Monday, May 28, 2007

The Beautiful Coast of Croatia

After about an 8 hour bus ride down to the Croatian Riviera, we arrived in Makarska. I really cannot describe the beauty of this area, but the crystal blue sea and bright white rocky beaches took my breath away. I still have not gotten used to looking out at the sea and turning around to 1700 meter mountains. They have got the best of both worlds down here!

On the way to Makarska, we stopped to visit Plitvice Lakes National Park. This national park holds a several natural lakes that are crystal clear blue and so pure you can drink out of them. Huge waterfalls and streams feed into the lakes and creates a sight that everyone must see if given the opportunity. I would try to take the time to describe this park's wonder, but again, I lack the words to paint an accurate picture, so I will let you see them for yourself when we post the pictures. There are trails and bridges that allow guests to walk amidst the lakes and around the parks. I was surprised to see how many people go through there each and how perfectly preserved the park is. I expected to see park officials everywhere, but I think I only saw one. This fact illustrates how awe that is sparked in guests and that they respect the environment. We noticed while in the park that there were hardly any amenities for people with disabilities which is very different from the States. There were no handrails or guardrails running along the steep and rugged trails, and the walkways over the lakes were irregular and would be easy to trip on. While this seems like a negative aspect to us as Americans, it illustrates a theme that we have noticed in the culture of Croatia. This theme is a reliance on people to take responsibility for themselves and not rely on the government or other systems to hand everything to them. Croatia's health system is characterized as a "health system in transition," and while they are making huge strides, they are not yet to the point where they can reach their citizens on the same level as more advanced systems. We have seen this trend in other areas such as caring for the elderly. Families are very important to the care of people with disabilities and the elderly population.

Life on the coast is much slower and laid back than the city. Makarska's main industry is tourism and there are outdoor cafes and restaurants everywhere. We are lucky to be here before the peak of tourist season because the population in the town will increase two to three times its normal size. We were able to be apart of the "Celebrate Summer" festival to ring in summer and tourist season. They had concerts all around the town which lasted all night and people were everywhere. We had a great time needless to say! While this tourism is crucial to the survival of the area, it does not come without problems. Some of the main problems Makarska must deal with during the summer months are overcrowding of the health clinic, funding of the health clinics and environmental initiatives, and issues with water, sewage and waste disposal. It is difficult for the local government because the people that use a majority of their services are not paying into the system to contribute to its maintenance.

The food here is AMAZING! Now, I know I'm a little more obsessed with food than most people, but the seafood is out of this world and they eat fresh vegetables all the time. There is also a very heavy Italian influence which is never bad. We were able to find a market to buy fresh seafood to cook dinner on our free day and I am not ashamed to brag about how delicious it was! :)

We have noticed a bigger problem with obesity here because life is much slower, but an interesting difference is that the main contributing factor is lack of physical activity and not quite as much as diet (diet was bigger in the city). Smoking, alcohol and an obsession with coffee is still everywhere down here.

As you can see we are learning alot and having a blast still in Croatia! Thanks for all the posts and keep them coming!!


Judy Riley Bland said...

It's interesting that you have seen the direct correlation between an active lifestyle (from the city) and normal weights, and a more inactive lifestyle (in the rural area) and more of an occurance of overweight conditions. It all comes down to our activity levels! The food on the coast sounds great. You will be spoiled to all the outdoor entertainment in the evenings. Athens, Ga. will not be able to compare! Have fun, Judy

Anonymous said...

The trip sounds amazing. I think it is rather interesting that the description of the trip took several paragraphs while the description of the whole reason you are there, public health and obesity, took all of 3 lines! Ha!!! I am so jealous and want to see tons of pictures. If you don't have a camera, buy or steal one.

See you soon- Beth, the good sister

Anonymous said...

Wow, I'm so proud to be Croatian. :) Senka

bathmate said...

very good posting. i liked it. :-)