The route – Croatia and BiH

I have added the third route page on the blog covering details of our trip from Italy through Croatia, brief visit to Bosnia Herzegovina (BiH), and back to Italy.
You will need to visit the blog to read the detail if you’re interested. For non-bloggers, click here and then on the Route page in the top right hand corner. Then click on underlined links (Croatia and BiH) for the detail.

The Croatian Adriatic coast is a great place for a ‘beach holiday’. It is geared up for tourism, mainly for German tourists of which there are many. You generally get greeted in German, but most people speak some English (and Italian). It has beautiful calm, clear water, great for swimming in. Although most people spend their time grilling themselves on the shore and only going into the sea for a cooling paddle. It’s a bit like Salthill on steroids (the Irish will know what I mean!) with great weather.
A lot of the coastal towns are beautiful (Dubrovnik, Split) but very crowded. They get a lot of Cruise ships.
You do get an underlying feeling that Croatia has sold its soul to the tourist. Great coast for the tourist less good for ‘the traveller’.

It’s worth going inland for a break and to get away from tourist pricing! It’s more mountainous, fewer people, more ‘real’.
BiH is even more so, mountainous, outdoor sports, poorer, less developed, hard to sum up given we only had 2 days, one night there … but it was certainly memorable.

Ignatius

Back to Croatia

Just checked the last words of the last diary blog – something about never forgetting our one night in Bosnia-Hercegovina. Prophetic words – there was an earthquake later that night. We both woke around 1am to a loud rumble and the van shaking. Didn’t last long. In the morning Sandra (campsite owner) told us it measured 4.1 on the richter scale, and the epicentre was pretty nearby. It’s the first earthquake we’ve experienced.

14th June

We drove up into the mountains, via the Catholic pilgrimage site of Medugorje, and on to the Kravica waterfalls. These are not as spectacular as the Plitvice Lakes, but have the huge advantage that you can swim in the pool beneath them. It was cool, refreshing and totally delicious swimming there. We stayed a while, had lunch, and then drove on, out of Bosnia-Hercegovina by a very scenic and interesting route.

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Kravica falls – that’s me there, standing on a rock

If you look at a map you’ll see there’s a bit of Bosnia that goes down to the coast, splitting Croatia in two. After having had a bit of trouble entering Bosnia we did not want to leave it then have to re-enter it to get through to Dubrovnik, so we planned a route that led down that land corridor to the coast, then out of Bosnia. Clearly though it’s not a well-used route. The road surface was worthy of Sicily and it was single track with sporadic passing places. Didn’t see much other traffic thankfully!

Back in Croatia, on good roads, we headed towards Dubrovnik and stopped at a campsite about 16km north of the city.

15th June

Dubrovnik’s been high on our list of must-see places. I was fearful that after so many gorgeous medieval walled towns it would be just another such, but no – it’s in a league of its own and well worth a visit. Despite extensive damage in the 1990s wars, it’s been fully restored. The walls are complete and you can walk around the top of them, and the streets are very pretty. Several areas around the city have been used as locations for filming Game of Thrones, and we tried to find some of these. Visited a few museums, had a very nice lunch out.

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On the Dubrovnik city walls
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Dubrovnik rooftops

The day was very warm and humid which made the visit less comfortable than I’d have liked but we really enjoyed it. Took a bus from outside the campsite to get there and back which was a good no-hassle way of doing it!

16th June

A day of future planning. As we’re heading into Montenegro and that’s outside Vodafone’s roam-free area, we thought we should find campsites, plan a route etc while we still have access to the internet (it’ll be £3 a day for pretty limited data allowance in Montenegro and I’ll want to save that for Google maps!) So we spent a lot of the day online, planning. I also did some writing.

Down a steep hill from the campsite is a small beach and cafe, so we had a swim and lunch there. Very refreshing, but walking back up the hill made us too hot again!

17th June

We had planned to move on today to Montenegro but we rather like this campsite so decided to spend one more day here. It’s lunchtime as I write this, and if all goes to plan it’ll be the last blog entry until we’re back in Italy in about a week, after taking the ferry from Bar to Bari.

Lazy days then on to Bosnia-Hercegovina

June 10th

That campsite outside Split was truly lovely. Everything (except perhaps the shower heads if I’m being picky) was spot on. We spent the first day there lounging around, catching up on chores and generally relaxing, but also had a swim in the sea and breakfast at the campsite restaurant. strobeccampsite.jpg

June 11th

Cycled into Split. First time on the bike since my fall in Zadar and I’ll admit I had lost some confidence. It was about 8km from the campsite to Split town centre, along a country road with some hills to start with (and we got chased by a dog which didn’t help!) and then the route was along a beach front road before entering the city.

We locked up the bikes and went around the old parts of the city on foot as usual. Split’s interesting in that the old Roman retirement palace built by Emporer Diocletian is still in use – filled with shops, restaurants and businesses, obviously parts of the buildings are more modern but all use parts of the original Roman walls etc. Fascinating place to wander around.

Cycled back to the campsite at Strobec via a slightly different route which avoided the dog. And then straight in the sea to cool off – it was a really hot day. Temperatures have been creeping up and up and are now around 30 during the day. We ate the evening meal at the campsite restaurant.

June 12th

Another day of lazing around the campsite. I have some writing edits to get on with so I do need the time! But of course we did go in the sea again.

June 13th

Time to move on. After calling at a shopping mall for some food we drove via the coast road then through the mountains, into Bosnia-Hercegovina. At the border we had to show passports then were asked for our ‘green card’ – something to prove we had insurance. Hmm. We don’t have one. We showed our insurance certificate. Lots of discussion amongst the border officials (who were holding our passports) then one said perhaps we give him something ‘for coffee’. Ignatius realised the lay of the land, said well we don’t have to go into Bosnia, perhaps we’ll just go back to Croatia, and at that the official decided we could progress after all.

We drove on to Mostar. Huge difference between coastal Croatia (very busy, touristy, a little bit ‘fake’) and Hercegovina (the southern part of Bosnia-Hercegovina). Here you can tell it’s much poorer, less tourist money coming in, still scarred by the 1990s wars. It reminded me in parts of Sicily, whereas the rich Croatian coast is more like the south of France only full of Germans.

At Mostar we paid an arm and a leg to park near the Stari Most (Old Bridge – the one that was built in the 16th century, blown up by the Croats in 1991 then reconstructed in 2004). Wandered through the old town on slippery cobbles, over the bridge, had a look in a museum which screened a video about the rebuilding of the bridge, and generally sweltered under the unforgiving sun. mostar.jpg

Headed out of town southwards where we found a lovely little campsite by the river. The woman (Sandra) who runs it is very friendly, offered us beers on the house. We chatted to her for a long time. She has an Irish friend and on hearing Ignatius is Irish came out with ‘céad míle fáilte’ which was not a phrase we expected to hear in Bosnia-Hercegovina. She used to work at Medugorje – a Catholic pilgrimage site where the Virgin Mary appeared to a bunch of children back in 1981 – and on hearing Ignatius’s mum has been there insisted on giving us a little gift to pass on when we come home. I’ve rarely known a welcome as friendly as this at any campsite. This is likely to be our only night in this country but it’s not one I’ll forget.