Published: June 15th 2008June 10th 2008
So! I've been lax again with the blog and as always it bites me in the ass. Remembering what I've done each day, organising it, etc. Here we go. On friday we left Sarajevo after a nice stay there enjoying the old town. Our last day we went to see Tunel 3A. This is a tunnel that the Bosnians dug during the siege, under the UN-controlled airport and to free Bosnian territory outside of Sarajevo. It was a real lifeline for the people there-supplies, food, ammunition, everything came through there. They showed us a video with a bunch of war footage-bombs going off, shells hitting buildings, buildings collapsing, etc. I'm not sure what the purpose of that was but when I got back to town, it was pretty crazy to think that where I was standing had been a war zone not that long ago. We had to drive down a main road called Sniper's Alley, so named because if you walked on it, Serbs would shoot you from the hills. Scary. After Sarajevo we caught a bus to Mostar, arriving in
Mostar. We got in around nine ten, and a guy from the hostel met us at the bus station.
"Yes, that's me."
"Mira. I will take you to the hostel."
He was a young guy and drove us to the place in his car. He showed us to our room and was very welcoming. Gave us a high five before he left us. The next morning we woke up and had Turkish coffee with chocolate wafers in the courtyard with the family that owned the hostel. Apparently they had a real hostel with bunjch of rooms, and then this place where they lived, where they rented out this room where we were sleeping. So we got to hang out with them both mornings we were there, having Turkish coffee and little goodies served by the grandmother. She would hover about, seeing if anyone wanted anything, while the grandfather sat in his pajamas reading the paper, and the younger people talked and talked in Bosnian. They really made us feel like part of the family, and it was a really great experience.
Mostar is a smallish town near Sarajevo graced with a lovely, well-preserved old town, particularly famous for what is called "the old bridge" (actually it's a rebuilt version of the real one destroyed during the war). It's a stone bridge that arches over the Neretva river, which is the most striking green colour - not a dirty green, nor an algae green, just a deep emerald green, and kind of clear. It flows without white water, but a strong consistent current. Very beautiful to look at, and it's a tradition for men to jump off the old bridge right into it. They do it for money from tourists nowadays. We saw only one actually jump in all our time there, though there was plenty of standing on the edge, swinging of arms, letting go of the rail, only to catch themselves at the last second. Call it showmanship. We found a nice restaurant there, which had an open air terrace, roofed in, right over the river, with tree's branches hanging over the windows. Really nice atmosphere.
Our second day in Mostar we went and saw the Memorial for the Partisans - this is a big monument to the men who fought the Germans back in the day. It's a really big beautiful thing - curving concrete pathways lead you up a slope to where there are these high concrete walls with little chambers and atria. The centrepiece is a big round boss on the back wall adorned with rings of projecting things. The pity of it is that it seems they've forgotten all about it, and that it has become a haunt of drunks and worse. The whole place is covered with litter and empty beer-cans, and the standing water was a dirty bright green - there were actually tadpoles swimming around in this big concrete dish at the centrepiece. A real shame cause it's the coolest place, and it overlooks the whole city. You can see all of Mostar, and the tall tall hills that surround it. So that was our last day there - the next day we boarded a bus for Dubrovnik.
We got in around nine thirty Saturday night. Now it's sequences of events like this that make me love travelling. On the bus we ran into Martin, and English guy on a little holiday in the Balkans. He was on his way to the youth hostel so he showed us the way there. He was a pretty cool guy and we had plenty to talk about. Once there I used food that I already had on me, in my special food bag, to cook spaghetti with tomato sauce. It was pretty good, especially suppelemented with bread with cheese and salami. There's just something about having everything you need in a bag you can carry. It's a good feeling. So we ate that up, and had some of the last of our raki afterwards. We ate with Martin, and met up with these two Dutch girls, Esther and Karen. Dutch is a cool language to hear, and I think I can tell when someone is speaking it now. It's a bit like German, but more like Muppets talking. When older Dutch guys speak Dutch, they sound a bit like Sean Connery. Which is strange.
So we ran into them and they were going out so we decided what the hey. First we went into the old town for a couple of beers and ended up drinking in what was basically an alley, but let me describe it. Dubrovnik's old town is really special. It's paved with gleaming marble (polished smooth by thousands of feet), roofed with orange terracotta, and packed with these medieval churches. Sometimes it reminds me a bit like Rome. The most prominent thing about it is that the old town is surrounded by these high, thick walls, and that it's right on the sea. So we were between these two buildings, in an alley going uphill right off the wide main street, and there were bars just spilling out. It was packed, and we were having a really good time, though getting to the bar was a big challenge. After that we went to one of the two clubs in Dubrovnik - Latino Club Fuego. Hahaha...
You go in and you don't realise then that you're entering a roofless courtyard. It seems pretty dead, till you go downstairs, down this spiral staircase lit only in red. A bit like descending into hell, I thought at the time. There's a dancefloor down there and it was packed with people. The music playing...oh man. It was like hard techno-house, but the samples that you usually hear in that kind of music were all like Croatian folk music chanting. Like you could tell it wasn't from North America. It was really fun though. Finally I went upstairs to get a sandwich from the sandwich bar INSIDE THE CLUB, and we left soon after that. I surprised to see that it was four o'clock at that point, and the place was busier than ever when we left it.
The next day we were a bit slow and I later found out that Esther was bedridden until five pm. She was little I suppose and had been drinking cocktails as well as beer. Girls and their liquor. Kathleena was hung over as well and even I had a bit of a headache. So we took it easy that day, strolling around the old town and napping in the afternoon. Around eight we left to go see the Dubrovnik Wind Trio - flute, clarinet, and bassoon, which I used to play. They played Bach, Haydn, and Mozart, and though I was very sleepy I enjoyed it thoroughly nonetheless. It was in a tiny fifteenth century church, too! So after that we went and had some octopus salad in a dockside restaurant and on the way back I heard Miles Davis. We followed the sound for quite a while; it reverberated strangely and was hard to pinpoint. Eventually we found it; Troubadur Hard Jazz club, with a group playing out in the street. We had a sljivovica (plum brandy and a local specialty) and watched them for a bit before going back and crashing right out.
The next day we got up and caught the nine am ferry to nearby Lokrum island. The whole thing is a national park, and it also has a botanical garden. An outdoor botanical garden. The idea was foreign to me as the only ones I've known are inside, in specially humidified and heated facilities. In the morning it was practically empty and we had a lovely time wandering the forests, and swimming in the balmy blue sea off of white rocks. There were lots of peacocks - placid, plain females, and males. The elder ones have a big magnificent tail-fan, and walk around regally and quietly. The young males have no such tail, and act much more aggressively, chasing me around for my sandwich and making lound noises. They have something to prove. After arriving back in Dubrovnik, we were supposed to catch a bus right away but the tourist info place had given us the wrong info and and there was no bus to catch. So we spent the rest of the day in Dubrovnik and I had a chance to make another delicious dinner - penne with a red wine tomato sauce (with some ajvar in it, an awesome red pepper spread) with pork and a vegetable salad. MMMM. The next morning we caught a ferry to Mljet.
Mljet is so named because the ancient Greeks called it Melita, which means honey. It is an island about two hours ferry ride from Dubrovnik. It figures into The Odyssey by Homer; Odysseus apparently spent seven years there. It's a really great place. It's got two lakes in it, one of which has its own island, and so much to do. Our first day we just went biking, and then went for a swim in a still, still lake. The lakes set out like so: the sea enters at the mouth on the western tip, and forms a channel to the big lake. Then there's a smaller lake. The further you get in, the stiller and more green the water is. So we were in the small lake. I will always remember being in the middle of the lake, treading water with my lower lip just above the water, looking at the tree-covered slope rising up above the shore. It was very beautiful, because there was the slightest breeze and the branches were barely moving. The trees were well-spaced so you could see each one against the others, very clearly. And I was seeing it all, just suspended in that cool, still water.
The second day it just stormed and thundered and rained all bloody day, so we didn't do anything but read and plan ahead. Which was good, but a shame as well. Except in the morning, before Kathleena woke up, I went out; I'd hoped to scale up some rocks I'd seen high above the hiking path. It started raining and by the time I got to them it was right pouring. They were too slippery. I went back, soaked to the skin.
The next day we rented bikes again and went to the western tip of the island, where the sea comes in to fill the lakes. We were on the south side of the channel. It had rained in the morning but by the time we got there it was clear and sunny and hot. Humid as well, but not muggy-humid - the air was just infused with steam scented with sweet earth and plants. Wonderful. We hiked up to a great viewpoint, then on our way back stopped on the rocks and I went swimming in the sea. Wonderful. The Croatian Adriatic is very warm for some reason as seas go; warmer than in Greece at least, which is strange. Then we were starving and stopped for some food at a restaurant. That was three. That's when we decided to stay another night instead of leaving at five. So it was kind of spur of the moment, but it was the right decision. After that we biked around to the north side of the lakes, to the other side of the sea mouth. There are no bridges, so to get to the other side of the channel, it's an hour long brisk bike ride.
We'd hoped to go swimming, and I did, for about a minute. But the water was so choppy. Swimming in the sea like that, you have no control at all. I was there and did a couple of strokes of breast stroke and I was so much farther away from the rocks than I thought I'd be. It was a bit of a fright - the dark waves were rising up all around, bobbing me up and down, back and forth. So I swam back and crawled out. Kathleena was just standing on the rocks in her swim suit, delightedly letting the waves crash in and splash her all over. Then the sun went behind the hill and we headed back.
But changing our plans, deciding to stay, made me realise something. Like I had got into leaving-mode, I had accepted leaving. So right then staying seemed like a bit of a drag, but I just had to switch back. And I'm glad I did. We had a wonderful time. There was just some hassle with the hostel-lady in Split; she was mad that we'd cancelled our reservation and apparently gave Kathleena an earful; repeating herself and yelling and yelling in her thick Slavic accent.
The next day we biked back to the south side and I jumped off the cliffs into the sea, which was still choppy, but less so than the north side. It's so balmy in those waters. Kathleen even jumped in for a bit, though it was scary. Getting out was the hardest part; you have to wait for a big wave to bob you up so you can get your arms under you, and the rocks are just jagged. I was bleeding from a few small cuts afterwards. That was our farewell to Mljet. We had a great time there.
Then we went and caught the ferry back to Dubrovnik, and then the bus to Split. We arrived at midnight. First we missed the turn for our hostel, then we went back. We'd made a reservation, and told her we'd be in late. It was closed anyway. So we walked back to the payphones and started calling around. By then it was about one. This guy in a car offered us a room, in the old town. He ended up taking us to his friend's guesthouse - his was full. If he had one. But the price he'd offered us was unacceptable to her. They yelled at each other in Croatian. By that point we were too tired to care. We were just going to leave when they took us to another place, and gave us the key. We paid the lady and never met the owner of the place where we slept. We staid up till three; Star Trek: The Next Generation was on. Sweet.
So this morning we woke up there, late. Around eleven we set out for the hostel. The owner went off on this English girl for leaving her stuff on someone else's bed, exactly how she went off on Kathleena when she cancelled our reservation. Repeating herself and so exasperated and SHOCKED! "This is the first time! The first time! Not usual! I can't imagine, how can you do this?!" So she's a nut-job. I decided not to tell her that we were the same travellers who had a reservation and never showed, even though it means I can't confront her for causing an enormous shit-odyssey last night. I don't need that. So then we did our laundry for the first time in two weeks. All our stuff was damp and stinking from all the rain on Mljet. Now I'm in the Internet cafe and finally caught up with this blog. Yeah!