Tuesday 9th October.
Day trip: Small group tour to Kravice Waterfall and Mostar, Bosnia.
It was another glorious morning. We’ve been so lucky with the weather. In fact, if we’d had weather like this for our one afternoon at Gradac we would have been on the day beds on the beach and our experience of the place would have been rather different. Our Gradac day, and one day in Vienna, have been the only really poor weather days. Not a bad record for three and a half weeks of travel!
We arrived a bit earlier than 7.30 am at our meeting spot and our guide was already there. Our tour to Kravice and Mostar, Bosnia was a small group tour traveling in a comfortable 18 seater Mercedes.
We had to pass through three border crossings: Croatia- Bosnia, Bosnia-Croatia and then Croatia-Bosnia again and would have to do the same in reverse on the way back. Tianna, our guide with a sharp sense of humor, joked that this must be the only ‘Day trip’ that has 6 border crossings! We made a short 15 min stop after the first crossing but it was 10 am before we got through the third.
We passed along some of the coast road that Mark and I had covered on our way down to Dubrovnik. I have previously noted how beautiful this coastal drive was but that was reinforced further when our guide advised us that the drive from Gradac to Dubrovnik is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful pathways in the world!
Our first main stop for the day was an hour visit at the Kravice Waterfall followed by a three hour stop at Mostar. We had a local guide in Mostar for about 40 minutes who took us through the Old Town, the historic reconstructed medieval arched Bridge; the main attraction in Mostar, and then to a traditional Turkish house from the Ottoman Empire days. After that, we all parted ways for some free time to have lunch, roam the shops and take more photos of the famous Bridge.
The Old Town and Medieval Bridge were destroyed during the 91-95 Homeland war and even the cobbled lanes of the Old Town were destroyed. The cobbled lanes present now are new and VERY hard to walk on as the surface is very slippery and very irregular. Be warned! This probably saved Mark some money though as I spent most of the time watching my feet rather than perusing all the wares in the shops lining both sides of the narrow path through the Old Town.
Mark and I had lunch at a nice venue, Urban Grill, with views out towards the Bridge but the meal was a bit disappointing. I’d seen spectacular looking Baklava at our first stop of the day and was hoping to sample similar here. Unfortunately, this version of Baklava was rather poor, although still ahead of that spruiked at Bondi Junction and Plummer Road, Rose Bay.
There was one other unfortunate incident. On our way back to the bus, up through the Old Town, Mark needed to stop for the toilet. This just happened to be beside a shop selling cushion covers. Needless to say, by the time Mark emerged, we were the proud owners of 5 new cushion covers.
Begging had a particular flavor here with mothers sitting with their babies and children; only these kids were biding their time playing games on the iPhones!!
It ended up being a good day despite spending a lot of time in travel to and from Mostar. Our guide for the day, Tianna, was excellent, having a keen sense of humor and offered interesting and informed commentary for most of the journey: Tianna really helped to make the day a success.
Some of the points of interest picked up from both guides, but mostly Tianna, were:
- Floor space cost in regional Dubrovnik compared to Old Town: 1m2. 2000 Euros vs 6000.
- Salaries: the average salary is 750 Euros per month. However the Pension is only 300 Euros per month. Cost of living an increasing problem and reason many Croatians are leaving country and young couples need to live with their parents.
- Reinforced: Dub = oak = ships = important port.
- Dubrovnik was first called rock after the terrain.
- The Croatian President is more of a figurehead. Political reign fluctuates between left and right.
- Part of EU since 2013.
- Kuna: for now as not strong economy. No permission yet. Want to keep Kuna.
- Bosnian currency: Km konvetable mark 1km = 4 kuna
- Dubrovnik scene of many movies: Game of Thrones, Star Trek. Soon to film James Bond and Dr Doolittle. In winter they close half of the old town. Film Producers then pay government to open that section of town for their filming.
- Croatian Tourism: only for 7 months. July August very busy. Holidays for other 5 months. However, the Government insists that people work 9 months to be eligible for benefits!
- Previously, in 15-18 th Century: 3kg salt = 1 kg gold
- 3 reasons for Croatian Golden Age: 1 good Diplomacy, 2: salt trade, 3: good Catholic / Muslim relations.
- The Border crossing can take up to 8 hours in peak holiday season.
- Reason for the small section of Bosnian coast bisecting Croatia: The Republic of Dubrovnik gave the coast section of land to the Ottomans to create a buffer zone between Dubrovnik and the Venetians in the north, who had recently conquered that area.
- Croatian University degrees are not highly regarded outside Croatia. Many graduates go to work in Ireland but end up in call centers.
- School free. Uni is free; so long as you pass firts year exams. Science jobs: IT nurses and doctors get jobs. Other degrees: hard to get jobs.
- Government inept and corrupt.
- Tangerine region suffering after relations soured between EU and Russia. Before that, tangerine farmers very wealthy!
- Croatia has 6 neighboring countries: Italy. Slovenia. Hungary Serbia. Bosnia-Herzegovina. Montenegro. Bosnia: 50% Muslims. 30% orthodox Serbians. 15% Christian. Reason for the three side yellow triangle on their flag.
- Bosnia: rotate parliament every 8 months between: Croatian, Serbian and Bosnian. Hence dysfunctional. Also much corruption. Thus, 40% unemployed. Croatian 90% Catholic. 2 children. Bosnia: 50% Muslim 3-5 kids.
- Mostar: means bridge keeper. From the bridge in town.
- Sultan in 1566 built bridge. Destroyed in the 91-95 war. Today’s bridge from 2004. UNESCO since 2005.
- Ottoman Empire: men have up to 4 wives.
- Bosnia: average wage is just 350 euro per month
- War because independence sought after Tito’s death: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Macedonia.
Serbia and Montenegro stayed together.
- Mostar. 120,000 population; 5th biggest in Bosnia. Many Mixed marriages: up to 15%. 40% Muslim 40 % Croatian 10 % Serbian some jews etc.
- Ramadan only time when Muslims here don’t drink alcohol.
- Roman Turkish Austrian influences.
- Synagogue 10 years waiting. Foundation stone only.
- Most means bridge.
- Belgrade: best night life of all Yugoslavia countries.
OMG!!!! Dubrovnik is expensive!!!! For dinner tonight we paid:
- Pre dinner in Old Town: One local beer plus an Aperol spritz: $25 AUD.
- Later, outside Old Town: one Pizza, a side salad + bottle of wine: $100 AUD.
Our sympathies lie with the staff who are so poorly paid yet the businesses are commanding top dollar prices. Not fair!