Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania
Traveling in Eastern Europe affected me. The people there have been through so much. They have had a tumultuous and confusing history. So many invaders, so many oppressors. The areas we visited were behind the Iron Curtain for many years. I remember hearing about the Iron Curtain when I was just a kid. It put such a vivid impression in my mind but I never really understood what it meant.
Many of the crew on our ship grew up in Eastern Europe. Our Program Director, in the photo above, gave a slide show and talk about "Growing Up in Eastern Europe". It made me realize how different my life was, growing up in the United States. We had so many more opportunities, so many choices about our own lives.
Many people we met recalled what life was like behind the Iron Curtain. I remember growing up hearing about the "Iron Curtain" and wondering exactly what that meant. Now I realize how oppressive it was for the people living behind it. The effects are seen everywhere. The guides were quick to point out to us the gray, depressing buildings that were built during the Soviet era.
There was also a lot of evidence of the wars that took place here in the 1990s. Many buildings still have bullet holes in them. There are so many houses that were just abandoned as people fled the area.
I got the impression that these countries were filled with small villages and farms, a mainly agricultural society. Then the Soviets took over and wanted to build an industrial powerhouse, building factories to put people to work and large, looming apartment buildings to house those who were taken from their land.
In Croatia we visited the town of Vukovar, which was the site of heavy fighting during Croatia's war for independence in the 1990s. The town was devastated and many people fled. There are memorials to honor those who lost their lives in these wars.
I took these photos out the window as we rode in the bus to the Croatian towns of Osijek and Vukovar.
The guide told us that these fields and woods we were passing are still dangerous because there are land minds planted there. Every year, people are still killed and wounded by land mines.
Many more photos and stories to come… this was quite a trip.