Friday, January 20, 2006

Split-Zagreb-Budapest-Warsaw-Riga-HOME

Today is my last day in Croatia. 3 days of travelling by trains and buses - and I am back home. In 7 months after not seing my family and my friends in Estonia.

Everyone who has lived abroad for such a long time would probably understand my feelings right now.

Deep sadness, because you are not sure, when you will see all these people again and whether you will experience moments at least a little bit similar to what you have experienced here...

Great happiness, because you will finally see your close people again...

Worries, whether you have said good-bye to everyone you wanted, whether you have finished everything you needed...

Hopes for your new period of life, because one has to re-start his life at home after 7 months being abroad...

My situation is even more complicated, because I haven't lived here as many other foreigners. I have noticed that majority of people who live in another country (also AIESEC interns) have relation to local people and local culture like in a zoo - "Look how nice it is! Let's take a picture!". Or "I don't understand those people at all...". Or "They are so funny, so great!"

I tried to behave differently from the very beginning. I started to learn the language, I read books about history and culture of Croatia. I tried to be with local people as much as possible in different social situations. Unlike German culture, Croatians are more reciprocal to the foreigners and it is easier to integrate into local culture. Maybe the fact that I am 3/4 Russian has helped me also - Croatians are Slavic.



Anyway, now I am not leaving just one nice country with interesting people. I am leaving country which embrased me with all its warmness, uniqueness, sometimes crazyness, but always friendliness.

It is hard to leave. It really is. But my dreams move on. So do I.

Today it is about -20 degrees during the day and about -30 degrees during the night in Estonia. I hope that despite such terrifying coldness (Split has +12 and sun right now!) my home-country will embrace its son back and will make me sure that there is nothing better than home.

I will come back to Split. As a tourist or entrepreneur, with family or alone, for 3 days or for 3 years - I am not sure yet. But I will.
I already thanked everyone whom I wanted in Croatia. But it won't be too much to do it again here - "Moj Bože! To je nemoguće! Hvala vam svima! Nikad nisam mogao zamislit da će bit ovako težko otić... Pa dobro, vidimo se uskoro!"

Monday, January 16, 2006

After trip to Serbia and Bosnia into the new year

Again I have not been posting here anything for several weeks and got criticized by some of my friends. What to do - my experience in Croatia has just been so intensive and interesting that it would be pity to spend valuable free time for sitting next to the computer. And there are some practical limitations also - I do not belong to the cast of people who have honour to own laptop. :)

I spent very nice Christmas with the family of one of my team-mates Ante. Generally sense of Christmas here in Croatia is not very different from back home - nice holidays to be spent with the close people from your family, eat a lot of tasty food, sleep long and wish all the best to each other. The differences are that 1) Christmas has deeper religious meaning for Croatians, as they are generally more religious; 2) it is generally less commercialised than in Estonia and far less than in Germany (although people say here that it is going to this direction too unfortunately).

Although I am not Catholic, I have been in the church with Ante for the Christmas Eve. It was my first Christmas Eve in the church. I spent it thinking about my year and my close people, majority of who have been far away from me at that moment.

In the end of December - beginning of January I fulfilled one of my dreams and went to the countries which have been destinations No.2 and 3 (after Croatia) for me for a long time already. I first landed with the bus to Belgrade, capital of Serbia&Montenegro. Belgrade has not impressed me a lot in terms of architecture - this city has been destroyed several times during past century only and nowadays consists mainly of grey building built during Socialism times. Older part is prettier, of course.

But I had luck to be with local people there. I met three great Serbs (Zoran, Ivana and Stevan) during my internship in Berlin this summer and we agreed back then yet that I am going to visit Serbia. Thanks to them and some local AIESECers, me and Jaan (friend from Estonia who made this trip together with me) had opportunity to experience great night-life and overall spirit of this city. We went out several times, we were eating and drinking local food - which is as tasty as everywhere on Balkan!

My New Year's Eve was in Novi Sad - big town on the North of Serbia. AIESEC in Novi Sad organized it. It was my first time spending New Year's Eve in the night club with 300-400 people, out of whom I knew before just 4-5. :) Like food, party was, of course, as great as everywhere on Balkan. It needed to be added that we just paid for the entrance and had unlimited supply of alcohol for the whole night. The wildness of party can be imagined.


After searching for after-party at 5 AM with one Croatian and one Montenegrin in the centre of Novi Sad, after eating some tasty fast food at 6AM, after knocking about 15 minutes on the door of the room in hostel I shared with Jaan, whose sense of hearing was disturbed by local supplies of alcohol, at 7AM, I finally went to sleep.

New Year started in very relaxed atmosphere. It was like that two next days which we spent in Novi Sad and Belgrade. Novi Sad is town which has old town in Hungarian style with nice small streets, great river Danube in the centre and beautiful fortress above it. But again - its main qualities lie rather in people and culture than in buildings.

Next destination - Sarajevo - surprised me and Jaan very positively. Probably, 90% of Estonian people who have heard about Sarajevo imagine it as post-war city in ruins which has land-mines everywhere. Partly, it is true - there are still some buildings in ruins and there are still many land-mines in the countryside around Sarajevo. But the city which has gone through the war just 10-15 years ago, it looked just too nice. Lovely narrow streets going up and down (Sarajevo is placed on many hills), amazing Orthodox and Catholic churches and Muslim mosques, Turkish-styled market-place, dynamic night-life... This mixture of the cultures is wonderful.

At the same time, the fact that inhabitants of Sarajevo are from three different faiths has cost a lot to the city... These wounds are still seen. And not only in ruins of buildings. Very symbolic is that all the buses which are coming from Serbia or Serbian-populated parts of Bosnia are driving to separate bus station which is on the outskirts of the city. Or the stories that people told us, when your religion and ethnicity DOES matter.

It is my last week in Split now. To describe my feelings - Dalmatia and Split is like a girl for me whom I met and fell in love with. 4 months living with beautiful girl, having adventures and working together with her, tasting and learning about the life together with her, visiting new places and learning new langauge together with her - very hard not to fall in love with her, huh? I am enjoying my last days here. Last days for this time.
Lonely tree in the mountains near Split
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