This post is in answer to Little P's question commenting on my post about bringing back presents for grandchildren, in which she asked why we chose this trip.
My husband had been wanting to go to Dubrovnik for years; we had heard that Croatia is beautiful; and then a brochure from SmarTours came in the mail and the places, dates, and cost were all right for us. Both countries are indeed blessed with lovely sites. One high point was walking the city walls in Dubrovnik and seeing the marvelous views of the sea, the old forts, and the red-tiled roofs of the houses below. We also enjoyed admiring the architecture of the buildings by the river in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. And so much more.
I had known nothing about Slovenia before, and very little about Croatia. Thanks to a little reading that I did ahead of time and to the info from our tour guides, I came back with a better understanding of both countries and their often sad history. I always like to prepare for a trip by reading travel narratives and novels set in the place where I'm going. This time I got some of the flavor of both countries by reading "After Yugoslavia" by Zoe Bran, an account of the author's return trip through the area; "The Sound of Blue" by Holly Payne, a novel set partly in Dubrovnik and partly in a camp for Croatian refugees; and "They Would Never Hurt a Fly" by Slavenka Drakulic, a powerful and painful account of some of the defendants in the 1995 war crimes trials in The Hague, asking what happens to ordinary people that can turn them into vicious killers.
One big plus about travel for me is that it sensitizes my antenna for news. I have found, for example, that when a place I have visited is written about in the newspaper, I am more likely to go beyond the headline and read the whole article-- and to have a special understanding of what's going on there. I feel a new linkage to the people of that country, its government, its trials and its triumphs. And so it is now, with this part of the world about which I had been so ignorant. I know I don't have to visit places to understand them, but for me this brings them closer when I have walked their streets and spoken with their people. And so I hope to continue to visit -- and to learn about -- more places in this big world.