in it and of course we had wine, prosciutto, bread, and cheese.  Lendi came home early as we were leaving for the Otok Hvar the next day.  We had fried fish, vegetables, prosciutto, cheese, bread, and the ever present wine.  I really enjoyed sitting around and talking at the table with everyone.  It brought back childhood memories.  I finally got to meet Peco (the “c” pronounced as an “s’).  He was being treated for severe back pain.  I got back to the apartment early and was sitting by the pool having a chat with one of the sons when the father came to me and asked me how I felt.  I told him not well and he immediately called his doctor and got me an appointment.  He took me in his car, waited for me – there was no charge for the office visit – and took me to the pharmacy to get my prescriptions filled.  As we got out of the pharmacy and were in the car he told me that the young lady that waited on me was a Jerkovic - amazing.  He would not accept any money from me for the transportation.  This is the typical Dalmatian – very giving.

Sad and Sobering Otok Hvar

On the morning of the 28th, I woke up around 6 a.m., got cleaned up, packed my bags, and went downstairs to pay my bill.  I went outside and came around by the pool area.  You have to watch your step because it is uneven and there is a gutter running right in front of where you are to step down.    Guess what, I did not watch my step.  I went flying and landed on my left shoulder, but not after hitting my left knee, ripping my pant leg and bruising the knee on the concrete.  I got up as the father came out the door to help me.  I paid him and he got my luggage and put it in the car.  We gave each other a hug and I was on my way to Olga’s.  I acquired a new chauffer in Lendi for the trip to the island.  We got to the docks, I got out of the car and paid for one car and two people as Ivo had already paid for his fare.   We boarded, parked and went into the lounge as the day was not a good day to sit on the deck.  It was cold, windy and threatening to rain.  The trip took around two hours.  We off loaded and I left my car at the port as Ivo had to go into the city of Hvar for an electrical part for the house in Gdinj.   Lendi and I piled into his car, similar to a RAV4, but a Kia, and were on our way to Hvar.  It was a pleasant ride and the first thing that I see as we near Hvar is the remains of an Illyrian or Roman wall on the hill.  Wow, was I in for a treat historically.  We went into the old town square and Ivo separated from us.  Lendi showed me around the area, taking me to the oldest active theatre in Europe and the church next to it.  We entered the church and it was unique as it had beautiful side alters.  Outside we observed small fishing vessels and catamarans coming into the harbor.  I observed the old town, still active to this day.  It was very peaceful and tranquil.  We spotted Ivo coming and we sat down at an open air cafe and I had my first cup of Turkish coffee.  I was told not to stir it, even after I doctored it up.  It was quite delicious as coffee goes.  I was really getting used to the European ways.  Ivo then took us to Apartment Popovic.  Right away I told the husband that he looked like Steve Popovich in America.  We had a wonderful time socializing and enjoying their hospitality.  We went to leave and Ivo’s car would not move.  It seemed as though the clutch had gone out.  After some frustrating long moments, Ivo called a young man at the parking lot in the centre of town, I think it may have been the Popovic’s son, and he came up to look at the problem.  Don’t know what he did, but he put it in reverse and the car moved.  We got in the car and went our way using one gear all the way back to the port.  There was a discussion as to whether Ivo should go back to Split or not and he decided to go with us to Gdinj.  Again my chauffer took over and we had a nice trip up the mountain on the new road.  I knew we were back in Europe with the oncoming cars cutting corners on the curves as we made our way to the top.  Ivo got to Gdinj with no problems developing and he was able to shift gears all the way.  We passed Zastrazisce along the way.  Not much activity going except for the little restaurant on the left side of the highway.  Zastrazisce is so spread out and only around 32 people live there now.   I was disappointed with it and loved Gdinj more as it looked like a little village, which it was, even though only around 20 people live there now. Loved Baba Vica’s house, even though it was on the third floor and I struggled up the steps with no railings to hold onto.  Had the big bedroom all to myself, but there was no heat in the house - got a little chilly at night.  I talked to Baba Vica and how happy I was to be sleeping in her house.  I know that she was looking down at me, talking back to me, and having the biggest smile on her face. 

The morning of the 29th, we had the staple continental breakfast in Baba Vica’s bedroom, now the kitchen.  We went to the cemetery, a very emotional sight, and found the right Curin grave headstones, there were so many. It seems as the whole cemetery was nothing but Curin.  We then drove to the little enclave of houses that were located in front of the old church.  As we were walking to the church site, we said good morning to a little old lady sitting out in front of her house.  Lendi explained who I was and what we were doing there and she invited us over to have some Prosek (10:30 a.m.).  We graciously declined, but she persisted in asking us to come into her home and see pictures of her family.  We did so out of courtesy and as we were leaving her husband came in from the field and we chatted a little while longer.  Eventually we were on our way to the church.  It was in decay.  Weeds were growing everywhere.  Some pictures were taken and we went back to Baba Vica’s house.  It was early so Lendi took me for a walk to where they used to store their animals.  There was very little roof on the building.  Lendi showed me what was left of the circle where they used to crush their wheat and make their flour.  I looked around the fields and saw that it must have been a very difficult life to survive in the late 1800s and early 1900s. 

In the early afternoon, we went to visit a cousin of ours, Ljubica Romic.  She is presently staying in one of the Curin houses on the beach.  My grandfather Pia’s house was next door and the hotel that was questionably built onto the Curin house and it sandwiched the house where Ljubica was staying.  It is so beautiful there.  The Adriatic is so clear.  I took a picture of Ivo in the water where he was standing nearly chest high and I could see his toes in the water.  Colors of the water were clear, green, and a beautiful blue.  I was so mad that I left my swim trunks at home.  I met a FACEBOOK friend Igor Curin, also a cousin, the one that built the hotel onto the property and has since sold it. 

We went to Zastrazisce later that afternoon hoping to find Jerkov Dvor and Dida and Dad’s house and also Nona’s house in Donje Polje.  Before doing so, we went to the cemetery and I was able to locate our Jerkovic family plot.  We found it partially covered by a tree and were able to move the branches so that I could take some pictures.  I wish I had something to clean off the marker as it was getting dirty but there was nothing in sight that I could use.  After some contemplation and prayer, Lendi and I got back in the car to see where in the world Jerkov Dvor was located.  Lendi stopped the car and asked a man if he knew where Jerkov Dvor was.  He said to continue on the road and when you get by the curve in road to turn left.  We continued on a very short distance and Lendi decided to turn onto a dirt path that led to houses some 200 yards off the road.  We turned right and came upon some houses and decided to park the car there.  We walked on a bit and saw a gentleman standing on his balcony.  We introduced ourselves and he did the same.  Who was it but a cousin of mine, Frane Jerkovic of San Pedro, California.  We had heard about an American on the island when we were in Hvar.  We asked the location of our Jerkovic house.  It was just behind us, around 100 yards away.  He said that it is always occupied because of Jerkovic brothers’ families coming there.  There was a lot of work done on it and I became disappointed as I could not get into the house as sit was unoccupied at that time.  Lendi took a picture of me in front of the house, but not the new part.  We walked around back and I got to view the olive press and an outdoor toilet with a lot of weeds built up around it – the weeds had overcome everything so it was difficult to see anything.  Could not even see where the igloo like fire pit was that made bread for the whole complex of houses.  It was starting to get chilly (around 4:30 p.m.) and I was in shorts and a short sleeve shirt so we walked back to Frane’s house.  He invited us up and offered us a drink which we accepted.  He explained that his wife was back in the states because she could not come due to health reasons.  Frane invited us into the house and the foyer blew me away.  I thought I was back in the United States.  He really fixed up the inside of the house.  He said he remembered me at one of the weddings in San Pedro. 

We asked for directions to Donje Polje and he pointed to the houses right by the road.  It was a pleasant walk on a nicely done paved path.  Houses were being renovated and fields were being worked so it looked like a community on the rise.  There was a gentleman standing on his deck, and Lendi asked for directions of the Dragicevic house and Donje Polje.  We were there.  Come to find out that he is a cousin of mine on the Dragicevic side and his first name is Stjepe.  His house was nicely renovated and he took us around to the front of the house, by the main road, and was pleasantly surprised that Nona’s house was attached to his.  The front was redone to look more modern.    The house was sort of catty-corner across from the oldest house in Zastrazisce.  Now I know what the picture was that Mom took on one of their trips to Croatia.  It was not of the Jerkovic house as she told me when she was at Carrington Point, but the oldest house across the street from the Dragicevic house.  To look at these houses and the land that they had to work, it makes you think, “How did they survive?”  It was an extremely rough life for both men and women.  We have to be so thankful for what they went through to have children, raise a family, and then send them out into the world where we are now.  It is a very sobering thought.  After more contemplating on what our ancestors went through, we went back to Gdinj as I was really getting chilled. 

We got back to the house in Gdinj and Lendi started the BBQ on the deck.  She seasoned large lignja (squid) and put them on the barbie.   A table was set up outside and we enjoyed the delicious lignja in the chilly wind.  Everything was great, including the wine and fresh bread from across the street.  I went to bed fairly early to try and combat the cold that was developing.  I again talked with Baba Vica, telling here how lucky I was to be able to sleep in the Curin house. 

The 30th rolled around too early.  Before leaving for Split, we went to the Majce house.  It was so beautiful there.   It was on the opposite side of where Ljubica was staying.  We socialized and had a Croatian lunch with my third cousin Leda and her husband Mirko.  Her two sisters Vranka and Zora came by as well and I got to meet them.  We all had a great time socializing even though it was such a short time.  We went back to the house, packed and left for the ferry at Stari Grad. 

Lendi was my chauffer all the time.  I named her “flower lady” because she stopped for flowers all the time during the journey.  Lendi loves flowers. 

The trip on the ferry was nice.  We stayed on the top deck this time as the weather accommodated us.  One thing I did not like on either ferry – to Otok Hvar or Brac – was the dirty windows; not like the ferries of the North Sea. 

I did not stay at Apartment Antonio when we got back as Lendi and Peco had friends down the street that rented out rooms.  Did not get to the apartment until midnight but Jasse was waiting for me.  Lendi helped take the luggage upstairs.  The room was spacious and the bathroom was very modern.  They were a very nice husband and wife team.  I believe her name was pronounced Jasse and he was Ante. 

May 1st was a rest day so Ivo took me to a Bohemian caffee for coffee and strudel.  The strudel was great as was the view of the beautiful Dalmatian women passing by.  There is something special about the Dalmatian woman that sets them apart from others.  Ivo then took me to another caffee by the sea and we sat and watched people and took in the fresh air.  We walked along the beach, breathing in all the clean air and fresh scent of the salt in the air.  It was so refreshing.  Oh, most of the cafes spell their name as “caffee.”  I must have worn Ivo out because when we got back to the apartment he went and took a nap.  That left more quality time for Olga and me.  We were really getting close to each other.  Olga fixed soup and small fish for dinner.  We had a late supper but all I had was bread, cheese, prosciutto and wine.  Even with all of the late night eating, I have lost six pounds on the trip. 

Relaxing and Tranquil Brac

Decided to go to the island of Brac the next day with Lendi, Peco, and Snjezana, Lendi’s colleague who came in early for a couple of days of relaxation before they tackle some serious problems at work.  When I met her, the name Snow Princess came out right away because it sounded like her name started with snijeg (snow).  From then on, she was my Snow Princess.  After a short trip on the ferry, opening the apartment, and getting settled in, Peco took us on a short scenic trip of the island.  It was very sobering, even more so than Otok Hvar, because the island had higher mountains and rugged terrain.  There were mounds and mounds of rocks piled all over the fields and no shelters built that can be seen now.  How these people struggled to survive on the island is beyond me.  They really had to have the determination and will to do it or they could have been prepared for it by running from war, subjugation, famine, pestilence, etc.  Lendi and Snjezana made some apple strudel for later on in the evening.  After chatting and finishing supper at 11 p.m., we were finally in bed at midnight.

The next morning, the 3rd, I slept until 09:45 a.m.  I could not believe it.  I have not slept that late in such a long time.  I guess it was the fresh Adriatic Sea air that did it.  The three of them were up already and done with their breakfast when I walked into the kitchen area.  They were so quiet.  After a while, Snjezana and I walked to the fishing pier and outlet to get some fresh fish for dinner.  Snjezana told me to wait there while she took the fish back and she would return and we could sit down and enjoy a cup of cappuccino; the weather cooperating as the sun was shining and the birds chirping.  What a large cup of cappuccino we received and it was so good.  We enjoyed our friendly chat and walked around the docks taking pictures and finally walked back.

Sitting around the table chatting away, Snjezana said that I would live to be 100 years old because of my outgoing personality, etc.  I told her that it was amazing that she said that because I believe that I will live to be 100 years old.  Snow Princess had to work on her documentation on a new law for the state of Croatia; Peco was outside trimming the bushes, so Lendi and I sat down and started reviewing the Curin/Viskovic family tree.  We worked on it at length and I was able to add many Viskovic names and make corrections to names, dates, etc., on the Curin side.  We finally said enough was enough and went to sleep.  Oh, I forgot, Peco bbq’d Cevapcici and was it delicious. 

Our relaxing time on Brac came to an end the next morning as we had an early breakfast, closed the house, packed the cars, and were on our way to the ferry and Split.  The weather was nice so we stayed on the top deck and we talked and I took pictures. 

Historic and Quaint Split

I took my bags to the apartment and came back to Olga’s.  After some coffee, Peco and I were off to downtown Split.  Peco was going to show me around the Diocletian Palace, the crown jewel of Split.  It was built by Roman Emperor Diocletian at the turn of the 4th century A.D.   The amazing thing is that people are still living in some of the buildings.  It is not just all shops and eateries.  As we entered the grounds to the palace, there was a huge statue of Bishop Grug Ninski.  If you rubbed his toe, it would bring you good luck.  Bishop Ninski is the one who developed the Croatian alphabet and brought reading and writing to Croatia.  We walked through the main area and were pleasantly surprised to be serenaded by a Croatian Klappa group of singers.  The music, without instruments, was beautiful.  We continued on to the promenade and into the older section of town.  My legs were starting to give out on me, but I did not tell Peco because he was so willing to show me as much as he could.  We got back to Olga’s, socialized and had dinner.  I said my good bye and it was an emotional one.  I promised that I would come back and stay longer the next time.  Olga was happy with my response. 

Snow Princess and I walked back to our apartment at 10 p.m.  Snejzana asked me if I wanted to go for a 10 minute walk along the start of the trail to Hill Marjan.  I said, “Sure, why not.”  The walk turned into an hour walk because I had to stop every so often to sit on a park bench because my knees were giving out on me.   I couldn’t even walk straight.  The only good thing about it was that it was a full moon so when we talked, it made for a pretty setting.  Got back to the apartment and told Ante that I needed to wake up at 5 a.m. so that I could catch my flight to Munich.  He said he would wake me up.  I took a shower, packed everything and got to bed after midnight.   

Good Bye Croatia

As promised, Ante woke me up at 5 a.m.  Ante helped with the luggage to and in the car then I waited on Lendi.  She wanted to take me to the airport as it was confusing getting out of the city.  Lendi was 15 minutes late and I was worried that I might miss my flight.  She was right about it being confusing getting out of town to the airport.  I would have had problems (the GPS was not working that well).   The drive to the Split airport is some distance, but we made it.  We could not find the drop off point for the car rental.  We parked the car in the rental slots and got the luggage and paperwork out of the car and went into the airport.  Again, we could not find any car rental agency.  Lendi went to the Information Booth as I was checking in and, guess what? I was to drop the keys and packet off at the Information Booth.  Lendi and I said our emotional good byes and we both went our separate ways.  I was in for a surprise on the airplane.  It was a Croatian Airlines turbo prop airplane.  I was seated right over the wing and that made it bad for me as the noise of the engines drove me crazy and the bad pressurization of the airplane gave me a terrible headache and set off my sinuses. 

A wheel chair was waiting for me at the Munich airport and I was one of the first ones on the airplane, a United Air Lines super jet.  The flight to Dulles was fantastic.  The food, drinks, and movie selections were great.  I was thinking, “What a way to end my incredible journey.”  

That feeling sure changed at Dulles.  Again, a wheel chair was waiting for me.   I had to go through customs since it was an international flight; then we had to pick up my luggage and take it to TSA; again through customs, which I did not understand; and you guessed it, go through TSA again.  Then it was a race through a maze of elevators and corridors before finally arriving at my gate to take me to Knoxville.  I do not know who developed the layout of the Dulles International Airport, but they need to be fired.  There has to be a better way to traverse International to stateside and vice versa.

Storm Delay

I get on the airplane and got seated.  All passengers are in and ready to go, but a sudden lightning storm comes in and we are delayed a half hour.   We got the OK to taxi out to the tarmac for take-off.  You guessed it, another storm came in.  This time we were on the tarmac for two hours.  The stewardesses were busy giving us water and snacks during this whole time.  The good thing is that the captain kept us informed as to what was happening.  We were ready to go back to the airport when we finally got the go ahead to take off.  The flight to Knoxville was one of the smoothest ones that I have travelled on.  The captain kept out of the way of the storm.  You were able to see the big, bad storm clouds to our left; what a relief.  We got to Knoxville at 8:52 p.m.  To make matters worse, the taxi was not there.  I called her and she was at home eating.  She said she would get there in 20 minutes – yea right.  When she finally arrived, she took me the long way around to the apartment.  I told her that and she made an excuse like the mileage is about the same.  I finally got to the apartment and Prissy at 10 p.m.  Boy was she glad to see me.


I finally made the journey to the homeland of my ancestors.  But before going there, I had one task to do and that was to cleanse my soul to God and I accomplished that in Medjugorje.  I may not have achieved two important goals that I set out to achieve, but there were indicators that the trip was a success; the doves; the Italian lady with the umbrella; the American lady who battled cancer and won; and of course my most important sign was the two and one half hour walk to come closer to God.  Mission accomplished.

Seeing Split for the first time and my cousins and the treatment I received was phenomenal.  Walking in the same steps as my ancestors on Otok Hvar was another emotional roller coaster.  The emotions I had being in and sleeping in Baba Vica’s house; seeing where my father and grandparents were born was bone chilling. 

I will live with the feelings and emotions that I have taken with me from Croatia and my goal is to go back one more time, but to stay longer – God willing.