(John 7: 37,38)
Plitvice National Park
Over the Easter holidays I traveled with Sarah, a friend from church, to Croatia. The high point for me was certainly the Plitvice Lakes, a series of wonderfully clear lakes and tumbling waterfalls which are truly idyllic. Everywhere water — as Substance, Color, Sound,
Mirror, Interpreter, Caricature,
The novelty of the setting is created by a series of stair-stepped lakes, the water finding whatever sort of descent — dramatic or luxuriant — to the next lower lake. Well-laid paths offer spectacular views from all angles.
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“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
From Plitvice, we traveled south to Split, a coastal city built in and around an ancient palace constructed as the retirement residence of the emperor Diocletian. Today relics of the past mix with the cafes, shops, museums, and homes that occupy the former royal residence and overflow its walls. Although the weather was a bit chilly yet, walking along the coast or sitting gazing out at the Adriatic was luxury indeed.
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“I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved…. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:9,10).
After much consideration, I headed farther south down the coast to Dubrovnik, while Sarah headed back to Vienna, as planned. It meant a lot more time on the bus, but the views were beautiful — and an unexpected border crossing meant I got to add Bosnia-Herzegovina to my list of countries visited.
One highlight of the 24 hours there was a delicious Croatian meal of shrimp and pasta. (I’d decided to splurge on dinner out alone, which felt strange. However, seating at the restaurant turned out to be tight, so a Spanish couple ended up joining me. I laid aside the entertaining Chesterton Father Brown detective stories for a lovely chat with fellow tourists.) The other highlight was a walk around (atop) the city wall, a truly substantial edifice offering views out to sea and of the red-tiled roofs. (Side note: I have never seen so many cats in one town in the span of one day. Must be the pet-of-choice for Croatians.)
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“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
Due to train and bus schedules, I ended up in Zagreb for a good chunk of a day — really too tired (after an overnight train ride in the same compartment as an intolerable snorer) to want to be much of a tourist. Nonetheless, spring and sunshine and botanical gardens and architecture and Easter markets were eager to charm. (Note to self: next time, don’t arrive sleep-deprived and intent on carrying your luggage around the whole time.)
After a week in Croatia, I can heartily recommend it to anyone. My only word of warning is that an overnight train ride plus a total of 26 hours on various buses may make you feel like this poor fellow:
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“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives by believing in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”
(John 11: 25, 26)
Back in Vienna, the Easter weekend overflowed with celebrations. Saturday evening, my English tutoring/piano students’ family invited me to join them for a children’s Easter mass followed by a traditional “cold supper.” (That sounds simple and rather unassuming, but it was terribly scrumptious, boasting everything from white asparagus with goat cheese to tiramisu.) They made me feel so welcome and part of the family. Really a treat.
Sunday a couple of friends joined me for the service at New City Wien, which was special. Afterwards the congregation shared a festive meal together. In the evening, Marianna (who was staying with us for a few weeks) cooked while the two of talked, extending the celebration over dinner and a walk. I appreciated her liturgical (Russian Orthodox) “Christus ist auferstanden!” (“Christ is risen!) at the closing of the day and as the Easter Monday greeting. Monday morning we shared a breakfast feast, with the basket of goodies blessed by her priest, and then traipsed off to visit a couple of Easter markets.