A Travellerspoint blog

Sarajevo

Still bearing the scars of war.

rain 15 °C
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So. Today we have continued on - a team of 8 travellers, 6 Belgians and 2 Aussies. The 10 of us (including our driver and Miriana our guide) are in a huge coach. The coach needs to go back to Zagreb ready for the next tour, so it made sense to take us with it.
We left Dubrovnik at 8.30am, going through the little piece of Bosnia, back in to Croatia and then crossed the official border into Bosnia and Herzegovina at around 10am. Bosnia and Herzegovina are two regions within the country. Bosnia means "place of water", Herzegovina means "land of the Duke".
We drove through the small town of Medjugorje (pronounced Madgioray) - which is now a popular tourist destination. In 1981 apparently the Virgin Mary appeared to 6 school children here. Now 1 million tourists per year come to this town.
We arrived in Mostar at about 11am. A lady called Blaschenka (means Blessed) met Red and I as our English speaking guide, and Miriana took the rest of the crew. We went on a walking tour of Mostar - a town that is on the road to Sarajevo. There is a lingering Turkish influence in the town - we were taken through a traditional Turkish House. Walking along the streets, there is evidence everywhere of the war 20 years ago. Buildings that still display bullet holes and shrapnel damage - a very sobering sight. My first thought was - why haven't they repaired the damage? Many people never returned to Mostar after the war - they were displaced. Of those that remain, in some cases there just isn't the money available to fund repairs. Looking at these homes every day would be a constant reminder of their tragic past. We were shown the local mosque and then taken to a lookout to see the beautiful bridge in Mostar. They call it the Old New Bridge as it was badly damaged during the recent war. The original architect of the bridge wanted it to be in the shape of a rainbow. It is really something to see. As with so many of the rivers in Croatia and Bosnia - this one is a beautiful green colour, that way because of the minerals in the water.
At this point Blaschenka said goodbye and we were on our own for a while before we met up with the others. The heavens opened and a torrential downpour took place in Mostar and on us. We found a little restaurant and had some lunch - traditional Bosnian cuisine. We continued walking along the pebble streets (now awash), through the market and then on to the little bridge which (being in the shape of a rainbow) inclines and declines quite quickly.
It was pouring again unfortunately. We met everyone in the little main square and huddled under a verandah, then walked to the bus to continue our journey - saturated - even though we wore rain jackets and had an umbrella.
There was a car accident on one of the small roads and our bus driver (don't know his name yet) had to turn our huge bus around to go back the way we came - he had to do a uey (U-turn). It was an 8 point turn - I counted them - great driver!
We travelled northwards towards Sarajevo through the most beautiful mountains and gorges. I wasn't even aware of this region - the best kept secret in Bosnia.
We arrived in Sarajevo at around 4.30pm and quickly checked in to our hotel. We met again 15 minutes later and took off on our tour of the city. Once again, there was an English speaking guide waiting for Red and I. Another history lesson for us - there is no way I'm going to be able to remember all of this info - but hopefully I'll retain some of it. Our guide Willy is a local guy and he focused more on the history of centuries ago, finishing with a bit of the Serbian-Bosnian War. We stood on the spot where Frans Ferdinand and his wife were assasinated in 1914. This act - with Austria attacking Serbia - was the catalyst for the start of WWI.
A bit of free time to walk around the centre of the city, and we were then taken back to our hotel. We had a really nice meal on Level 15 - in a revolving restaurant - giving us a 360 degree view of the city. We sat with our fellow travellers, and thank goodness - one older gentleman - Raymond (with the emphasis on "mond") - speaks some English. So we were able to communicate - with a bit of difficulty and a lot of laughs.
Marketplace in Sarajevo - Bosnia.

Marketplace in Sarajevo - Bosnia.

Room with a view - in the mountains on the way to Sarajevo.

Room with a view - in the mountains on the way to Sarajevo.

Driving through the gorges - taken from the front of our bus - Bosnia.

Driving through the gorges - taken from the front of our bus - Bosnia.

Walking across the bridge at Mostar - Bosnia.

Walking across the bridge at Mostar - Bosnia.

Mostar Market - Bosnia.

Mostar Market - Bosnia.

Town of Mostar - Bosnia.

Town of Mostar - Bosnia.

Stormy but scenic afternoon in Bosnia.

Stormy but scenic afternoon in Bosnia.

Selfie - Mostar Bridge in the background.

Selfie - Mostar Bridge in the background.

Mineral filled water at Mostar - Bosnia.

Mineral filled water at Mostar - Bosnia.

The beautiful Mostar Bridge - called the Old New Bridge. Rebuilt after the war in '91 - '95.

The beautiful Mostar Bridge - called the Old New Bridge. Rebuilt after the war in '91 - '95.

Our guide Blaschenka demonstrating how to make Turkish coffee in a traditional Turkish house - Mostar.

Our guide Blaschenka demonstrating how to make Turkish coffee in a traditional Turkish house - Mostar.

Damage done to the Cathedral in Sarajevo during the Bosnian Serbian War - still not repaired.

Damage done to the Cathedral in Sarajevo during the Bosnian Serbian War - still not repaired.

Cathedral in Sarajevo.

Cathedral in Sarajevo.

Stunning mountain scenery from our bus on our drive north to Sarajevo.

Stunning mountain scenery from our bus on our drive north to Sarajevo.

There's nothing boring about a bus trip when you are looking at this - Bosnia and Herzegovina.

There's nothing boring about a bus trip when you are looking at this - Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Posted by Gibbo54 13:10 Archived in Bosnia And Herzegovina Comments (0)

Dubrovnik

A walk on the City Walls.

all seasons in one day 25 °C
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We slept in this morning until 7.30am - heaven! Between 9 and 10 hours sleep, we woke this morning to the sound of rain and thunder. We had a slow morning and at roughly 11.30am we caught the local bus from outside our hotel - right in to the centre of Dubrovnik. We entered the old city and started our walk on the City Walls.
This was brilliant. The weather improved to the point where it was perfect - some interesting clouds around but mostly sunshine - it made for fantastic photos. We spent 2 hours walking around the perimeter of the Old City of Dubrovnik. It is spectacular - a sea of terracotta rooves. The walls are incredibly high on the sea side, a huge drop (scary). The views are amazing, especially those of waves from the turquoise sea crashing on to the rocks.
We eventually made our way right up into the Tower, the highest part of the city walls. From here we were able to see the whole city - bathed in sunshine. Should the memories fade we have the photos to remind us.
Back down on the ground we found a restaurant for lunch. We got talking to an Irish couple alongside us. We had a toasted sandwich of the blue ribbon variety and a Leffe Brown Beer (Belgian) and chatted away for about an hour. During this time the weather turned foul - it didn't take long. We went back to the little jewellery shop that I visited yesterday and bought a gift for our Carly - something that hopefully she will love.
We then walked back to the bus stop to travel back to our hotel. By this time it was pouring with rain. By the time we got back to the hotel, the sun was shining again !?!
Then a quiet and uneventful remainder of the day.
Enjoying lunch and a Leffe Beer - Dubrovnik.

Enjoying lunch and a Leffe Beer - Dubrovnik.

Fortress in one corner of the Dubrovnik City Walls.

Fortress in one corner of the Dubrovnik City Walls.

The highest point on the City Walls - this is Dubrovnik!

The highest point on the City Walls - this is Dubrovnik!

Sun shining over Dubrovnik.

Sun shining over Dubrovnik.

Sea Port of Dubrovnik.

Sea Port of Dubrovnik.

Red on the City Walls of Dubrovnik.

Red on the City Walls of Dubrovnik.

If I stick to the inside I might not realise how high this really is!

If I stick to the inside I might not realise how high this really is!

Busy sea port of Dubrovnik.

Busy sea port of Dubrovnik.

Orthodox Church in Dubrovnik.

Orthodox Church in Dubrovnik.

Selfie - on the City Walls of Dubrovnik.

Selfie - on the City Walls of Dubrovnik.

City Walls on Dubrovnik's coastline - there is a bar on the rocks in the foreground.

City Walls on Dubrovnik's coastline - there is a bar on the rocks in the foreground.

Colours of the day - Dubrovnik's coastline.

Colours of the day - Dubrovnik's coastline.

Dramatic walls - long drop - Dubrovnik.

Dramatic walls - long drop - Dubrovnik.

Walking the City Walls of Dubrovnik. To take our time - it took us two hours.

Walking the City Walls of Dubrovnik. To take our time - it took us two hours.

Picture perfect - Dubrovnik.

Picture perfect - Dubrovnik.

The Bell Tower in the Franciscan Monastery - Dubrovnik.

The Bell Tower in the Franciscan Monastery - Dubrovnik.

Looking down on the old fountain - Dubrovnik.

Looking down on the old fountain - Dubrovnik.

Posted by Gibbo54 13:05 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

Dubrovnik

We are sitting on the Dragon's Tail of Croatia.

semi-overcast 18 °C
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Up and off early this morning at 8.30am. For a new hotel, the Hotel Katarina is yet to perfect the operation of the Dining Room. The food last night was average at best, like me cooking on a bad night. This morning was no better. A shame, because it is a lovely hotel.
We drove in a southerly direction - inland rather than on the coast - through beautiful mountain ranges. There is a small pocket of land that is now Bosnia and Herzegovina - about 11 kms in length. It's on the road Split to Dubrovnik, so we had to cross the border to be allowed access in to Bosnia where we had our Technical Break in a little town called Neum. There are a couple of stories about why this little piece of land became Bosnian. One is that when the city of Dubrovnik was badly damaged in an earthquake in 1699, the Ottoman Empire offered to help financially with the reconstruction of the city.But - they wanted a piece of Croatian land in return - so they acquired this little bit.
Back into Croatia and along the beautiful coastline all the way in to Dubrovnik. We stopped right outside one of the gates in to the walled city of Dubronik - where we joined hundreds of tourists. This would be a nightmare in peak Summer season.
We split up inside the walled city and had some free time before we met up for our guided tour. Fabiana, Red and I found a little restaurant and had some pizza. We had to hurry them up in the end (the chef was taking his time). Back to the designated meeting spot, and the English speaking contingent were met by a young lady called Sandra who took us on a walking tour through the Old City. We visited the Franciscan Monastery which is alongside Europe's third oldest pharmacy - and still operating. The Monastery was a medical assistance post during the Serbian - Croatian/Bosnian War and the Red Cross had a red cross displayed on the roof. This unfortunately made them a target, and the building was shelled 56 times. We were also taken through the Rector's Palace and the Cathedral. At the end of the tour we'd had our fill of history and churches - alot of the information was washing over us. We had a final hour here just to have a walk around and a relax. We saw a couple of weddings take place, one looked Croatian, the other one looked English.
I paid a visit to a tiny little jewellery shop and got talking to a really nice guy in the shop whose father-in-law makes the silver jewellery. I bought a silver pendant (without the chain) which has been made in the tradition of Croatian jewellery. They are copied from originals which are displayed in the Monastery and are hundreds of years old - very special.
At this point it was time for our group of 25 to split in to 3 groups - one group going home, one group going to the Balkans and one group (including Red and I) are going in to Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was time once again to say goodbye to our new friends of only a few days. It's interesting how close you can become in a short period of time. It feels like we've known some of these people for a long while. After exchanging some email addresses and having a final photo shoot in front of one of our 3 different hotels we waved goodbye and made our way to our hotel in Dubrovnik.
We asked at the desk about doing a 1 day cruise to 3 islands tomorrow, but when we went to book we were told that the cruise was cancelled due to the weather forecast. Fair enough! So tomorrow - our free day in Dubrovnik will be spent in the town - we'll have a chill-out.
Our balcony looks out over a beautiful little bay - turquoise blue in colour - lovely. We had a really nice dinner here in the dining room, and an early night. We are travel-weary.
One of the many alleyways in the Old City of Dubrovnik.

One of the many alleyways in the Old City of Dubrovnik.

Main Street in Dubrovnik.

Main Street in Dubrovnik.

We were greeted with this scene when we arrived outside the walled city of Dubrovnik. Tourists galore - and this is just the shoulder season!

We were greeted with this scene when we arrived outside the walled city of Dubrovnik. Tourists galore - and this is just the shoulder season!

City Walls of Dubrovnik.

City Walls of Dubrovnik.

Beautiful town on the outskirts of Dubrovnik.

Beautiful town on the outskirts of Dubrovnik.

Thorn amongst the roses. From left - Nina, Anne, Red, Fabiana, Elaine. Mother and daughter are on the outsides. Fabiana - Brazil, Nina and Elaine - Canada.

Thorn amongst the roses. From left - Nina, Anne, Red, Fabiana, Elaine. Mother and daughter are on the outsides. Fabiana - Brazil, Nina and Elaine - Canada.

On the road to Dubrovnik.

On the road to Dubrovnik.

We stopped here for a coffee break - outside Dubrovnik. Just beautiful.

We stopped here for a coffee break - outside Dubrovnik. Just beautiful.

Village on the Dalmation Coast - Croatia.

Village on the Dalmation Coast - Croatia.

The view from our hotel balcony - Dubrovnik.

The view from our hotel balcony - Dubrovnik.

One of the Squares inside Dubrovnik Old City. Anne is standing to the right.

One of the Squares inside Dubrovnik Old City. Anne is standing to the right.

Inside the Rector's Palace - Dubrovnik Old City.

Inside the Rector's Palace - Dubrovnik Old City.

Dubrovnik's Cathedral - complete with wedding party.

Dubrovnik's Cathedral - complete with wedding party.

Posted by Gibbo54 12:55 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

Split

Named after the "Spiny Broom" plant - a common shrub in the area.

semi-overcast 20 °C
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A good sleep last night - a comfortable bed. We left at 8.30am It's been raining this morning but is clearing up already. We're now travelling in a southerly direction on our way to Split. The area in Croatia that we've travelled through for the last hour was occupied by the Germans in WWII. There is an airbase nearby where German planes would take off and bomb Croatian cities - just unthinkable. The airbase is now used by the Croatian Army. It's hard to imagine this country in times of war - it's such a peaceful place. Yesterday we passed by houses in little villages close to Plitvice that still have bullet holes in their walls - from the Serbian-Croatian War back in 1991-1995. A very sobering site. Our guide told us that one town suffered 200,000 casualties.
We've travelled alongside a huge mountain range and are now driving through a 5 km long tunnel called "Tunel Saint Rok". We will reappear on the other side of the mountain range. This tunnel is the border between one climate type and another. The climate on the northern side is Temperate and the climate where we will emerge is Meditteranean. We've been told that we will notice a difference.
Yes - there is a difference. We've gone from mountainous and heavily wooded terrain to more sparse vegetation in the Dalmatian Region.
We continued to drive south east along the Dalmatian Coast - passing by the most beautiful scenery. The weather has cleared up a lot - still some cloud but lots of sun. The ocean is a beautiful deep blue - this is the Adriatic Sea. We stopped at a little town called Primosten - a picture perfect spot, photos of this town are used on tourist catalogues for the Dalmatian Region of Croatia. Took some photos of our own - they're beauties.
On then to Trogir - where we stopped for lunch and had some free time to walk around. A very old town with lots of alleyways. Red and I climbed up in to the Belltower of the Cathedral of St. Lawrence - now this was scary. It was high up with just metal steps and a single iron railing. The last few feet consisted of an almost vertical series of steps. I was really glad to make it to the top. The views were worth it, but I'm not sure I would have done it had I realised what it was like beforehand.
We sat in the Square and had a salad roll for lunch while talking to a couple of our travelling companions - two ladies from Geelong. Another beautiful icecream, Croatian is just as good as Czech.
Back on the bus to continue to Split. This is a very popular holiday destination for travellers from all over Europe and beyond. We were met by a local guide called Emilia who took us on a tour through the Diocletians Palace. Diocletian was a roman emporer who built the Palace in preparation for his retirement in 305AD.
Even though the Palace has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, there have been shops and apartments built within the building. This has outraged our guide, she is very passionate about the preservation of the site, and urged us to do what we can to raise awareness about this issue. It was a really good tour - amazing to walk through what is called the cellar of this Palace and disturbing to see the degradation of the site.
We had some free time so we walked along the lovely Promenade in Split, had a seat in the sun for a while. Then an obligatory stop off to a shop that produces and sells a range of olive oils, jams, nuts, liquer wine etc. At 6pm I think all of us would have preferred going straight to our hotel, but when you're on a tour - these shopping interludes are a part of the deal.
Finally to our hotel, dinner - and the end of the day.
The Promenade - Split.

The Promenade - Split.

Selfie in front of the Diocletian's Palace - Split.

Selfie in front of the Diocletian's Palace - Split.

Inside the walls of the Diocletian's Palace - Split.

Inside the walls of the Diocletian's Palace - Split.

The 3,000 year old Cathedral in the Diocletian's Palace - Split.

The 3,000 year old Cathedral in the Diocletian's Palace - Split.

Diocletian used this podium to address his subjects.

Diocletian used this podium to address his subjects.

Moisture from the floor above is causing moss on the walls of the cellar of the Diocletian's Palace - Split.

Moisture from the floor above is causing moss on the walls of the cellar of the Diocletian's Palace - Split.

The cellar of the Diocletian's Palace - Split.

The cellar of the Diocletian's Palace - Split.

View from the Bell Tower of the Cathedral of St. Lawrence - Trogir.

View from the Bell Tower of the Cathedral of St. Lawrence - Trogir.

Primosten - Croatia.

Primosten - Croatia.

Croatia's beautiful Dalmatian Coast.

Croatia's beautiful Dalmatian Coast.

Shades of turquoise - Dalmatian Coast, Croatia.

Shades of turquoise - Dalmatian Coast, Croatia.

Looking up in the stairwell of the Bell Tower in Trogir.

Looking up in the stairwell of the Bell Tower in Trogir.

Posted by Gibbo54 13:19 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

Plitvice

"It's a poem in the middle of nowhere".

overcast 14 °C
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After breakfast this morning we wheeled our bags down to Reception and met the members of our tour. I haven't actually counted them but I think we have 25 people in our group - so obviously a big bus. We have about 6 Belgians (who speak French), 6 ladies from Brazillian (who speak Spanish), and the rest of the group are from all over, but are English speaking. We have two guides (Mariana and Simon) who share the translations. So consequently we have 3 commentaries - bit of a pain for everyone - none more so than our guides I would think. But it works pretty well, you just learn to turn off when you don't understand the language.
We left our hotel at 8.30am for a morning tour of Zagreb. Our first stop was the Cemetery of all places. This is really grand - with an Arcade at the front containing the graves of well known and wealthy people. An impressive place. Then into the city itself, past buildings that we saw yesterday, but this time with more information (and less sun). We went inside the beautiful Zageb Cathedral, the roof of this cathedral collapsed during the earthquake back in the early 90's. Would you believe, the chandeliers are actually from Las Vegas! We walked through the lower town and upper town and then had a couple of hours of free time to have lunch and wander around for a bit.
Then to Plitvice (pronounced Plitvitser). We expected some lakes on different levels with some waterfalls connecting them. In all my born days, I have never, ever, EVER - seen anything like this! The Plitvice Lakes National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the most beautiful National Park that I have ever seen, and probably will ever see. Any waterfall that I have ever visited in the past - simply pales in to insignificance. There are a total of 16 lakes here, and we only saw 8 of them - but what we saw today, I think will stay with us until we're old and grey.
Firstly, we started by walking down to the base of the tallest waterfall which is 78 metres high. The lake here is 45 metres deep. The water was a beautiful turquoise colour - even though it's overcast today. From there we walked up along the sides of different lakes, along wooden paths or decks, sometimes with water washing up and over the paths. Up and up we walked seeing waterfall after waterfall - of different sizes and speeds. Captivating is probably the best word I can think of at the moment to describe Plitvice. We took so many photos and video - we just couldn't get enough of it all.
Nature at it's most beautiful. I met a lovely lady on the tour this morning - her name is Fabiana and she is from Brazil. In her words about this magical place - "It's a poem in the middle of nowhere". I couldn't have put it any better!
At the end of our walk we boarded a boat and took a slow peaceful trip around one of the lakes and then walked up 218 steps to where our bus was waiting for us.
I have written these words about 30 minutes after we arrived at our hotel - I wanted to put this on paper before the euphoria diminished. This place is in a small part of Croatia - about 2 hours drive out of Zagreb. If you've heard about Plitvice and think that you might like to go there, I urge you to. This experience has been an absolute highlight of our trip.
Okay. I'll calm down now.
We checked in to our hotel, a lovely place in Plitvice - just 2 years old. We've now just come back from dinner with our new group of travelling companions. A variety of people from all over the world - there are some real characters in there. We've shared a great day with them today.
Peace. Plitvice Lakes National Park - Croatia.

Peace. Plitvice Lakes National Park - Croatia.

Plitvice Lakes National Park - Croatia.

Plitvice Lakes National Park - Croatia.

Up close and personal with waterfalls - Plitvice.

Up close and personal with waterfalls - Plitvice.

Selfie at Plitvice.

Selfie at Plitvice.

Our first view of the waterfalls at Plitvice - stunning!

Our first view of the waterfalls at Plitvice - stunning!

Leadlight windows in Zagreb's Cathedral.

Leadlight windows in Zagreb's Cathedral.

Anne alongside a hard working Turkish woman - famous statue in Zagreb's Marketplace.

Anne alongside a hard working Turkish woman - famous statue in Zagreb's Marketplace.

The quiet one in the middle sits outside Zagreb's oldest secondary school.

The quiet one in the middle sits outside Zagreb's oldest secondary school.

Zagreb's Cathedral.

Zagreb's Cathedral.

Painting of Mother and Child in the little Chapel in the Stone Gate - Zagreb.

Painting of Mother and Child in the little Chapel in the Stone Gate - Zagreb.

Inside Zagreb's Cathedral - chandeliers from Las Vegas.

Inside Zagreb's Cathedral - chandeliers from Las Vegas.

The arcade in Zagreb's Cemetery - the resting place of famous and wealthy people.

The arcade in Zagreb's Cemetery - the resting place of famous and wealthy people.

The front entrance to Zagreb's Cemetery.

The front entrance to Zagreb's Cemetery.

Plitvice Lakes National Park - Croatia.

Plitvice Lakes National Park - Croatia.

Amazing waterfalls - Plitvice Lakes National Park - Croatia.

Amazing waterfalls - Plitvice Lakes National Park - Croatia.

Red and Fabiana at Plitvice.

Red and Fabiana at Plitvice.

Red and Anne at the foot of the main waterfall at Plitvice - Croatia - 78 metres high.

Red and Anne at the foot of the main waterfall at Plitvice - Croatia - 78 metres high.

Plitvice Lakes National Park - Croatia.

Plitvice Lakes National Park - Croatia.

How crazy is this? Plitvice Lakes National Park - Croatia.

How crazy is this? Plitvice Lakes National Park - Croatia.

Posted by Gibbo54 10:56 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

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