Croatia & Bosnia/Herzegovina
Dubrovnik was expensive. Beautiful but expensive. As the old town emerged from behind a cliff as we were driving along the coast from Montenegro, it was easy to see why it is considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The crystal clear ocean contrasting with the uniform terracotta coloured roofs and old stone walls were pretty spectacular.
We opted not to stay in the centre of the old town. You know a place is expensive when dorm beds start at $46AU! What most people do is rent an apartment or room from one of the locals just outside the city. We did this (still quite pricey for our budget) and although it was a 15 minute walk to the centre it was just what we needed.
One of the best things we did in Dubrovnik was to listen to other travellers’ advice about doing the city wall walk. They told us to get there as soon as the gates opened (at 8:00AM) to beat the cruise ship crowds that invade the city in their thousands. We did just this and had the wall almost to ourselves for the hour and a half it took to walk around them – stopping for numerous photos of course. We were so happy we did it. At $20AU each just to walk the walls we were a little worried about whether it would be worth it or not, but the views were fantastic.
The next day we walked around the whole coastline of the city. I estimated it to be about 20km or so. It was stunning and the weather was perfect. We stopped to sunbake or to have a beer in the little bays as we made our way around the peninsula.
On our way through to the other side of Croatia we stopped into Mostar in Bosnia for two nights. We had been told that a visit to this town is ‘a must’ when you are in the Balkans and as soon as we arrived we could see what people were talking about.
Mostar was affected terribly during the war. There are still whole apartment blocks covered in pock-mark like bullet holes. Reminders of the war were everywhere you looked.
We did the war tour with the brother of the guy who owned our hostel. It was sobering listening to the stories of his childhood, how his family and friends were affected and how the people still feel today. It is amazing to think that something so terrible happened so recently and how hard these people have worked to keep the peace, reeducate and rebuild their city.
The bridge and old town of Mostar was positively picturesque. We spent hours exploring the Turkish style markets, little shops and cafes. Sadly we didn’t see anyone jump off the famous bridge, but we saw the daily show the dive shop guys put on, taunting the tourists by pretending they are going to jump only to climb back over the rails shrugging.
I didn’t realise how high the bridge was until I was actually standing on it and looking down to the racing clear water below. I can see why the ‘boys’ who jump have passed the town’s test in becoming a man.
Next we moved onto Split in Croatia. We had our hearts set on getting to the Island just off the coast for some relaxing days of sunshine so we only stayed one night. Turns out there was an arts festival going on with public performances all over the town. We had a lovely day watching street dancers on the esplanade, opera singers in an old ruin and other cool acts around the old town.
The next day we were on a boat to the Island of Hvar for a few days. As soon as we arrived we couldn’t wait to get down to the beaches. And we were not disappointed. The water was as clear as could be and the weather was hot. Two days soaking up the sun and wandering around the little beaches was exactly what the doctor ordered. The hostel we stayed in was lively and they put on a BBQ & Cocktails night the second day we were there which was so much fun.
We made a decision whilst we were in Hvar to finish up our tour of the Balkans early and head straight to Venice in Italy. So we booked an overnight bus and spent up all of our Croatian Kunas ready to get back to the Euro in the land of pizza and pasta.