Well, it’s just about time for our group of RIT road warriors to pack it in and return home from our Footsteps Through the Adriatic summer program. The past two weeks have been filled with our continuing bus tour around the beautiful Croatian countryside, visits to islands, mountains, cities, and more hotels. One of our stops was the island of Pag, where the tradition of making sheep milk cheese has been practiced for almost 2,000 years. The island is continually battered by high winds, called Bora, which come down from the mountains across the bay and have turned Pag into somewhat of a moonscape. The winds bring salt and minerals from the sea that has become part of the diet for the sheep,and is one of the delicious flavor components of the cheese. We visited a woman in the small town of Kolan who makes cheese every day of the week from the milk from her family’s 70 sheep. In her traditional small one room production shop, she is able to produce four – 2kg wheels of cheese per day. She was so generous in letting us watch her at work, take pictures, and cut open a wheel of two month aged cheese for us to sample. It was heavenly!!
Then, we took our bus all the way to the very northern tip of the island to the village of Lun, where exists the oldest and largest grove of olive trees in the entire Mediterranean region. We walked by a tree that is over 1,600 years old – perhaps the oldest specimen in the world – which is still being harvested to this day! There are over 1,500 huge olive trees here, all of which were naturally grown from seeds carried in by birds and the winds over the millennia. After Pag, we stayed a couple of nights in a Hostel in the small town of Fuzine, where we relaxed, visited a local cave for an underground tour, and started to think about making our way to Zagreb to finish up our course work and then head for home. Leaving Fuzine on Sunday morning, we stopped in a beautiful mountain gorge for one last four hour “death march” hike down to the bottom and then back to the rim. On the way, we toured an old, still operable, power plant that generates electricity using turbines and technology that was manufactured in the 1920’s. We were given a tour of the turbine room and the engineers actually cranked up one of the idle units using hydro power from the nearby river. In the States, we’d never get anywhere near a power plant, but here in Croatia, our gracious hosts were eager to show our group of students how everything worked, up close and personal. It was very cool.
And here we are, in the beautiful capital city of Zagreb, having a week to tour the city sights and prepare for our departure later this week. We are working out of the beautiful RIT Croatia building in “new Zagreb”, a convenient bus ride to everywhere from here: the old part of the city, shopping, hotels, museums, and many great restaurants. Our hosts Dean Don Hudspeth, Dean Shawn Sturgeon and the rest of the staff have made us feel right at home and given us full use of the classrooms and computer labs here on campus. Our fourteen RIT students have been a completely fabulous group of travelers; soaking up the Croatian culture, learning more about themselves in four weeks here than in any four semesters back in Rochester, meeting new people, eating new foods, seeing roads and buildings that have been in use for over 2,000 years, and gaining a new UNDERSTANDING of the world around them. On Friday they will deliver their individual presentations on their interpretation of their experiences here in Croatia, and then we will all start to disperse for home and other parts of the world. We instructors and support staff are very proud of our students. Overall, this has been an unbelievable learning experience for everyone and we are all looking forward to a “three-peat” in the summer of 2015. Out.