Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Cetina Gorge, Croatia / Mostar, Bosnia i Herzegovina /
Dubrovnik, Croatia

We left Omis at 9:45, through the Cetina Gorge. The scenery wasn't as dramatic as we'd hoped, but it was very pretty. The best views were from the top of a series of steep switchbacks at Zadvarje, where you can see not just the canyon and waterfalls, but also an abandoned bunker covered with graffiti and a unique-styled crucifix.

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Cetina Gorge from Zadvarje

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Gubavica vodopad (waterfall)

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Bunker

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Squiggly Jesus

Just after noon, we crossed into Bosnia i Herzegovina at Vinjani Gornji, Croatia / Osoje, Bosnia i Herzegovina and followed the M6-1 to Mostar, arriving around 1:45. Tom pulled over for photos on the descent to Mostar, and I found a great souvenir by the side of the road.

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Mostar, Bosnia i Herzegovina

Mostar, Bosnia i Herzegovina, (population 100,000) is situated on the Neretva River in a picturesque valley surrounded by mountains. Muslim Bosniaks live mostly on the east side of the river and Catholic Croats live mostly on the west side. Before the war in the '90s when Yugoslavia broke apart, there were also many Orthodox Serbs living here. There are still a lot of bombed-out buildings and bullet holes, even though many buildings have been rebuilt.

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War damage

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More damage

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Entering Old Town Mostar

The Stari Most (Old Bridge) is one of Bosnia i Herzegovina's most iconic landmarks. It was built in 1566 by the Ottomans and stood for 427 years, until it was destroyed in the war in 1993. It was subsequently faithfully reconstructed and reopened in 2004. The money for the reconstruction was donated by Spain, the United States, Turkey, Italy, the Netherlands, and Croatia. Mostar is named after the bridge keepers who guarded the Stari Most in medieval times. It was probably just called the Most back then.

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The Muslim side of the river

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Neretva River from the Stari Most

It's common for local young men to stand on the bridge and try to collect money from tourists, with a promise that they'll jump from the bridge into the river, 75 feet below, when they've collected a satisfactory sum. When Tom refused to contribute, one of the guys, apparently guessing correctly that Tom is American, said, “I am Osama bin Laden; I'm trying to save up for a nuclear bomb.” Nice. His buddy jumped off the bridge a few minutes later, but I didn't feel like donating at that point.

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Possible jumper

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Jumped

On the east side of the river, we toured the Muzej Stari Most (Old Bridge Museum). There's not much to the museum, but the views are nice. The windows were grubby, but many of them could be opened. It was worth the negligible entrance fee (3 convertible marks or 1.5 euro).

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Big Tom, little door, Muzej Stari Most

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Stari Most

My favorite place in Mostar was the Koski Mehmed-Pasha Dzamija mosque. I'd never been in a mosque before. Since they're used to tourists here, we were allowed to keep our shoes on, and I didn't have to wear a headscarf. Traditionally, women are segregated to the balcony, but here they let me roam. The inside of the mosque was pretty and colorful.

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Inside the Koski Mehmed-Pasha Dzamija

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Mosque mihrab and mimber

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Jana in the balcony

The climb up the minaret's 89 steps was the most claustrophobic, winding ascent of our trip, but it was worth it for the stunning views of the town and river. After a few minutes at the top, we had it all to ourselves! I'm just glad the call to prayer didn't happen while we were up there, since the loudspeaker was right by our heads.

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Koski Mehmed-Pasha Dzamija minaret

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The Catholic side of the river, from the minaret

After we descended, we went to the back terrace of the mosque, for the best views of the Stari Most. We also had the terrace to ourselves, after just a few minutes of sharing it with a Japanese tourist group. I think we arrived in Mostar just as most of the day-trippers from Split and Dubrovnik were leaving, so the timing worked out great!

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Stari Most from the mosque back terrace

On our way out of the mosque, I asked the young man at the entrance how old it was. He said the mosque was built in 1618, but the minaret was destroyed during the war in the '90s and had to be rebuilt in 2001. How sad!

We continued up the hill to the New Muslim Cemetery. The cemetery used to be a park, but during the war, people couldn't reach the existing cemeteries to bury their loved ones for fear of being shot by snipers, so they buried them here in the dark of the night. Every tomb here is dated 1993, 1994, or 1995.

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New Muslim Cemetery

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Inside the New Muslim Cemetery

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Mostar Bazaar

Leaving Mostar, we decided to take a less-beaten-track route to Dubrovnik on Highway 6, via Stolac, Ljubinje, and Trebinje, through Republika Srpska, the part of Herzegovina controlled by the Serb minority. We saw tobacco fields, Cyrillic writing, Serbian Orthodox churches topped with the traditional three crosses, centuries-old, pre-Ottoman cemeteries, and a man walking his cow down the road on a leash.

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Cyrillic writing, Ljubinje, Republika Srpska

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Church of the Nativity of the Virgin, Ljubinje

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Necropolis with stecak tombstones

We stopped in Trebinje to look around, and also because Tom wanted some convertible mark coins for his collection. He tried to get some in Mostar, but everyone there accepted euros as well as marks, and since we paid in euros, they gave us euros for change. We gave a vendor here 2 euros for a bottle of water priced at 1.2 convertible marks and, at Tom's request, received 2.5 marks in return instead of euro coins. After I paid a mark for parking, that left him a mark and a half-mark coin as souvenirs. Success!

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That's easy for you to say

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Trebinje street scene

Trebinje (population 36,000) seemed pleasant and reasonably prosperous. It's the economic and cultural center of eastern Herzegovina, at least according to the propaganda I picked up at the tourist information center. I have no reason to doubt it. Just because it's propaganda doesn't mean it's not true.

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Monument to the defenders of Trebinje, 1991-1996

Old Town Trebinje is small but cute. We walked the whole thing in just a few minutes. Tom made friends with a clowder of cats. Southeastern Europe is overrun by cats. Every city we went to was crawling with them. I know in Key West they blame the cats on Hemingway. What's Europe's excuse?

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European cat mob

Gas is cheaper in Bosnia i Herzegovina than in Croatia, so we filled up the tank before leaving Trebinje. It was 2.41 convertible marks per liter, so we paid “only” $6.15 a gallon instead of over $7. An attendant pumped our gas, but we still had to get out of the car and go in to pay, so I'm not sure how that was helpful. Oh, well, job creation, I guess.

20 minutes later, we crossed the border at Ivanica, Bosnia i Herzegovina / Gornji Brgat, Croatia. For the first time, we had to show our rental car's oh-so-important “green card” (proof of insurance) to the border agents. I'm glad somebody finally looked at the darn thing. We watched the sun set as we approached Dubrovnik on a beautiful descent from the mountains to the coast.

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Descending to Dubrovnik

We arrived at Accommodation Carevic in Dubrovnik, on the Lapad Peninsula, just before 8:00 p.m. Lapad is 10-15 minutes west of Dubrovnik's Old Town. Vera, our hostess, spoke almost no English, but again we managed to check in regardless. All our sobe hosts have been multilingual, but there's been a lot more German spoken than English.

This is the only place we'll be staying where we don't have a bathroom in our room. However, we do have our own private bath; it's just down the hall. There's only three guestrooms, so we're not going to run into a lot of people in the hallway. We have our own balcony, with no view, but there is also a shared balcony with a view of the mountains. There's also a shared fridge and kettle. We're a five-minute walk from a grocery store, five minutes from a bus stop, and 15 minutes from the beach. We're staying in Dubrovnik four nights.

We had dinner tonight at Konoba Blidinje, on the bay. Tom had another pizza, while I opted for the seafood risotto. Lovely seating on the terrace, a nice temperature and a nice sea breeze. The risotto was good but not outstanding. It was so dark, I had no clue what I was eating, and I didn't have the language skills to ask. The beers, as we've come to expect, were boring. When we got the bill, there was an unexpected 190 kuna “cover charge.” There wasn't a band, so I have no clue what that was about, but I don't appreciate it. Tomorrow we will eat elsewhere.

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Side-of-the-road souvenir!



Continue to September 5, 2013

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