Our main purpose for going into Mostar was to see the famous bridge - and the detour was worthwhile just for that - but we were so charmed by what we saw of the rest of Mostar that we plan to come back and stay sometime.
The town's setting above the Neretva River is beautiful. Mellow old stone buildings and green trees line the high river banks while the white domes and tall minarets of mosques on one side of the river and the spires of churches on the other tell the story of the part the bridge played in linking the town's religious communities. The approaches to the bridge on both sides take you through the twisting narrow streets of the old town. The small shops of souvenirs on both sides of the bridge have a distinct feel of the souk about them but you need to cross over the bridge to the north side to find the Kujundziluk, the original gold and silver souk - though now the small shops are mostly just more of the same tourist stuff. A short walk along from the Kujundziluk will bring you to the Koskin-Mehmed Pasha mosque(1618), now, like so much of this area, restored looking as it has done for centuries.
Not far from the Stari Most (the Old Bridge) you will find an even older bridge - looking for all the world like the Stari Most's baby brother - on a small tributary of the Neretva. This is the Kriva Cuprija, built in the 1550's, possibly as a trial run for the much large main bridge.
It's hard to avoid reference to restoration and reconstruction here, and there are still buildings that show the signs of the bitter years of the war, but time moves on and Mostar looks to the future, so when you come here, respect the past but enjoy the present.
History Lessons at Cemeteries
Austria defeated Italy in the naval battle of Vis (Issa) in 1866. Many perished, of all nations, and both armies had soldiers of same nationalities among their troops.
The monument commemorating that tragedy is standing in Vis cemetery, and the inscription says:
"The unity of Europe is rooted on diversity of it’s historic conflicts.
Observe the waves of Adriatic sea carrying the message of peace and understanding to all lands."Related to:
- Historical Travel
The Tower Of Love
Small peaceful island situated in Central Dalmatia (North-West from Zadar), seamen and captains were born here, and those who were not taken by the sea have interesting
tombstones which reveal amazing destinies.
Old elegant houses, gardens, promenade, few shops, bakeries, bars and restaurans.
No hotels - accommodation in private rooms and apartments.
A wonderful story, not a legend, is lingering over this sleepy place.
Petar Marinic, the captain, promised to his beloved fiancée to return soon and marry her. To make her long days more pleasant while he's away, he built this Tower of Love - "Toreta" in the middle of luscious garden, for her to observe the sea, so she can notice his ship returning.
The whole storyRelated to:
- Sailing and Boating
Modra spilja (Blue Cave) - island Bisevo
Unique natural phenomena, rays of sunlight enter this cave through the underwater passage, and disperse through crystal clear water illuminating the whole cave with this magical blue light.
Rows of boats enter the cave, many of them coming from Komiza on nearby island Vis, so swimming is not allowed to avoid accidents.
But if you could come earlier in the morning during early July or early September, you might be able to plunge in and experience something truly exceptional.
The water on your skin looks like liquid blue paint.
A surreal wonderful experience.
Entrance fee 20 Kunas (3 EUR) if you come by your own boat, different agencies offer transfers and tour for the price from 60n - 70 Kunas (10 EUR)Related to:
- Sailing and Boating
A mystery solved
Driving from Mostar in Bosnia over the mountain road on our way to Split, we saw these strange stones by the road side. The only signage said " XIV Century Stones". What were they? What story do they tell?
It didn't take much to discover they were late mediaeval tombstones and although they are a feature of Bosnia, where there are thousands of them scattered around parts of the country, they can be found in other places in this region of the Balkans.
As well as the great divide between the churches of the East and the West - Orthodox and Roman Catholic - in the early Middle Ages, there were other Christians who beliefs did not follow either of those doctrines, the best known of whom were the perhaps the Cathars of France. Bosnia was another place where an idiosynchratic form of Christianity took hold and survived for several centuries. It was not the sole form of Christianity practised in the country however, even then Bosnia was a country at a crossroads and some people were Catholic whilst others wereOrthodox, all living and and worshipping in their own way.
Although regarded as heretical by both Rome and Orthodoxy, even after Bosnia fell under Catholic Hungary's domination, the faith endured. As the threat from the Turk grew in the 1500s, the Bosnians appealed to the Pope for aid but the price was the whole country turning to Rome, something they would not do. The result was the Ottomans conquered Bosnia, a large section of the population became Muslim and the rest, as they say, is history.
(Thank you, JLBG for putting me on the right track here)
The stones are called "steæak" or "stecci", meaning "that which stands". The ones we saw were carved with figures of warriors and animals, and with ornamental designs. A little research tells me they are most numerous, as would be expected, in Bosnia but the ones we saw were inside Croatia. They fascinated me. I have visited Cathar strongholds in France - the redoubts of other mediaeval heretics and find them haunted places. To find a connection here with these lonely stones and realize how that then connects to the turbulent recent past of the region is a story indeed. Who says history is dead?Related to:
- Historical Travel
Between Dubrovnik and Split the long Croatian coastline is cut by a 15km stretch of territory that is Bosnia and Herzogovina, giving that country acces to the sea. When we asked our hire car company about any formalities for driving through there we were told we could actually take the car right into Bosnia if we so wished, which immediately set our minds thinking about Mostar, just 50km inland from the main highway.
The road follows the delta of the Neretva River, which although heavily farmed is still the largest remaining area of wetland in this part of the Mediterranean. After passing through this the road enters the gorge of the river where the lansdcape becomes more dramatic a rugged as you approach the mountains. Climbing up a hillside on the right hand side of the road is the pretty little Herzogovinan village of Pocitelj - a UNESCO World Heritage site.
With its old stone houses, domes and the tall minaret of its mosque all overlooked by the ruined Sahat-kula fortress, it is a picture book scene - which makes it all the more poignant when you learn that this village saw one of the last acts of brutal ethnic cleansing and destruction of the war here. The last few years have seen the restoration of the village's Hadzi Alija mosque which has stood here since 1562, the medressa of similar age and one of its beautiful old Ottoman houses - all of which are open to visitors.
The village has long been home to an artist's colony. We didn't buy a painting but we did buy some cherries and apricots from a basket that was a picture in itself in the way the fruit was wrapped and displayed.
Leave the crowds behind
We'd been told the town of Kotor, a scenic 1 1/2 hour drive from Dubrovnik, was well worth a visit, and when we were told we could take our hire car into Montenegro without any extra paperwork or insurance, our mind was made up. A mediaeval walled city to rival Dubrovnik, albeit on a smaller scale, was promised and Kotor delivered. Set on the far end of the Gulf of Kotor, the walls of the city seem to be vertical as they climb for 4.5 km up and down the mountain behind the city. Entering the city through the main gate by the harbour, we found we had the narrow streets and elegant squares virtually to ourselves on a hot Sunday in June.
The town is charming with street after street lined with old stone buildings. With its palaces, churches and those astounding walls it's hard to realize the town was severely damaged by a massive earthquake in 1979. UNESCO funded much of the restoration since when the city has been declared a World Heritage site.
Spectacular as the the walls of Kotor are, for me the abiding memory of the little town is the heady perfume which filled the air as we towards drove down the long avenue leading through the modern part of town. Huge magnolias line the road and when I got out of the car to go into the bank the perfume was everywhere. It was wonderful!
You'd need to come in summer for this heady experience. The old walled city is there for visitors at any time of year.Related to:
- Road Trip
- Historical Travel
The Tuber Of Passion
Even saying that word is vibrant, nasal, exciting ...
Blessed are the Croats with the abundance of Truffles quietly growing in forests of Istria.
There are many things magical in Croatia, but this is one of my favorite ones.
I don't know who figured out the amazing aphrodisiac properties of this modestly looking tuber, but it's been worshiped for thousands of years.
There is something in that scent that works like a miracle. Could be a misinterpretation of feeling dizzy from strong scent, since we all heard about it's tempting properties, maybe we are just simply hallucinating thinking it's the passion tickling our tummies?
Well, it works!
Why else would someone pay thousands of Euros for this smelly potato lookalike?
One truffle found in Istria still holds the place as the largest ever found - check Guiness Book of World Records.
You can see it's replica in Zigante Shop and Restaurant in the village LIvade - Istria region. It is the truffle capitol of Croatia, and every October there is a Truffles festival going on with variety od competitions and food samples.Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
- Farm Stay
- Food and Dining
A potent symbol
The bridge at Mostar - can any of us old enough to remember the bitter years of fighting as the the countries that made up the old Yugoslavia broke apart forget the photos of the shattered bridge after it was bombarded to destruction by tank fire in November, 1993?
The bridge had stood here in Mostar for more than 400 years, a classic example of a single span bridge and a link between the two ethnic groups who made up the city's population -Muslim Bosnians and Christian Croats - seperate communities living on opposite sides of the deep ravine of the River Neretva.
Now rebuilt, the bridge still looks very new though, in fact, many of the stones used in the reconstruction came from the old bridge, the first of them was raised from the river in 1997. The first arch stone in the restoration was laid in April 2003 and the completely restored bridge was officially opened in July 2004. Before the work began, years of research took place into the elegant solution to the problem of building a bridge on this difficult site by its 16th Turkish century architects and engineers. Just as its destruction was a symbolic act - the bridge had no military signifigance, so its restoration is seen as a symbol, this time of hope and reconciliation. With all this history in mind, walking across the bridge is quite moving.
Young men still jump from the top of the bridge into the river below.
The rake of the span is very steep, and the stone walkway very slippery so take care as you cross it.
Take some time to visit the exhibition of photos of the story of the bridge, its destruction and restoration, that you will find housed in the mosque that was used by the workmen during the rebuilding.Related to:
- Historical Travel
The fortress at Klis once had great strategic importance as it guarded the pass between Mosor and Kozjak mountains, the route by which any force coming from the east had to come to reach the coastal region of Split. The strategic importance of this place meant that there was some sort of fortification here for millenia. The castle we see today was built in the 16th C at the time of the Ottoman invasions of Europe and was last used used for military purposes by the occupying Italian and German forces in WW2. Nowadays the fortress is a romantic ruin, presenting a dramatic profile high above the modern road.
The castle is open to visitors, and we did drive right up to it and take a short stroll around, but we weren't actually looking for a sight-seeing experience. Far more important in our mind was lunch, and the promise of delicious local spit-roasted lamb for which Klis is particularly noted. Rather confusingly, Klis village is actually in 3 parts - which we didn't realize as we headed off up the hill - all simply signposted "Klis" but all in different places around the hilltop.
So, if it's the castle you're looking for - and the views promised from its ramparts - you need to turn off the main road after you have passed through the first part of Klis. If the lamb is your goal, stay on the main road, go through the tunnel and keep going up the hill a bit. You can't miss it - the restaurants are right by the roadside and the lambs are turning on their spits outside their entrances.
Klis is 9km from Split, above Solin. The road is well signposted out of the city.Related to:
- Historical Travel
The Gulf of Kotor is the southernmost fjord in Europe. Not only is it blissfully quiet, it is stunningly beautiful, with steep mountains dropping into its still, blue waters. The closed nature of the landscape creates its own micro-climate with a higher than usual rainfall for this part of Europe and the result is lusher, almost subtropical vegetation with lots of palm trees and exotic species such as magnolias and camellias as wellas the usual Mediterranean citrus, pomegranates, figs, grapevines, etc. Pretty small towns and villages lie along the shoreline - we stopped at Perast where a local offered to take us out to the two churches we could see in the middle of the bay, each on their own small island. Regretfully, we refused, and drove on to Kotor, stopping along the way for a picnic by the waterside, not another soul around.
The Gulf is actually four bays and to drive right around would take quite some time. We opted to drive around the north of the bay to Kotor and then continue on past Kotor to Leperane where we took the car ferry back to the northern shore for the road back to Croatia.
We had no trouble taking our hire car into Montenegro. The border crossing took just a few minutes, coming and going, on both sides. As we crossed into Montenegro we were greeted by a local tourist officer who presented us with an excellent English-language guidebook and waved on our way with a smile.
If driving yourself isn't an option, there are day tours available from Dubrovnik.
Click on main photo for a full panorama
Bosnia and Hercegovina is Croatia's next door neighbor and from Dubrovnik, it's only a two hour bus ride (less than 10 Euros) to get to Mostar, one of the most devastated towns in BiH as a result of the turmoil of the 1990s. It you're looking for a different cultural experience and a totally different feel, I'd recommend a sidetrip.
South to Senj (20 km), you will find a road sign for Lukovo and a steep, winding and narrow road. If you take it, you will tumble down to the sea. When entering in the village, the road become even narrower and suddenly you are on the quay and there is no space to park and hardly to make a U-turn ! If you are able to make a U-turn, you will go back, park at the entrance of the village and walk down to the port. Actually, you should not have tried to drive in the village : the place is loaded with cars but, as it is a very, very small place, that does not mean that it is crowded with people. That's the good thing !
A real nice place to spend a day !
Buje is urban centre of the northeast part of the Istrian peninsula, just about 7km away from border crossing with Slovenia. The old core of the town is located on a 222m high mount which dominates whole area of dynamic relief, olive-groves and wineyards.
The prehistoric hill-fort of St. Peregrin indicates the age-long inhabitation of Buje.Related to:
- Family Travel
The Castle of Lukavec
This small and very beautiful castle is situated in the close surroundings of Zagreb, nearby the airport Pleso. It is completely newly renovated but still closed for the public visitors. According to some informations the castle will be open this year housing museum exhibits from the local region.Related to:
- Family Travel
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