Since my arrival in Croatia, I've gained a plethora of experiences and knowledge. The natural beauty of the sea and mountains has captivated me, and the coffee culture has left me in awe. Every day, I've observed the bustling Cafe Bars filled with people enjoying their espressos regardless of the time. It's truly amazing.
As I reflect on what I love most about Hrvatska, it becomes evident that it's the people who have made my time here truly special. While they may initially appear reserved compared to Latin American cultures, once you get to know them, you discover their warmth and kindness. I want to take a moment to express my gratitude to some individuals who have made my life easier and more enjoyable in Croatia.
Firstly, I want to give a shout-out to Ivana, a talented masseuse and the owner of Hara Massage Center in Zadar. Ivana's massages have been the best I've ever experienced, surpassing those I've had in Barbados, Mexico, and Rome, among other places. She is incredibly knowledgeable in her field, continuously attending courses and seeking ways to improve her business. From cupping to lymphatic drainage and sports massages, Ivana's expertise shines through her work. If you find yourself in Zadar, whether as a visitor or a local, treat yourself to a massage from Ivana. I assure you won't regret it.
Secondly, I want to express my gratitude to Professor Tomislav Smoljanović, an English-speaking orthopedic and traumatologist physician based in Zagreb. When I faced with a medical emergency far from home and struggled with the language barrier, my stress was overwhelming. I reached out to several professionals, desperately seeking help for my husband's foot condition; we all know it is worse when the issue is with someone you love.
Professor Tomislav responded swiftly and compassionately, even on a Friday evening. We met at Poliklinika Ortohem the following day, where he provided us with a clear treatment plan. Throughout the process, Professor Tomislav remained attentive, polite, and highly knowledgeable. I'm grateful to have found him, and if you ever require an expert in orthopedics or trauma, I wholeheartedly recommend him.
Thirdly, I want to acknowledge Katja, an official translator fluent in Croatian, English, and Spanish, based in Rijeka. She assisted me during my MUP residence process, translating my documents promptly and making me feel at ease. Dealing with government paperwork can often be stressful, but Katjia made the process seamless. Her exceptional work and professionalism deserve recognition, and I highly recommend her services.
Last but certainly not least, I want to express my appreciation for Tea and Robert from Dentamico, a dental clinic located near the Ljubljanica tram station in Zagreb. We visited the clinic multiple times for various services, and each visit was accompanied by warmth, professionalism, and enjoyable conversations.
Beyond their professional expertise, Tea and Robert went above and beyond by offering us invaluable insights into the local culture and cuisine. As self-proclaimed food enthusiasts, my husband and I eagerly sought their recommendations for authentic Croatian dishes and hidden culinary gems. Their suggestions not only satisfied our palates but also introduced us to the rich gastronomic heritage of Croatia. Their genuine interest in ensuring our comfort and enjoyment extended far beyond the dental chair, making us feel like we were part of a supportive community rather than just clients.
Moreover, Tea also loves Studio Ghibli and I do too. In Milan Kundera's novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being, he suggests that when you see someone reading a book you love, it's like the book itself is recommending that person. The same can be said for shared film preferences. Ghibli is an excellent judge of character. If you haven't delved into the enchanting world of Ghibli, I urge you to do so. You can find some of their movies on Netflix. Personally, my favorite is Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind but I would recommend anything from Studios Ghibli or Hayao Miyazaki.
In the end, the exceptional experiences we had with Ivana, Professor Tomislav, Katja, Tea, and Robert exemplify the kindness, professionalism, and genuine warmth that we have encountered throughout our time in Croatia. Their dedication to providing not only exceptional professional services but also an atmosphere of care and hospitality is a testament to the remarkable individuals who contribute to making Croatia a truly special place.
As I reflect on the remarkable people I have encountered during my time in Croatia, I am reminded that it is the connections we forge and the genuine interactions we have that truly define a place. While the natural beauty, vibrant culture, and rich history of Croatia have captivated me, it is the warmth, kindness, and expertise of individuals like Ivana, Professor Tomislav, Katjia, Tea, and Robert that have made my experience truly unforgettable. They have not only enhanced my journey but have also reaffirmed my belief in the power of human connections and the significance of the people we meet along the way.
Alejandra Gotóo (1991, Mexico City), who studied English Literature and recently graduated with a Masters of Social Anthropology is now writing about her time in Croatia as a columnist in Dubrovnik Times. Her work has been published in Spain, Mexico, Colombia and Peru. She has two published novels, Ruptura and Isadore or Absolute Love. Her topics of interest include nature, adventure, language, books, food, culture, animals, conservation, and women's rights. She also writes in her blog: Cardinal Humours.