Thursday, June 08, 2017

Vinkovci, Croatia - Jim's Story

How we organized our month in Europe

When Chris told me we were going to Italy and had a month to spend traveling, my sense of exploration kicked in.

I’ve always wanted to go to Italy. The solution to that was Chris’ Writer’s Retreat in Tuscany. I always wanted to visit the old country of my Grand-Pop Guld.

We decided to have flexibility within structure. We arranged for the flights into Florence May 18 and out of Milan June 20 and a couple of city tourist things on the way in and out of Europe. We got a Eurail Pass for Italy, Slovenia, and Croatia.

  1. May 18, Fly into Florence
  2. May 21-28 Chris' writing workshop in Tuscany
    ?? visit Vinkovci, Croatia
  3. June 18, Fly out of Milan
  4. June 19, one day stopover in Berlin

That was the structure. My task was to maintain connectivity for work.

I figured I could ad-lib the visit to Vinkovci, Croatia by rail between Chris’ workshop in Tuscany and our flight home from Milan. Google Maps is a great way to plan a free-wheeling trip. It’s easy to change a route. It would be nice if it synced with a calendar, though. Eurail has a Rail Planner app for the phone. I searched for a route from Castiglion Fiorentino to Vinkovci. Central Italy to Eastern Croatia. We already visited Florence on the way to Tuscany. Let’s add in Venice and Trieste on the Adriatic and a bus to beautiful Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, because that’s the best way to continue the train rail to Vinkovci.

Our friend, Marie York happened to be in Venice while we were in Tuscany. We stay in touch with her on Facebook. We asked for a recommendation for lodging in Venice. She suggested the place she stayed. I found the location on Google Maps. Getting more information right in the app, I made the reservations for a couple of nights and we extended one extra night after we got there.

Trieste is a busy city on the Northern Adriatic coast with lots of history under several governments. We learned that most of the countries we visited were younger than our own USA. We had a beautiful room with good WiFi in a B&B. Porporella.

We began to learn how to navigate the complexities of the transportation system, sometimes more successfully than others. A bus was required to get from Trieste to Ljubljana.

Ljubljana is the capital of Slovenia. It is absolutely stunning. We got an apartment with good WiFi and a clothes washer. Buying detergent was an adventure. It’s these experiences that make for a memorable trip.

We decided to go directly from Ljubljana to Vinkovci. Train travel is wonderful in Europe. This old town is a lot different from the earlier stops. There were fewer people who spoke English. It was funny, the information on the apartment I booked said, “We speak your language.” That was great as long as your language was Croatian!

We struggled through it with the indispensable help of the Google Translate app. I downloaded several languages for offline access.

The WiFi was fantastic in our Vinkovci apartment. Good enough for a Facebook Live event. Connectivity was barely usable to pretty good for most of our trip. My Project Fi Pixel phone had the best data at $10/GB. Chris used her iPhone 7 on T-Mobile with free 2G data. We purchased a SIM card for our time in Italy and used it for 3G data. WiFi was generally best in the apartments we stayed in, a little less in the B&Bs and least in hotel stays.

Grand-Pop Guld was from Vinkovci, Croatia

Grand-Pop Guld in Vinkovci circa 1910

Family histories and documents agree that my father’s father, Johann Jacob Guld (1881-1963), emigrated from what was then part of Austria-Hungary in 1912. He returned to Vinkovci to serve in the military and re-emigrated to the USA, became a naturalized citizen and raised a large family in New Jersey. My dad was the 4th of 8 siblings.
Pop Guld's journey in about 1914. The furthest right marker is Vinkovci

I didn’t expect to find any living relatives there. I wasn’t even sure how to start looking for family information. Our room was directly across the street from the city hall. We inquired there first. One of the gentlemen there was very knowledgeable about the history of the area. He said records were a mess as the city had been through four different governments and several wars since Pop Guld lived and left there. They did recommend the Vinkovci Museum. That was fantastic. Don't you think these hats on exhibit look like the hat on Grand-Pop Guld?

We met Danijel Petković, the director of the museum.

He offered to check into the Guld name in his records. Here is what he sent:


There are definitely family references in there.

The experience was profound for me. I’m starting to understand the fascination of genealogy. Not enough to be serious about it, though.

No comments: