WHO: Libor Dudas, 40 and Chuck McCorkle, 54, of Roslindale
WHEN: 25 days over June and July
WHY: Dudas came to the United States as a student in 1991, the first of four years of sporadic fighting after Croatia declared its independence from Yugoslavia. He had been unable to go back home for a visit until he got his US citizenship a year ago. The pair took a quick trip last fall; this summer was more a homecoming and vacation.
CHILDHOOD MEMORIES: They stayed for a week in Cervar-Porat, on the Istrian Peninsula near the seaside town of Porec. It had special meaning for Dudas, who had visited there almost yearly as a child. ``It looked a little bit run -down at this point. There were lots of war refugees put up here," he said. ``But most of the buildings look fine and there are lots of restaurants and little shops coming up." They stayed at Hotel Volta -- ``great, and only $40 a night," McCorkle said.
A TOUCH OF ITALY: From Cervar-Porat they took several day trips, including a 2 1/2-hour boat ride to Venice. ``It was a real thrill coming in by water," said McCorkle of his first look at the city. They also visited Motovun, a medieval hilltop town famous for its truffles, and Porec, which has a mosaic-covered sixth-century basilica. On the way to Osijek, they stopped to see the Pula Arena, the largest Roman coliseum outside of Italy. They loved the food, a mix of Italian, Slavic, and Hungarian.
NO PLACE LIKE HOME: ``As we drove northeast to Osijek, the landscape looks like the Pacific Northwest, with dense evergreen forests," McCorkle said. Osijek, where Dudas's parents still live, has a thriving cultural scene, he said, and ``a lot of art nouveau and an older part of town, built in the late 17th century." Dudas, an organist and musical director at Old North Church in Boston, was invited to put on a solo concert at one of the city's two Baroque churches. ``I had played there when I was a kid," he said. ``Some of my old music teachers came. It was moving -- and strange." The concert got rave reviews in the local papers.
A CHANGED PLACE: For Dudas, time in his hometown was bittersweet. ``There were traces of war everywhere. Holes in the buildings from mortars, and you can see on sidewalks where bombs hit. " On the other hand, there's now ``lots of little coffee places, ice cream places, cafes, street life. And there's chain stores, even McDonald ' s. I think people are still finding themselves and where they belong. They're not used to freedom and capitalism."