Rick Mihalevich drives his Croation visitors, Ervin Grubisic, front seat, his wife Jasna, left, and daughter Hana, as they leave for a tour of the Missouri Capitol.
By CHRISTINA STUEVE
A Croatian man fascinated with Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery is calling his own tour of the United States a Croatian Corps of Discovery.
By the time they are done, Ervin Grubisic and his wife, Jasna, daughter, Hana, and mother, Bosiljka, will have seen Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville, Tenn.; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; and Kitty Hawk and Wilmington, N.C.
Their visit in Missouri took them to Jefferson City, Kirksville, Lake of the Ozarks, St. Louis, Branson and Springfield.
Their Croatian Corps of Discovery began July 10 and ends Aug. 9.
The Thomas Hart Benton mural was their main interest at the Capitol.
They saw the House of Representatives floor and a few pristine marble hallways. Jasna videotaped the Capitol, including the office of state Rep. Merrill Townley, R-Chamois.
"We are delighted we visited so many museums and presentations in museums. The presentation animates the visitor," Jasna said.
In Jefferson City, they had a progressive dinner, with appetizers at Rick and Connie Mihalavech's home and Alaskan Salmon at Alan Doerhoff's home.
At their family reunion in Kirksville, they made Klobasa, a Croatian sausage recipe of tongues, hearts and liver.
Hana Grubisic, 15, likes American food. "We didn't expect such a rich menu, so many recipes. You can see so many influences and such phenomenal dressings," Hana said.
The Grubisics live in a high-rise building in Rijeka, Croatia, a seaport city of 150,000 on the Adriatic Sea.
Bolsiljka described America as "great and powerful."
With Hana's translation, she added: "It is different for us from such a small country, comparing ourselves to America."
Croatia's political situation is stable, with a growing democracy.
The war of independence from Yugoslavia, in 1991-1995, left Croatians with a new identity, Ervin said.
They say American peace-keepers are not there.
"We (Croatians) finally found out who we are," Ervin said. "We are proud to be Croatian, and we are very tolerant of Serbs and Bosnians," he added. "What we see now is a mixture of cultures and a tolerance of cultures."
Ervin is a merchant marine instructor at a navigation school.
The Grubisics noted two differences between America and their home.
They miss strong Croatian coffee. "American coffee is a little soft," Jasna Grubisic said.
She also noticed many overweight people on her visit to America. "Croatians are skinny," Alan Doerhoff explained.
Only 15, Hana speaks very good English. Ervin, 44, speaks English with an accent, but is understandable. Jasna, 39, understands but doesn't speak English, and Bosiljka, 77, speaks no English.
Hana, who wants to be a lawyer, is in her third year studying Italian and in her second year studying Latin. Next year, she will study German.
Her friends have prejudices about America, and she doesn't expect them to believe that she had a pleasant visit.
"They think America is violent, because of action movies and the media," she said.
Croatian teens don't watch (more accurate) documentaries, she said.
She described Croatia as a a classical Mediterranean country, based on history and culture.