The ship recently spent a stint of time providing support for the USS SAIPAN Amphibious readiness group in Rijeka, Croatia. Now, your first thought, if it's anything like mine is "Croatia??? Aren't we mauling malcontents with mighty missiles and manhunting mass murdering madmen there?" (I know, alliteration is a misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine).
Well, the warn torn villages you saw on CNN bore little semblance to the forest of modern shops, conveniences, and satellite dishes that confronted us. It was actually very strange to look upon. Dig up your favorite stereotypical image of a Soviet Block industrial shipyard town. Now, take away the gray garbed soldiers with trained attack dogs, the concertino wire, and the red stars. Add a slew of new stores that are brightly lit, play some heavy rock and roll music in the background, and you've got it!
Croatia, as part of the former Yugoslavia was a Warsaw Pact Communist country just ten years ago. Now it looks to have the same capitalist flavor as the rest of Europe. The architecture is interesting. The very latest is modern American. The post WW2 stuff is all gray box warehouse looking stuff. However, there's tons and tons of gothic art on doors, walls, windows, roofs, you name it. Gargoyles apparently figured very heavily in 19th century Croatian decor.
One important difference we noted between here and the rest of Europe is that food was INSANELY cheap. You want a super complex meal with however many courses served by a snooty waiter in an exclusive restaurant? Better bring a $20 with you, just so you can be sure to cover the tip and drinks.
We worked pretty hard supporting the ARG, so there wasn't a lot of time off to be had for repair department. We did manage to take off on Sunday, and a few of us chiefs, led by Master Chief "J.C." Clemens managed to win control of the keys to the chiefs van. With this, we hopped in and drove all day, just to see what was out there. We found some pretty country side, some nice old ruins and such, and a lot of BEACH RESORT AREAS??? Who'd have thought?