Back to where we started.
29.05.2013 - 29.06.2013 19 °C
This morning we woke to another cloudy day. We had breakfast and met outside the hotel at 8.15am. The one night stopovers are really tiring. We've only had two places since starting our Croatian Tour where we've been in one place for more than a night. However - from now on, and for the next three weeks we're on our own (self catering in apartments), we'll actually be able to unpack our bags - and start eating normally!
Miriana was our English speaking guide today and they brought in a French speaking guide for the Belgian team. We went on a walking tour through Osijek and our first stop was the main square. Again - bullet and shrapnel damage everywhere. We went to Osijek's beautiful Cathedral, also in disrepair on the exterior. It was shelled 100 times by the Serbian Army who attacked the city from the other side of the river - about a hundred metres from where our hotel is. Inside the Cathedral was just breaktaking. There is just one frescoe of Jesus that hasn't been repaired, but all of the others have. Every leadlight window in the church was destroyed but they have all been replaced, and funded by different countries around the world. Each window displays the year that it was replaced and by which country. Wonderful to see. From the Cathedral we walked to the Fortress - and had another history lesson there.
Back on the bus and drove out of Osijek to the Vina Belje Winery - established in 1697 - in the Baranja region. We were taken in to the wine cellars (literally hundreds of years old), and then sat down to a wine tasting - two whites and a red. All beautiful wines - with an alcohol percentage of 12, 14 and 16%. We would have bought a couple of bottles but weight is an issue with us obviously. Our Belgian travelling companions made a few purchases - they don't have too far to travel.
We stopped for lunch at a restaurant on a property called "The Kormoran Restoran". The property is actually in the Kopacki Rit Nature Park. Cormorants are one of hundreds of species of birds in this Nature Park. We had a traditional Croatian dish for lunch - Goulash. It was really tasty.
Now - here we are - in the bus and heading back to Zagreb. We leave for Budapest by train tomorrow morning.
Before I finish today's entry, I thought I'd pass on some snippets of information that I've learned on our travels throughout these countries.
Two years after the war ended 70% of the city of Sarajevo had been rebuilt/cleaned up/repaired. Since then it's been a slow process removing the scars - it will probably never be completed.
Of the 4 million original inhabitants (prior to the war in 1991) of Bosnia & Herzegovina - about 2 million have moved abroad. Many of these people work and send money back to their families (which is good for the country), they're able to save money to buy or build a house in B&H, and eventually return home to retire hopefully with a new car.
The unemployment rate in Croatia is 20%, and 15% in the Summer season. The average wage is 700 euros per month.
The unemployment rate in Bosnia is 43%. The average wage is 400 euros per month.
Croatia will join the European Union on 1st July 2013, but will retain their currency of Kunas. There are no plans yet for Bosnia & Herzegovina to join the EU.
In the aftermath of the war - the people are moving on - and despite their past, they have a sense of humour.
We've really enjoyed our time in Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina. Both countries look after their tourists very well. Our guide Mirjana (I finally got the spelling right) - pronounced Miriarna - gave up her own personal time to help us - she was wonderful. The countries are beautiful - with absolutely stunning scenery, intriguing and at times tragic histories - the list goes on. We were here for 8 days only, but these 8 days will not be forgotten.