Vukovar is a small city right on the Danube River and the border with Serbia. It was the hardest hit part of Croatia, and arguably all of former Yugoslavia during the 1990's war. It was shelled for over 80 days straight, until the Serbian Army started in house to house and the city fell. Of the few thousand Croats who stayed to defend the city, most died. Tens of thousands were displaced.
Our Croatian friends describe Vukovar today as a sad, heavy place. We went quietly and solemnly, expecting to see the city still in ruins, but we happily found the opposite. It is sad and heavy when you consider what happened there in recent history, but it is a beautiful town that has mostly been restored. There are buildings interspersed that are still destroyed and covered in bullet holes, but nowhere near as many as we expected. If you've ever seen photos of what Vukovar looked like during the war, compared to what it looks like today, it is incredible how much has been rebuilt! And not only the buildings. The main street is lined with outdoor cafes where people were quietly drinking coffee, ice cream shops with lines out the doors, small groups of grandmothers sitting under trees talking and families walking together along the Danube River. The vibrant, pink flowers growing out of a partially restored building (above) immediately caught my eye. To me, it perfectly represented the resilient spirit we felt in Vukovar.
It was a special place to visit. And we had a quiet trip home, for once ;)