Sunday, July 07, 2019

Shopping in Croatia

Foreigners Beware

By John Fisher

Going to the open air market is always worthwhile, even if the experience is negative. I've shopped in markets in Kosovo, where I've been living for six months, and the experience has always been positive. I have never been taken advantage of. Rather I was always welcomed, maybe because Kosovars like Americans so much.

But, in Senj, Croatia, I feel I was cheated - because I was a foreigner. At the Saturday morning market, I was swindled at every stand except one. The merchants made a pretense of weighing the product, but then they added much more than it was worth. I know because I had already paid regular prices at the super market. A small melon was listed at 15 kuna per kilo. It weighed about 400 grams and the price I was charged was 15 kuna (about $2.25). 

I bought a single fig at one stand and paid 1 kuna (15 cents). Then at another stand my wife went to pick up two more figs. She gave an old lady a 20 kuna bill. (I'm seventy-one. Anyone who looks older than me is old). The lady gave back a 10 kuna bill and then I started arguing with her. I didn't speak Croatian; she didn't understand English, but she knew what I was talking about. She looked up in the sky and crossed herself with a look of disgust on her face. I thought, "Who is the patron saint of liars and thieves?" She gave me back 5 more kuna. Two figs ended up costing 75 cents.  

At one stall, my wife went back several times. The products were good, but I think she really liked the way she was treated by the woman. She sensed something different about this woman. That she was honest and fair. Her final purchase was a half dozen small potatoes. The merchant said, "Take those - they are my gift to you." She must have known how frustrated we were by the whole experience. 

Vegetables and fruits I would have paid five euros for in Kosovo cost three times as much in Croatia - 100 kuna or about $15.

A vegetable stand in Senj, Croatia

Indoor market in Senj
Clothes and flowers
The offending melon up front
Later we went to the hospital to visit a friend. She is 81 years old. We met her in Canada 30 years ago. On the way we walked under a fig tree along the public sidewalk. We picked our fill of figs and had more to take back to Pristina. I like dried figs. Fresh figs from the tree are many times sweeter and better.

Picking figs straight from a tree

Zucchini Couscous Salad


Zucchini Couscous Salad

This delicious salad tastes good cold as a leftover. It is made with couscous and cooked zucchini.
Feeds: 4 people
Preparation Time:10 minutes
Cooking Time:15 mins
Total Time: 25 mins


  • 1/3 cup chopped red onions
  • 1 big zucchini — sliced and fried in olive oil and garlic
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 cup whole wheat couscous
  • fresh parsley leaves 
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes — cut in half
  • 1 tsp green onion
  • 3 tbsp white cheese like feta
  • 1/3 cup homemade vinaigrette of olive oil, squeezed lemon, basil, salt and pepper


  1. In a medium heatproof bowl, pour 1 1/4 cup boiling water (boiled with vegetable or chicken bullion base) over the couscous.
  2. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Uncover, fluff with a fork, and set aside to let cool for 5 minutes more. Add fresh parsley leaves.
  4. In a medium bowl, gently toss the zucchini with 1 tbs olive oil, salt, and pepper. Cook over a grill or in a frying pan. Use fresh crushed garlic and red onion in frying pan.
  5. Turn zucchini occasionally, until it is browned and softened but not mushy, about 5 to 7 minutes.
  6. In the same dish used to cook the couscous, add zucchini and cheese and tomatoes. (Add green onion if you like onion.) Stir well adding the vinaigrette. Homemade vinaigrette is made from olive juice, squeezed lemon, and basil. Salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Taste and adjust the seasoning if you think it is necessary. Serve immediately or cold as a leftover.

Nutrition Information

Amount per serving (1/4) — Calories: 220, Fat: 16g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Monounsaturated Fat: 3g, Cholesterol: 8mg, Sodium: 392mg, Potassium: 184mg, Carbohydrates: 16g, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 4g, Protein: 4g, Vitamin A: 12%, Vitamin C: 6%, Calcium: 5%, Iron: 2%

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia, #1)The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

John Fisher Four siblings enter a wardrobe and find themselves in Narnia, a magical, but dark wintry land ruled by the evil White Witch. Published in 1950, the story is set to the real world background of England during World War II. Readers easily made comparison to their own wartime experiences. The book is made even more interesting because of its strong Christian overtones. 

Audible reviewers wrote, "The four young heroes and Aslan the lion are lovingly created and detailed, and audio [narrated by Michael York] brings them to brighter life in one's imagination than any movie or visual recording can." 

Michael York's reading of this classic is as "enchanting" as the story. "His British accent is fitting, all intonations are perfect, and he adds just the right amount of drama in all the right places." The narration of each character is distinct and fits perfectly their personalities.

View all my reviews

Sunday, April 28, 2019

The Gods of Guilt (Mickey Haller, #5; Harry Bosch Universe, #25)The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

John Fisher Past failures have hurt defense lawyer Mickey Haller's reputation and estranged his daughter. Haunted by these ghosts of his past, Haller works tirelessly and bring all his skill to bear on a case that could mean his ultimate redemption or proof of his ultimate guilt. In the Gods of Guilt, a web developer pimp is accused of murdering a prostitute, but claims to be innocent.

Michael Connelly tells a suspenseful story, with plot twists, that keep the reader involved in the story. He is a master of courtroom drama. I was so fascinated that I listened all night long. Finally, at six a.m. I finished the story and then fell asleep.

View all my reviews
After Anatevka: LiveAfter Anatevka: Live by Alexandra Silber
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

John Fisher A special live performance for Fiddler on the Roof fans about what might have happened to Tevye’s family. A cast of rising Broadway stars joined actress and author Alexandra Silber in celebrating the Audible release of After Anatevka, the historical novel she wrote about Tevye’s second-eldest daughter, Hodel. Silber’s fascination with Hodel began when she played her in a production of Fiddler in London’s West End. Actors often write a backstory for the characters they play so they can fully imagine and embody them onstage. But Silber was more interested in Hodel’s fate than her history. “I had never played a character who felt so much like me,” she says. “I felt responsible for what happened to her after she boards the train to Siberia to join her revolutionary fiancé Perchik.” 

While this presentation highlights some wonderful singing from the original score, the story of Hodel really didn't keep my attention and I soon lost interest. 

(Excerpts taken from Audible's description of the presentation.)

View all my reviews

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Couscous and asparagus salad

Couscous and asparagus salad

Sometimes young people are hesitant to try new things. This couscous and asparagus salad was a great success with the seven young missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who recently had dinner with me in my apartment in Pristina, Kosovo.


  • 8 oz whole wheat couscous
  • 1 lb thin asparagus spears, tough ends trimmed
  • 3 medium tomatoes, cut to bite size
  • 1/4 cup red onion, minced
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
  • salt to taste
  • fresh cracked pepper, to taste


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add asparagus and cook until tender, about 3 minutes.
  2. Remove with a large slotted spoon and rinse in a colander in the sink under cold water to stop it from cooking.
  3. Add the couscous to the boiling water and cook according to package directions.
  4. Chop the asparagus into small 1/2 inch pieces.
  5. Drain the couscous and rinse under cold water, place in a large bowl.
  6. Add the chopped asparagus, tomatoes, red onion, lemon juice, olive oil, parsley, salt and pepper to the bowl.
  7. Taste for salt and pepper and serve room temperature or chilled.

Nutrition Information

Yield: 5 servings, Serving Size: a little over 1 cup
  • Amount Per Serving:
  • Weight Watcher Points: 5
  • Calories: 170 calories
  • Total Fat: 4g
  • Saturated Fat: g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg
  • Sodium: 10mg
  • Carbohydrates: 30g
  • Fiber: 5g
  • Sugar: 0g
  • Protein: 6.5g

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Notre Dame Cathedral

As we remember it...

By John Fisher

In March 2018 Melanie and I visited Paris. One of our favorite places is the Notre Dame Cathedral. Although I have been to the Notre Dame many times in the almost 7 years I have lived in France, I am awed each time I visit. I am grateful that we took time on this trip to explore the archaeological site under the Cathedral as well as to go into the building itself. 

Built between 1163 and 1350 on the Île de la Cité, Notre Dame de Paris is one of the oldest gothic cathedrals in the world. In English the name of the cathedral means 'Our Lady', and it is dedicated to the mother of Jesus. During the last eight centuries, the cathedral building has been renovated and restored several times. The last major renovation was in 1845.

Outside Notre Dame 1000s of pigeons come to feed. With a little grain they will climb all over you.

We entered the Cathedral through the doors under the two front towers..
The cathedral has two towers standing 226 ft (69 metres) tall on its front. Visitors can climb to the top to see magnificent views of Paris as well as visit the bell tower, where the Victor Hugo's Hunchback of Notre Dame lived. From that vantage point, one could get a bird's eye view of the cathedral’s multiple gargoyles.The access to climb the cathedral’s two towers was on the North Tower (rue du Cloître). Visitors climbed 387 steep steps, since the cathedral doesn’t have an elevator.

The organ has over 8,000 pipes. It is positioned high above the doors of the Cathedral in the back where you enter.

The stone work is magnificent.

As are the stained glass windows.

In the midst of World War II, it was rumored that the Nazis might destroy the stained glass. It was therefore removed and only reinstalled again after the war had ended.  The Rose window is supposed to be the biggest glass window in the world produced in the 13th century.

Sometimes when I sat in silence and took in the peace and beauty of my surroundings, I would fall asleep.    
The last time I visited Notre Dame, I sat in the back pew and just enjoyed a moment of peace and contemplation. I enjoyed sitting and contemplating the beauty of this edifice built I felt as a tribute to Jesus Christ. I marvel at the faith and devotion of the builders. It took over two hundred years to build. Those who laid the first stones would never see the building completed. But they must have had a vision of something great they were working on.

 One day a traveller, walking along a lane, came across 3 stonecutters working in a quarry. Each was busy cutting a block of stone. Interested to find out what they were working on, he asked them each what they were doing. The first worker said, “I am making a living for me”. The traveller turned to the second worker and asked him what he was doing and he said, “I am doing the best job of stone cutting in the entire country.” Then the traveller turned to the third worker. He seemed to be the happiest of the three and when asked what he was doing replied: “I am building a cathedral.

Today, April 15, 2019, the Notre Dame is in flames. I'm sorry my children that you will not see the building as it was. We should have taken you when you were young. Notre Dame has been part of my life since I was 11 years old when I first visited Paris. I saw it many times during the 18 months I lived in Paris as a young man. I loved the building. I'm saddened by this great loss. But I am confident a new edifice will be built that is equally beautiful. I may not see it, but you will.