Friday, January 6, 2012

Zagreb - AND a WILD TIME!!

OK - this posting will be fairly short, as we are late to get on the road to Verona.  But, we have an internet connection and I have to get these things out of my head before I forget them;-(

Whatever has been paid for Myrtle (our GPS system in the car) it is worth every penny!  She has taken us to every destination without a hitch.  And, so our trip from Graz to Zagreb went well- EXCEPT for the MAJOR stop at the border leaving the EU.  Seems we did not have the documents they wanted to see on our rental car.  But, after a lot of sad eyes from Elizabeth and shrugging of shoulders that "what we had was all we had" - they said we were OK.  Not sure what they would have done with us if we were NOT OK?!?!?  AND, not sure what will happen this morning when we try to reenter the EU.

It turns out that our hotel in Zagreb - The Westin - was also the headquarters for the ski race.  This means there was lots of activity in the lobby and proved to be very fortuitous for us - since we did NOT yet have any tickets to this event.  Not only were they willing to get Americans (of which there were VERY few on the spectator side!) tickets - they were also delighted to have a "Photo" journalist (i.e. Gary) from the United States!!  For any of you who have only been to one of these events in the US, where they are FREE, such is not the case here.  (More on the set-up of the race below.)  So - with relief on our side at knowing we would actually be able to see the race we travelled all the way over here to see, we set out to see Zagreb.

This beautiful building is the Croatian National Theatre, housing the national opera, ballet and drama companies.

Gary gets the National Theatre in Zagreb (E gets LaScala in Milan!) 

After wandering the many pedestrian 'streets' with its many outdoor cafes (yes, even this time of year!) and 'squares', we reached the beautiful Kaptol - the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Needless to say, this is one of Zagreb's defining symbols.  Although the building appears largely Neo-Gothic in structure dating from the late 19th century, its origins are much older.  The Zagreb bishopric was established in 1094, and construction of the cathedral started soon afterwards.  A gorgeous structure and this area is clearly a center of the Christmas celebration -

The Kaptol

Next to the Church was 'Bethlehem' 

We also took in the "Bib Ceremony" for the ski race at one of the main squares.  (Sorry - no pictures as it was dark and rainy!)

Friday was a cloudy day - but, no rain.  So, we were off to the races.  Now - you can NOT drive all the way to the venue.  In fact, if you don't have 'special' tickets like us, you have to get a bus from town to take you the approximately 20 - 30 miles to the venue.  We drove about that far to a little town at the base of the mountain.  Then boarded a shuttle (nine passenger van - this is VERY important as we leave!) to the venue.  As you will see below - there is NO snow!!!!  I mean NONE!!  The picture below is the road to our parking and the tower on the left is the top of the race run.  Notice - NO snow!!

OK how do we race with no snow?

 The Race Run - Only snow in sight!!

We both laughed on the shuttle when Paul Simon (one of E's favorites) came on singing "I'm Going to Graceland";-)  Just seemed perfect!!  The venue site was made up of many tents and standing areas.  We were ticketed for the "Gold" tent, which opened at 11AM - for the 2:30 first run - and did not close until well into the night (second run was at 5:30).  AND, during the entire time they were pouring wine and beer (FREE) and providing various forms of food.  Between the two runs, we figured there were as many people IN the 'Gold' tent as there are at the entire Beaver Creek race.  And, this was only one tent!!  One could not move - EXCEPT to dance (as you will see below)!!  Since we were there sooooo early, we staked out a table and two of the 20 or 30 chairs.  Before long, we had a group of locals as our table mates for the day and evening.  (A university professor, tax/sports attorney and former Counsel to US, etc.) Eating, drinking, singing American songs (all the DJ played), dancing and rooting for your favorite skier are all universal activities!  We had a BLAST!!

 Can you guess who is who??

Oh yes - there was a race!!  Ted had a very good first run on snow that looked like a slushy.  6th after run one.


Ted engages teammate Nolan Kasper in a fencing duel in the finish area.

The sun set over Zagreb below our venue and we readied for the second run.  Unfortunately it was uneventful for the Americans, although we did have a couple (including Ted) in the top 30 and therefore gaining points in the standings.

The World Cup in Zagreb - and the city of Zagreb - were a wonderful experience.  Everyone was wonderful to us and extremely accommodating.  We say a fond farewell this morning and head to friends in Verona.

Love to all - Partying, Dancing, Cheering E & G

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