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Travel photo of the week #9 Plitvice National Park

Plitvice, Croatia

Plitvice National Park is the largest national park of Croatia and a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is one of the most beautiful places in the whole of Europe, famous for its 16 turquoise lakes connected by waterfalls and cascades. We just loved the crystal clear lakes that take on a blue green hue as the water deepens. Wooden footbridges follow the rumbling water, as shown in the picture, and help us to navigate the path. Its a must-visit place for nature lovers!

 

Stranger #11: The Croatian Catholic priest who could speak Hindi!

It was a bright and sunny day. We had walked a lot to reach the upper town and got into the most popular church in town – The Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Zagreb
The Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Zagreb

It was very nice and cozy inside. We decided to sit for a while and appreciate the gothic architecture. All of a sudden, from nowhere, he appeared and approached us with a smile on his face. He asked us if we were from India. Upon getting a positive reply he said – ‘Kaise ho?’ We were taken aback. We just assumed that he may have traveled to India or has friends from India and continued talking. What followed in the next couple of hours completely took us by surprise!

The stranger who surprised us!
The stranger who surprised us!

He started talking about Bhagavad Gita, Sanskrit, Hindi, Hinduism amongst other things! Here was a Croatian who had never been to India, who had no friends from India but knew so much about our country including the language which probably some of the Indians themselves do not know.
We were awestruck and asked him how he knew all this! He simply smiled and said that he likes to learn about different countries and their history. He was a history professor and had an in depth knowledge about Indian culture and he spoke Hindi along with 8 other European languages! What astonished us some more was that he was able to write in Hindi! He wrote his name in Hindi without a single mistake! Now, that’s something!!!

He could write Hindi accurately!!
He could write Hindi accurately!!
zlatko
Amazing, isn’t it??!!

He also spoke to us in Bengali but we could not understand much as we did not know the language. There we were, listening to an European speaking to us in an Indian language and not able to understand it 😉
He took us around the whole church and explained in detail about the history of the church and Christianity. He was also a priest in a church! When we were finished with the church he asked us, ‘How much free time do you have?’ We were free for the next three hours before we had to catch up with our host at a music concert. He said, ‘Would you like if I showed you my city? The city where I grew up and spent most of my life’.  We were simply amazed! He was an elderly and scholarly looking man offering to take us around his city! By this time we were very sure that he was very knowledgeable and is not a random person offering to help us.
For the next two hours we walked, talked and walked all around the old town of Zagreb, the capital city of Croatia. He took us to the upper and lower towns, showed all the important places and narrated scores of interesting stories from his life!

One of Zagreb's most emblematic buildings - St. Mark's church
One of Zagreb’s most emblematic buildings – St. Mark’s church

He made us laugh a lot too! As a last stop he took us to his church and told us about a young martyr in Croatia, Ivan Merz, who had inspired thousands of young people to get into social work. We felt so lucky that he found us and decided to spend a few hours with us!

Lucky us!!
Lucky us!!

Meet Zlatko Lukez, a professor of history, a priest in a Catholic church, also heading a movement for young Christians in Zagreb, Croatia and more than anything else, who bid us goodbye saying, ‘Shukriya, phir milenge 🙂 ’.
PS: Later that night we found out that this man was the history professor of our host, Seka, and that he was a favorite amongst the students for his witty and interesting classes. 🙂

By the way our professor has also met Mother Theresa thrice, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict 🙂