On to Croatia
We had some time to shop before we left Mostar. Like Sarajevo and as I mentioned in the last post it has an old town which is primarily used by tourists but delightful all the same. We did find one piece to buy-a tray made of copper, covered with nickel and then engraved so that the design is copper coloured. This craft is protected by UNESCO but has largely faded out as a craft in Mostar and a lot more is done in Sarajevo. Similarly with all the copper products, there were more men making copper items in Sarajevo.
Then it was back on the bus and out of town on some less than perfect roads through more lovely countryside. Eventually we joined the motorway that took us to Split. It was about a 3 hour drive which included a 15 minute stop at the border to get our passports stamped out of Bosnia and into Croatia
Split is similar to all the other towns. Lovely old buildings, somewhat war damaged (but more WW II) and more ordinary high rise where most people live. But Split of course is on a harbour and has a lovely big promenade lined with restaurants that are always buzzing. We were there on a Saturday so there were lots of people having fun until the wee small hours.
Just behind this promenade is the old town and the Diocletian Palace comprising some ruins and some intact buildings all dating back to Roman times. Roman emperor Diocletian reigned for 21 years which was exceptional. Most of the Roman emperors here were assassinated or deposed after about 4 years (sounds familiar?). He did this by installing other members of his family as parallel Emperors so that if one went, there was always another! Another ‘highlight’ Mark has just reminded me, is the vomitorium where, during a feast, Diocletian and his guard would eat until they were full then visit this area where a slave would tickle their throat with a feather, they’d vomit up the lot and then return for more. The Palace is huge and is just part of the city really with lots of narrow streets with many twists and turns. Again...Game of Thrones territory which has contributed to Split’s popularity. With two cruise ships in port during the day the tour groups were almost unbearable and I guess we were one of those! It is a very attractive place and looks like a fun summer spot.
We met up with the other 40 participants for the start of the conference in Split. We have had the first morning session and now a day off to travel down to Dubrovnik by catamaran (ferry type) via an island called Hvar. The conference will be on again tomorrow. So we are now a group of 80 split into 3 groups for tours. We did have a big welcome dinner and met a few new people from Perth and Tassie. There are people from all over the country.
Good day without rain yesterday although it was forecast. Not so lucky as we start off today.
We had a 2 hour tour of Diocletian’s palace with a guide whose voice was damaged-probably from shouting above the crowd noise and I struggled to listen to what he was saying I was so distracted by his voice quality. But the place is definitely worth seeing with a guide so not to miss the small details. Last night we met up with a friend of Matt’s who is also holidaying in the area and enjoyed a chat over a beer and then dinner. Our hotel was again very central, smart and comfortable. We’ve been impressed with the hotels so far.
The catamaran took us to the island of Hvar where we stopped for lunch and a walk/swim/shop. The seas were a little choppy so we took our Travacalm pill just in case and felt fine for the whole trip. Others were not so lucky. Lovely seafood lunch on the waterfront of Hvar which has the Mediterranean feel of a Greek Island only without the white buildings but with pine trees, attractive little bays and open air restaurants. Since we are in the Adriatic Mark felt compelled to test the water so we strolled around to a pebbly beach and he had a quick dip. Luckily the sun had come out. The island isn’t quite at full operating capacity yet so he had to change behind a tree. I think this would be a fun place once summer comes. Another 3 hours on the boat and we were approaching Dubrovnik. A less than glorious arrival due to clouds and choppy water but our first glimpses of the old town were exciting. It is this magnificently preserved large old walled town that is the treasure of Dubrovnik.
Our hotel is the Grand Villa Argentina and we entered on the 6th floor to reception. Our room is on the 2nd floor which is still high enough to have a commanding view of the water. Breakfast was on 4 and the conference on 3. Needless to say there were a lot of wrong turns taken getting to where we wanted to be. The hotel has a good gym, an indoor pool and an outdoor sea pool and lovely paving and rocks right on the water. It’s various levels take you to different lookouts and small gardens with gates, carved stone fences and the overall effect is just gorgeous. Just like a Hollywood movie hotel. Day 1 was half conference and then a 4pm 2 hour walking tour. Again a dull weather day. The tour was very good and given by a lady who has been doing it for 61 years. Born and bred in the old town and she speaks 4 languages. She was fun and in summary:
Romans came first
The the southern Slavs invaded
Napoleon came and stayed
Dubrovnik became part of Austria
Then Dubrovnik had a period of independence
World War II and then they were part of Yugoslavia
The old city is so well preserved because even though most large cities in Europe were walled, most started knocking down their walls to allow more development. At that time of growth elsewhere Dubrovnik was a relatively insignificant city and the expansion wasn’t necessary.
1000 people live within the walls-it once was 4000 but fewer nowadays. The cost of one small house within the city would buy 2 outside the city walls but still very close by.
The old city is a complete community with a primary and secondary school and they can buy what they need within the city. Farmers bring their produce in each day to sell.
There are 41 churches inside the walls. It is a very Catholic community as is all Croatia, but there are orthodox churches as well as a synagogue.
There was a lot of damage in 1990-1991 when the city was bombed during the Balkan war and most of the roofs were damaged or destroyed. But the repair of these was prioritized by the government and there are only a couple of small areas that are in ruins.
Today has been warm and sunny. After our conference session we lay about in the sun and swam in the sea. Cold but invigorating! We dragged ourselves away to do a walk on top of the city walls that takes the minimum of an hour. And it was spectacular. Mark will include some photos.
+++ people visit here but many are on cruise ships so they disappear by late afternoon. I would NEVER contemplate a visit here in summer.