This year marks Croatia’s 20th year of independence. Michal and I have covered well over 1,000 miles of this beautiful country. It is hard to believe that in such a peaceful place war was raging within our lifetime.

Kate, a vibrant young lady we met yesterday, informed us that today is a national holiday in Croatia. Kate is from the small town of Knin. On August 5th, 1995 Croatian troops took the city of Knin which resulted in the end of the Republic of Serbian Krajina. Needless to say it’s an important anniversary.

Yesterday evening Michal and I wandered down towards the water to find something to eat. It was a lovely evening. The skies were brilliant colors as the sunset. We heard something going on in the main square and noticed a parade was starting.

11846770_10100498170010266_7366768921566535518_nThe parade was in celebration of Victory Day. Hundreds of veterans who fought for Croatia’s independence marched down the street. Behind them were hundreds more people holding white balloons with a name on each balloon. The names represented those who died during the war. The balloons were released and carried by the light breeze high up into the sky and over the sea in the brilliant colors of the sunset.

IMG_20150804_195307366I found myself crying during this parade. I was born in the United States. Independence there occurred hundreds of years before my existence. In my lifetime no wars have been fought in my country. I’ve never had to fear for my homeland or my safety. Yes there are soldiers who continue to bravely fight to maintain our safety and independence but, for me, there’s a lack of connection since it occurs over seas. Nonetheless I am thankful for our service men and women.

Last night I was looking at soldiers who fought for their country on their own land. I watched men, women and children who lost loved ones fighting for the independence this country now has. The symbolism of the balloons was overwhelming and emotional. Next to us was an older Croatian lady. She had tears streaming down her face and she was applauding enthusiastically when each branch of the military paraded down the street.  Looking at the faces of the people who surrounded us it was hard to imagine everything they have seen and experienced in their lifetimes. The pride of their independence is still strong and fresh.

IMG_20150805_161741I love Croatia. I love the beauty, I love the people, I love the strong sense of their connection to their country. Last nights parade ended with an acapella performance of their national anthem. All around us Croatians sang along and the beautiful sound made me have goosebumps.

Today I feel even more respect and love for this country. For the people who sacrificed their lives so their families could live in an independent country. I feel happy being able to put money into their economy and enjoy the beauty their country has to offer.

Sometimes while traveling you just happen to stumble upon things you never planned for. Last night it was an honor to witness such a beautiful parade and an important celebration. 20 years. Happy Victory Day, Croatia!