Views of Some Adriatic Countries

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June 22nd 2017
Published: July 14th 2017
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If you count the day most of us left the States, we are ten days into our trip now. It's been very busy, but for some reason I haven't felt like writing, perhaps because TravelPod has shut down, and I don't know if my new vehicle of choice, TravelBlog, has been able to transfer all my entries, maps, and address book. These are all important things I don't want to lose. And, except for long bus rides, our schedule has been quite active, so there hasn't been much time to write.

We started in Dubrovnik, called Croatia's crowning jewel, a gorgeous, wonderful ancient city built on the Adriatic Sea. We only had one full day there, not nearly enough time to explore its secrets and riches. A few of us walked on top of the mile-long wall surrounding the Old Town, looking down on the red-tiled roofs; stunning views of the Adriatic held my attention most of the way, although in June it is jam-packed with tourists, creating blockages of people stopping to take photos and selfies as they meander along the wall. This can get frustrating, as many do not seem to be aware that they are blocking the walkway, or maybe they are distracted enough by the beauty to not really care. Climbing several series of steps and hustling up and down reminded me of parts of the Great Wall of China, although this surrounding wall is tiny, a little miniature compared to that Wonder of the World. This is a different kind of beauty; even with all the bothersome tourists it is well worth ambling around. And exploring the little passageways and alleys opening out from Dubrovnik's main promenade, the Placa, turned into a never ending pleasure. Climbing up and down the steep, hilly streets in Old Town gives quite a good workout; thus it is easily justifiable to sample wonderful foods offered in the many restaurants and cafes during these explorations.

The next day we spent in Montenegro, an even more beautiful country in this part of the world. Along the Bay of Kotor we stopped at the ancient village of Perast, and rode a boat out to see the Lady of the Rocks shrine, a little gem build on a very small man-made island. It was a lovely day, perfect for viewing one of the most beautiful bays in the world. I had wanted to climb up a very steep, loosely rocky trail to see the Church of Our Lady of Remedy (why it is named this I do not yet know) and look out over this gorgeous bay, but again it was too hot, about 96F this day, so doing that was definitely not recommended. I reluctantly agreed. As we were leaving Croatia I realised I had not yet touched the waters of the Adriatic Sea, an enormous oversight! But I've been assured we will have another chance later on.

We next spent three days in Sarajevo, another lovely city, but by now we had travelled to Bosnia. Sarajevo is so full of recent wars and resultant tragedies that I could still feel the sadness and unease in the streets. I had remembered it a bit from the 1984 Olympic games, which occurred before Yugoslavia broke apart. It truly is a beautiful city, with so many bridges flowing over its pretty river, surrounded by mountains that not so long ago held snipers and artillery that indiscriminately decimated the city and its people. On an historical walking tour of the city we were taken to the Latin Bridge where Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated; I could visualize him and his wife being driven in their car, and his -- and her-- being shot down and killed. There is a museum there now, and all looks peaceful. Sarajevo is known for its ethnic diversity, and we certainly witnessed that: Christians, Orthodox, Moslems, Turks, and Jews all living together in this same city, such a fine display of religious tolerance and acceptance of others and their beliefs. This is a model for the whole world to follow, but there are still fears of future unrest. Perhaps the recent, horrible memories are still too close, too raw.

Now we are in Zagreb, Croatia's capital, and again it is HOT, 94F with total sun and very little moving air. We are sweating all our badness out! (I love this weather!) Our rooms here in the Palace Hotel are much smaller than what we had in Dubrovnik and Sarajevo, but my favorite stop so far was two days ago, in Karanac, Croatia. That's a lovely rural village just outside of Osijek, part of the breadbasket of Slavonia. The people here would feel very comfortable in rural Maine, as Denis and Goca work their land, growing all of their food, keeping cattle, pigs, and sheep for multiple reasons, baking their own breads, making their own cheeses and sausages, as well as making soaps, beautiful bags, jams, and pottery to sell to the people who are lucky enough to stay in one of their rooms for a night or two. Denis and Goca work very hard, but are some of the most pleasant people I've ever met. Their little hotel complex is called Autohtono Gospodarstvo Sklepic, with charming, clean, stunning, basic private rooms that are each decorated with hand-stencilled walls and matching comforters and photos from farm life long ago. As it is where I live in Maine, roosters wake travellers in the morning. Here they are trying to keep their country's history alive by living it, and offering this almost forgotten way of life to travellers. Sleeping there was the best night I've had so far on this trip. I don't think their farm is online, but to me it would be another good reason to visit Croatia.


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