This morning we leave the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sarajevo and continue the Topdeck Mega European Tour by heading to our next and final country in the former Yugoslav states Croatia and the costal city of Dubrovnik. Before crossing the border we make one stop in the historic town of Mostar, a focal point of the Bosnian war due the the destruction of an ancient 427 year old bridge.
02 June, 2012 – Sarajevo to Dubrovnik
Today we leave the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sarajevo heading further east to the town of Mostar. Mostar suffered heavily from the break up of Yugoslavia especially when Bosnian-Croat forces destroyed the 427 year old Stari Most (Old Bridge) that links the two sides of the town. Since the war has been over the bridge has been rebuilt using the original design.
A traditional activity for the young men in the town of Mostar is to dive from the highest point of the bridge and land in the Neretva River. The river is very cold and is also very shallow meaning only the most skilful of divers can attempt the plunge. Before any diver attempts to dive of the bridge, other divers will pass a hat around to try and collect money from the tourists standing around waiting to watch the diver make the jump. Once enough has been collected he will then make the leap.
While in Mostar we were given a couple of hours to walk around the town to check it out. It is quite a small town and you can see it all in a short amount of time, however it is one of those towns where you want to spend as much time as you can so you can really soak up the atmosphere. Towards the back of the town is the cemetery, a stark contrast this end of town compared to the touristy centre of the town, here you will still find buildings in ruin from the war.
Our time in Mostar was also our lunch break, so make the most of your time here to include that also. Once we had finished looking around the town we all met back at the coach parking area and started to make our way toward the Croatian border. Although we made a border crossing, surprisingly this time our passports were not checked, it was still a lengthy process involving the tour leaders processing some paperwork.
We crossed the border into Croatia, then crossed the border again into Bosnia before crossing the border a few minutes later back into Croatia. It’s a strange area in that Bosnia has a small section of land that touches the sea, there are checkpoints on both the borders, however no one is stopped as it would look like a very counter productive process.
We arrived into Dubrovnik and immediately checked into our hotel located right next to the beach with an impressive view of the area. Our balcony overlooked a small harbour we were calling home for the next two nights, it also offered a pretty good view of the sunset.
From here it is easy access into the main old city from here, we are provided with four bus tickets to use, if need be we can purchase more but if you’re smart enough this is all you will need. This afternoon we all hop on the bus and catch it to the bus station outside the main city entrance where we have time to wonder around quickly before meeting our local guide.
Our guide is an enthusiastic woman who clearly knows all her facts about the city offering an interesting insight into the secrets of the city. We start from outside the city walls and make our way inside and are guided down the main walkway. When walking around inside the old town of Dubrovnik make sure you watch your footing as the floor is very slippery as if you are walking on marble.
We made our way through the city, the far end of the town is the city port where all the tourist boats leave for the day and also where the small boats from the large cruise ships dock. Luckily for us we are seeing most of the city this afternoon as two or three cruse ships we due to dock the next day and the city would be overrun by tourists.
Tonight the main focus for most people was to experience the Dubrovnik nightlife and check out the many clubs on offer. Not me however, breaking from the group I decided I would go it alone and explore the city at night to try and get some good shots of it all lit up. I also wanted to see if I could catch the cable car to the summit to gain a birds eye view of the city at night. Two other girls weren’t so keen to go out and party either so I invited them to join me.
Dubrovnik is an impressive small town when lit up at night, turns out the cable car closes at 10pm so we decided to go up, especially when you are not sure if you will be able to do it the next day, it was a good opportunity. From the top of the hill towering over the city you gain impressive views of the city, it almost looks like a medieval castle lit up at night.
The cable car is only new opening in 2006, it was rebuilt after being destroyed in the war when Dubrovnik was under siege for months. On top of the hill next to the cable car station is an old castle with a giant communications tower, however it was too dark to check it out.
We then caught the car back down the hill, looked around the town a little longer before catching one of the last busses back for the night. A few hours later the procession of fellow drunk tour members made it back into the hotel before everyone called it a night. Tomorrow is a free day for everyone to explore the city, but some won’t even make it out of bed.
03 June, 2012 – Dubrovnik
Today is our free day to explore Dubrovnik, with the city expected to see an influx of tourists today with the docking of a couple of large Costa cruise ships it was a good opportunity to catch one of the many cruises that hop around some of the many islands hugging the coastline of Croatia.
A group of four of us decided the previous night that today we would catch one of the boats from the port end of the city and spend the day island hopping. They are easy to come across, they are all lined up near the waters edge trying to get that all important lucrative business, even slagging each other off claiming what they offer is far more superior to the competition. We decided to go with one that would visit three different islands and included lunch, it was a nice small boat with a group that wasn’t too large, we were also clearly the youngest people on the boat.
Before the boat arrived we had a little time to kill, there is one section of the city wall that is free to enter and walk around near the port, we went and check this out until we reached the part you have to pay for. We didn’t go beyond this point, I don’t really know if it would be worth paying an admission to walk along a city wall and see the rest of it, the view was pretty good on the free part of the wall.
Shortly after scaling the wall our transportation for the day arrived, the first part of the journey is a little rough as the boat sails past the city walls, all the waves bounce back off the walls which then adds to the waves coming in before hitting the walls, so you need the be careful not to fall off the boat. Another sign of not being in Australia with our high nanny state safety regulations, the hand rail on the top of the boat came up to about my shin, so it was quite difficult finding a position during this rough time, I just about had to crawl on all fours.
The first island town we stopped at was called Koločep, there isn’t much to do on these islands so it’s all about chilling out and taking in the beauty of the area. This island had a sign to a tower, so we thought we would go check it out and get a good view of the island. Turns out this so called tower is on someones private property and wasn’t exactly a souring tower worth the trouble of even walking up the hill, so we turned back and went for a walk along the beach. The island also features a museum, post office, hotel, restaurant, and yes a nudist beach if that’s your thing.
After the designated time allowed we went back to the boat for the trip to the next island. Šipan was our next port of call, the furthest we would travel for the day, we get to have a bit of a look around the island close to the boat as lunch was served shortly after. Lunch was a tasty affair with the option of fish and something else (can’t quite remember, I do know I had the something else). It was quite a site when all the boats left the island, all threw their left overs and scraps overboard and the seagulls went mental in the water.
The next and final island we visited was called Lopud, this seemed to have a bigger township on the island and a lot more people were present. The island also featured a small church on the edge of a cliff overlooking the water, a souvenir shop, restaurants one of which was called Mc Kebab (I wonder what McDonald’s would have to say about that). While we waited for our time to run out on the island we just relaxed by the beach, it was so nice to just sit back and do nothing thinking about how hectic the last 33 days have been on this tour.
From here we started to head back to the main port in Dubrovnik, on the way back I was pretty exhausted so fell asleep on the table only to wake up when we started to hit those rough waves bouncing off the city walls, I nearly lost my camera in the water but luckily for me the strap was around my arm while I was sleeping.
On our return we decided that we should catch the cable car to the top of the hill overlooking the city, I really enjoyed going up there the previous night and I wanted to see what the city looks like from the top during the day. Luckily for us being such a nice clear day we were also privileged to watch the sunset over the many islands in the distance. We also took this opportunity to check out the castle, not much to see but there is a walking down to the bottom of the hill, a good position for watching the sunset.
After the sun went down, we caught the car back down the hill, caught the bus back to the hotel. It was a long exhausting day, but one of the highlights of the tour with Croatia being a country I was really looking forward to visiting and it exceeded my expectations. We had an early night tonight, tomorrow we are heading north to another gem in the crown of the country of Croatia, the Plitvice Lakes. We will also make a stop off in the town of Zadar where the main attraction is the Sea Organ.
DOWNLOAD: Topdeck Dubrovnik City Guide