Was Romney correct about Russia after all?
It was amazing that so much had been rebuilt since the end of the war. However, beautifully rebuilt/restored buildings stand next to bombed out buildings and homes owned by people who never returned. The previous population of 45,000 now stands at 30,000. I will share pictures of this contrast later. We took a riding tour of the city and the resilience of the people is amazing. The town is once again experiencing normal life but the scars of the war run deep.
Traveling on to Osijek we stopped at an old fortress that was never used as such but is a neighborhood unto itself. We visited St. Anthony Church which is part of a monastery among many government and school buildings. While the Christian Orthodox Church had been the majority in the other countries, Croatia is Roman Catholic. There were no bombed out buildings still in ruins but bullet holes and shellings were visible on many.
The government gave people 40% of what they thought people needed to repair their homes. Some had returned to find them occupied by Serbians. You had to prove the property was yours which was difficult with no records available. Eventually the Serbians were made to return across the river to Serbia and government records with neighbors as witnesses were used to determine ownership.
We headed out to the country for our Home Hosted luncheon. Our family was a grandmother, a 44 year old widow of 9 years and a 22 year old daughter who spoke perfect English. Their neighborhood had been so damaged that when the father returned he had difficulty determining which pile of rubble had been his home. They were not given enough to return their home to its former size and stones and bricks are still stacked by the barn out back.
We had a lovely time and meal with this gracious family who were willing to share their story with us. Our meal was vegetable soup, meat patties similar to individual meatloaves, mashed potatoes, wax beans, peas, slaw, bread and a walnut cake and cherry strudel. Most everything came from their garden. I always enjoy meeting these local families and talking one on one with them. We explored their garden and walked to the back of their property that ends at the Danube. Such a large lot is unusual.
On our return trip, our bus stopped at the bombed out water tower for pictures and Ted and I chose to walk back to the ship. As we approached a small commercial area we noticed a building totally bombed out inside with much damage outside. There were beautiful pink flowers cascading from each window. I asked Ted how would someone get those flowers up there. We later learned the owner decided to not repair the building but to place the flower boxes (no one explained how!) each year as a memorial to the war and the continual perseverence of the people of Vovovar. The house has appeared on the cover of National Geographic.
All week we have been taking photos, determined by our program directors, for a contest. A member of our group had to also be in the photo. There were four entries and all were shown as slideshows in the lounge. We were the only group to get all 20 scenarios and the only one to have one of us in the photos. Apparently not everyone read the directions. That aside, our presentation was more entertaining overall. Some shots were posed and others were accomplished by standing near the person you were trying to capture with them being unaware. The directive to "hug a statue" was accomplished with Keith grabbing a nude lady sculpture on her breasts which brought lots of laughs. We were named the Mooners (for honeymooners) and our last shot was my hand raised to a level that put the butt of a nude statue in my palm. No question, we were the winners!
After dinner we were entertained by a quartet playing local music.
We are traveling to Hungary today and were advised we have to appear for a face check against our passport to the local authorities. Kara is concerned because her photo was taken before her weight loss and the difference is remarkable. She is going to take her drivers license also.