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Roadtrippin’ Paris to Bosnia and Croatia, and we are still speaking !

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Road trip from Paris to Eastern Europe, are we crazy ??? Well, yeah, but that is old news. So anyways, why did we decide to do this trip by car ? Let me start from the beginning….

I am an American living in Paris with my French (but don’t call him Parisian) boyfriend. We hadn’t been planning a big trip this summer as we had gone to India this past winter. We thought we would probably take a short 5 or 6-day trip mid-July for my birthday, but as we have been job-hunting, it was difficult to be able to plan for this. At the beginning of July it turns out we would be able to get away for a couple weeks ! This is great news, but being that we would like to leave in about a week, and keep costs down, this would be a challenge.

My boyfriend, (let’s call him Y) had just finished his scuba diving course but still needed to do his Open Water checkout dives so we wanted to include some diving in the trip(I am already certified, for diving that is…). Our first choice, going to Sharm el Sheikh would be too expensive at this time. So maybe Sardinia or Corsica ? Sounds good, but the ferries are pretty expensive with the car. I start reading the trip reports about Croatia on this board and we are hooked. Croatia it is.

With departure day a week away, it is out of our budget to fly and rent a car so road trip here we come, it is that simple. According to Via Michelin it will be 2 full days of driving there and 2 back, but hey, this gives us lots of quality conversation time together ! I am more of the “don’t bother with reservations type” but Y reels me back to reality and asks me to at least secure lodging for us. More reading on this board convinces me I have to get to Bosnia and maybe a daytrip to Montenegro too.

We decide on this for an itinerary : Paris to Venice for the first night. Next day on to Mostar, Bosnia for 2 nights, followed by 4 nights in Dubrovnik(with a day trip to Montenegro). 5 days on Korcula for the diving part to finish the trip. There are many more places we would have liked to visit but just wouldn’t have the time, so we will just have to go back.

Apartments seem like a great idea for us for Dubrovnik and Korcula so after a couple days of emailing several in both places I make reservations for those and a pension in Mostar. Even at such late notice we were able to choose from several as it seems it is just before the big mid-July rush (dates for trip are July 6 to July 19). This worked out great, I had no experience with renting apartments, we usually stay in hotels, but I am now convinced this is the way to go for stays of 3 or 4 days or more. The only deposit we had to send was 30% for the apartment and diving on Korcula.

Ok, enough background, we’re off!

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    Thursday, July 6, departure day. We have a less than ideal nights sleep. France had beaten Portugal in the World Cup the night before and we could hear the festivities going on well past 4 am. We are big fans so when the alarm goes off at 5:15 am we are still on a football ‘high’( and our France jerseys are packed for the final!). The car is fully loaded up and we are on the road by 6:20 am, and Y asks me if I am sure I have everything (this will become important in about 50 kilometers…) and we are off.

    Via Michelin gives us driving time to Venice as 10hours 15 minutes. We hope to arrive in Venice around 6 or 7 pm (allowing for stops), giving us just a little time to walk around and have a nice dinner. As I said earlier, I am not really a planner and I don’t think I have ever made dinner reservations on a trip, but I had read on this board about La Zucca and me being vegetarian, decided I had to try this place out so we made dinner reservations a couple days before for 9:30 pm. That should be plenty of time, right ??? Wrong.

    About 50 km outside of Paris, just after commenting that we are so glad we got out of Paris before rush hour and watching everyone slogging into Paris from the other direction at about 20 km/hr, Y gets a look of panic on his face, seems the cell phone had been forgotten. Now, we are in no way cell phone junkies ( I don’t even own one) but we had left our number with the apartment rentals, dog sitter and Y also needs to take calls for his business on occasion. Ugh, we quickly run through different possibilities as to how we can work this out, but we decide to join the others on the trek back into Paris. In the end this cost us over 2.5 hours but it worked out for the best as it turned out we did need the phone.

    After the false start, we are back on the road by 9 am. I tell Y he better do whatever it takes to get me pumpkin flan from La Zucca or day 2 of this road trip could get ugly!
    According to our GPS, we should still get to Venice around 7 pm. This is, of course, widely optimistic as we hit rain, an accident(not ours), and then the big whamie, rush hour in Milan. Stuck in Milan traffic for 2.5 hours, I admit defeat and call and cancel our dinner reservations. See, I knew there was a reason I don’t plan much!

    We had reserved in Mestre at Hotel Roberta(70E directly on their site) and when we pulled in at 9:15 finding it very easily, my quest for pumpkin flan had been renewed; maybe we could still get in before closing ??? Y is of course exhausted from the drive but agrees to still go into Venice for dinner. We throw the bags in the room and rush off to the train station. As luck would have it, there is a long line to buy tickets from the machine and when we finally get up there we see the sign on the machine that it is not for buying tickets to Venice. We try anyways and of course we are in the wrong place. We finally figure out you need to go into the cafe and get the tickets from the clerk, well, now we know.

    The clock is ticking on dinner and being Italy our train is now, of course, late! We end up not getting to Venice until 10:15 and as La Zucca closes at 10:30 I realize this just is not in the cards for us tonight. Y wonders if dinner will be at all possible as most places are closing up already but only mutters a couple times that we should have just stayed in Mestre. It is his first glimpse of Venice and he is already saying we need to come back for a real visit.
    We spy one place that looks open and they are but just for pizza. Not exactly what we had imagined for our one night in Venice but hey, (hungry) beggars cannot be choosers. I have a mushroom cocktail pizza, which isn’t bad, although somewhat disappointing that at least some of the mushrooms are in fact canned. Y, being the carnivore that he is, is surprised to learn that in Italy, peperoni is not at all meat based. A liter of vino rosso helps wash down the canned mushrooms and roast peppers (really good by the way) and limoncello is the perfect dessert. Not a gourmet meal, but not terrible either. It is great to just be in Venice and out of the car!

    It is around 11:30 pm when we finish dinner and I still want to walk around a bit. We are not sure of the exact times of the trains back to Mestre, just that the last one is sometime between 12 and 1 am. Y observes that it looks like rain any minute now, maybe we should just head back? No, No, we HAVE to see a little of Venice, so we set off towards Rialto/San Marco. We don’t get far when we are suddenly hit with monsoon like rains. But we press on, along with quite a few other Venice diehards who can’t be deterred by a little (no really, a whole lot) of rain and make it as far as the Rialto.

    We are soaked and it’s getting late so we decide to take the traghetto back to the train station. The ticket booth is closed but we are told we can buy tickets on the boat. This idea should have worked, in principal, but in reality, we were so packed in we couldn’t even see who we could ask about tickets. I know, it’s terrible, and I don’t even want to admit it, but truth be told we rode without tickets. I am in no way advocating doing this but desperate times call for desperate measures…

    We arrive at the train station and the last train before 5 am is leaving in about a minute. We make a mad dash for the train, not even sure it is stopping in Mestre. We jump on and verify that it is indeed making a stop there. Just to push our luck a little further, in our mad dash for the train we forgot to validate our tickets. I try to get Y to go stamp them but he’s not buying into it, no way he is getting off the train.

    We arrive to the hotel around 1 am, soaking wet and exhausted. The owner tells us he hasn’t seen rain like this since Africa. As we head to bed we agree that our 8 am departure isn’t too likely…

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    Friday, July 7, Day 2
    We sleep like bambinos and don’t make it down to breakfast until around 9:30. Breakfast is typical, croissants with some kind of sweet filling, toast, yogurt, juice, expresso. Not bad.

    Back on the road by 10:45. We should have about 8 hours to Mostar. We are in Slovenia at lunchtime and pick a place at random for lunch. They took euros so we didn’t need to change money just for lunch.

    Back on the road, we get a little mixed up not finding the correct exit and instead of taking the coastal road towards Split(as suggested by Via Michelin), we end up going east towards Zagreb and taking the autoroute back down. This seemed to be out of the way but after doing the coastal route on the way back, it was well worth sidetracking. Day 2 on the road is going much slower than the first; we are still pretty tired and have to stop often. I had told the pension in Mostar we would arrive late afternoon and there is not a chance we are going to arrive before 9 pm. Maybe much later.

    Good thing we have the cell phone now! I can just let them know we will be late, right ? Nope, forgot to bring the number. So we call Y’s sister who looks it up for us. Great, well no, Y now tells me that it won’t work to call Bosnia while we are still in Croatia, we can only call Croatia or France. Ugh. We decide to just wait and hope for the best and call when we get in Bosnia.

    The drive is pretty uneventful although the cars are going way over the limit on the autoroute, much faster than in France. One small incident, when exiting the autoroute at the tollbooth we were told our card wouldn’t work in Croatia and we had to pay cash. Forgot that we had used it at an earlier tollbooth. The guy asks for 160 Kuna (luckily we had taken out some cash at one of our stops) and when we drive out we notice it is really only 155 on the display. Mental note to ask for a receipt next time.

    Around 7 we get a call from the pension wondering where we are (we can get calls just not make them) and she assures us she will save the room for us. I thought this was really nice of her to call us, I think a lot of places may have given the room away (and she did have other people wanting the room). Entry into Bosnia is uneventful, they asked for passports and car registration and took a glance in the trunk.

    The roads in Bosnia are good, not at all a problem. We arrive in Mostar around 9:15, after one more call from the pension looking for us. We had chosen the Pansion Rose ( http://www.pansion-rose.ba/home_e.htm ) from a recommendation on this site and because they had secured parking. 42E for a double(actually the room was a triple) with private bath and breakfast. I highly recommend this pension; clean spacious rooms, air-conditioning and about a 10-minute walk to the Old Town. Great value and very convenient, especially if you are driving.

    A week ago I would have never imagined a trip to Bosnia and all of a sudden here we are. Even though it is late we are eager to explore (and starving!) and head off to Old Town. The effects of the war are immediately visible. Many bombed out buildings, but much reconstruction already done. We are both in our 30’s and can easily remember the horrifying scenes on the news just a little over 12 years ago. But from an outsiders view the old town is lively, festive, romantic and quite touristy. It seems they have come so far in a few short years. The famous bridge, Stari Most that was destroyed in the war, has recently been rebuilt (exactly as it was, from the original plans) and is beautiful as it glows in its nightly illumination.

    I am already snapping away taking photos and Y reminds me about dinner. We take a look at a couple menus in the little restos around the bridge and they are all about the same with grilled meats of some sort and not too vegetarian friendly. Most are pretty crowded as well. We happen upon the Sadrvan restaurant and they have several veggie dishes and a free table as well. This place was a real find. We start with a plate of mixed cheeses and meats, I have a veggie stew and Y orders the “special”. This turns out to be huge platter of grilled meats and yummy veggies (I helped him with those) that could have easily feed a small family. We have a liter of local wine, which was much better than we expected. Service was excellent and very friendly, I think we paid around 20 euro.

    Note : all places offer a 2:1 rate on Bosnian marks to euros and you can pay in euros, marks, or kunas or any combination. This was a better rate for us than our bank fees and very convenient seeing that we would be in Bosnia for only a couple days and had brought some euros along.

    After dinner we strolled around a bit more, taking photos and just enjoying the peacefulness of our first night in Mostar.

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    Thank you both, it is always good to know someone is reading and enjoying!


    Saturday, July 8, Day 3 – Mostar
    A knock on the door around 8:30 am reminds us we need to move the car. Since we had arrived late we had the last parking spot and we were blocking someone else in. Our hostess had asked us the night before if it would be a problem and we assured her it wouldn’t be, just wake us up when they are ready to leave. Unfortunately Y is still half asleep, parking is tight and he ends up ripping the door of the parking right off its hinges and scratching up the side front of the car (just ours). Asima, our hostess is not visibly upset and tells him not to worry about it (it is already fixed by the time we get out a couple hours later). Leave it to us to unsecure the secured parking !

    After a little more sleep and a nice breakfast we head out to explore Mostar. By 11 am it is already started to get crowded with the tour bus crowd and I am glad we will have the day to explore on our own. Our first stop is the Museum of Herzegovina. This is a small museum with the most interesting part being a film showing Mostar before 1990, through the war with the actual destruction and then reconstruction of the bridge. I choke back tears, it is so hard to watch and I cannot imagine living through that. Just outside the museum is a cemetery, with all the dates on the headstones from 1993 and 1994. Another chilling reminder of the past. Our last stop before lunch is the “Turkish House”, a 350-year-old residence that is interesting for a quick stop.

    We head back towards the old town center and start scoping out lunch venues. There are many places with views of the bridge and unfortunately the one recommendation I had, Bella Vista, is full. Nothing really stood out about any of the other places and we select at random Restoran Babilon, just to have the view. Errer grave (and they even had photos of the food posted, I know rookie mistake) this was our worst meal of the trip. Y had ordered a steak of some sort and when our lunch arrived the waiter informed him that his steak morphed into a veal brochette, did he mind ? Y was puzzled but accepted the veal. I had ordered a mushroom risotto and it was unlike any risotto I have ever seen and hope to ever see again. Rice with canned mushrooms thrown on top and a swirl of ketchup like sauce around the edges! No joke. Y also has to ask for hot fries as his are ice cold but says the veal was ok. We have a couple of Bosnian beers, which are not bad, and at least we enjoy the view of the bridge and the guys diving off (the work in groups, one or 2 go around collecting money while another hangs around the edge of the bridge, jumping only after they have collected enough loot).

    After lunch we climb to the top of the Pasha Mosque for some really spectacular views and more photo ops. We continue our walk out of the old town towards the train station and old front line of the war. There are signs on many war-torn buildings reminding would be explorers not to enter because of the dangerous conditions. Old and new are completely intertwined wherever you look. We are heartbroken for the amount of destruction yet hopeful that Bosnia’s future will be bright.

    Back to the old town center it is time to try out the ice cream. Each scoop is only 25 centimes, really cheap and yummy. We take our cones and sit along the banks of the river, below the bridge. A great spot to relax and we are glad we have the entire day here at our own pace. A lovely sunny day soon starts to turn cloudy, dark and windy as a storm is moving in. Suddenly this structure of wood and metal (now sure what it was) gets blown apart and pieces are flying everywhere, which sends us all running for cover. Luckily no one was hit but it was a scary few seconds.

    It starts to pour(there is a pattern developing here…) and I still have a little shopping I want to do so we dash in and out of the little stores before heading back to the pension to rest before dinner (and dry out). Tonight is the World Cup third place game between Germany and Portugal so we head out to try and find dinner and the game, hopefully at the same time. We end up at Restaurant Rondo(outside of the Old Town), a suggestion from our lonely planet and they have a nice patio and are showing the game outside. The resto is a mix of local specialties and italian. We are not feeling all that adventurous after our lunch disaster and since the local dishes aren’t really described we go for the italian. My gnocchi in a spinach cream sauce is possibly the best I have ever had and Y is pleased with his baked penne also. Our waiter suggests a local wine which is a little harsh but not too bad. Service is excellent and we enjoy the evening very much.

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    Sunday, July 9, Day 4 – Blagaj, Pocitelj, Kravice Falls to Dubrovnik

    The drive from Mostar to Dubrovnik is only about 2 hours so we decide to take the day to see some sites along the way. Just outside of Mostar is Blagaj, home of the Dervish monastery. This was the least interesting of our stops this day, similar to the Turkish House we had seen the day before. There is also a fortress you can hike up(1 hr) but it was really hot so we don’t attempt it.

    Next stop is Pocitelj, on the main road to Dubrovnik. If you blink, you may miss it. The entire town is built into the mountainside and we spend about an hour or so wandering around, exploring, and taking photos.

    I really want to stop for lunch at Kravice Falls and our Lonely Planet is pretty off in their directions. It says to turn right at Pocitelj onto the road to Ljubuski, but this is incorrect. We continue on a little further to Capljina (I think that is spelled right) where we get the road to Ljubuski. You go through the town and continue towards Ljubuski. After about 10 km there is a small white sign “Ode Krav” to turn left. The trick is that you cannot really see this sign going in the direction of Ljubuski, I had turned around and seen it after we were past. We are able to turn around, still not knowing if this is what we are really looking for or not. Luckily it is and we are able to enjoy a lunch with a lovely view of the falls. Y has a grill with fries and I get a cheese sandwich and salad. Really simple lunch but fun to watch everyone enjoying the hot summer day.

    The rest of the drive to Dubrovnik is a piece of cake, even along the coast, the roads are quite good. We cross borders several times, out of Bosnia, into Croatia, Bosnia and back to Croatia. No problems or waits even though it is a Sunday. We had agreed to call upon arrival for the apartment and we just pull over somewhere in the Lapad area and call. In less than 5 minutes Zeljko arrives on his motorbike to guide us to our new home for the next 4 nights.

    We were both pretty nervous about the apartment rental thing, never having done it. Y was really skeptical as he couldn’t believe for 59E a night it could be livable, but the photos looked great. The apartment turns out to be amazing, we cannot believe our luck. When Zeljko first shows us the apartment I notice there are a couple extra closed doors (we had rented a one bedroom) and my thoughts turn to panic, thinking I had booked us into a place with a shared kitchen and living room. I am relieved when he says the place is all ours, and it is really beautiful. Living room with view of the harbor, nicely equipped kitchen, bedroom with balcony, full bathroom with whirlpool tub, and even another WC. It is also air-conditioned. And Zeljko couldn’t be any kinder or more helpful. After guiding us to the apt, he insisted on helping us with our bags, gave us much useful information about the buses, summer festival, activities and is just a really super nice guy. His wife had left cold drinks in the fridge for us, chocolates in the bedroom, dates and almonds in the dining room and a sample of 3 liqueurs brewed by Zeljko’s father. It was the most amazing welcome to Croatia, we felt like we had arrived at a long lost relative’s home.

    We would like to relax and enjoy our new home, but alas, it is the World Cup final tonight. We don our France jerseys and head for Old Town. Our apartment is across the bay from Lapad, in the marina area and only 10 minutes to Old Town by bus. The only possible drawback is that the apt is located up lots of stairs from the main road, so it may not be suitable for someone with a problem taking stairs. We felt it was well worth the view, not to mention the license to take in any extra desired calories.

    Old Town is hopping and many restaurants have moved TV’s out to their patios for the big game. We get lots of commentary from our jerseys (for and against France but all friendly!) while we are wandering around. We find a place on one of the squares called the Vegetarian “something or another” but strangely enough there isn’t that many vegetarian choices. There is a table left with view of the tele so we grab it. There are a couple French girls at another table and when they see us they run over to paint French flags on us and take photos with us.


    This was a great spot for the game, that is until we are caught out again in another downpour! Pandemonium erupts as waiters hustle around trying to set up umbrellas, but there aren’t enough to go around (we are lucky). Everyone pitches in to rearrange tables so everyone could have a somewhat dry view of the game. At one point one of the umbrellas gets overloaded and collapses all over one guy and his pasta. He was actually an American with the French girls who had refused to get a French flag painted on him. Karma?

    At half time we decide on a change of venue and try to find an Irish pub the French girls had told us about. It is packed and we have to stand for the rest of the game but there are tons of French fans and it is more exciting than the resto. We all know how this story ends unfortunately… After the game the pub clears out really quick and we grab a seat and drown our sorrows.

    Y is ready to head home, afraid to be seen on the streets with our jerseys (his is a Zidane jersey by the way) but I convince him otherwise. We hold our French flag painted faces up high and take our stroll, letting any comments roll on by. While Y slips into a café to use the facilities another French woman (with her 2 friends) spies me from across the street and runs over with big hugs for me. Y comes out and isn’t sure at first if I am rumbling with the enemy or commiserating with friends. We all lament for a while until parting ways and calling it a night.

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    What a fun and interesting report kellyee, but sorry about all the rain!!
    I so envy those of you in Europe who can drive to other countries..not like that here in the states except for beautiful Canada and Mexico of course.

    Uhm, that risotto really sounded terrible, lol.

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    Very nice report Kellyee21 !
    Enjoyed reading it. It took me back to ept. 2004 when I visited Croatia for 9 days and I agree with everything you said about the warm Croatian people and Dubrovnik.

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    Love it Kellyee21! You are much more care free than I am.

    I was reading the report during lunch and have to admit - the description of the disgusting mushroom risotto made my plain ham-n-cheese sammy seem like the best thing in town!

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    Kellyee-
    Loving your report, especially the comments about Bosnia. Here in the US, it seems some of us have quickly forgotten the devastation caused by that horrible war. An important reminder . . .

    How fun to actually take a roadtrip to Bosnia and Croatia! Oh why do I live in California? Nowhere is easy access (except Mexico, of course, which is beautiful and I love it).

    Love your French pride!

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    Thanks everyone for your comments ! If the description of the risotto isn't bad enough, I have a photo of it too, hahaha.

    LCBoniti : I used to live in Arizona so we would go down to Mexico often, boy do I miss that!

    Continuing on...

    Monday, July 10, Day 5 - Dubrovnik
    We sleep in late today (surprise). I had actually dreamt that France did not lose the game last night, that the ref’s had forgotten to give them their last penalty kick and no one had noticed. Oh la la, I need professional help. Or at least some coffee for now. We hadn’t had time to pick up anything yet for breakfast so I send Y out while I promise I will try and crawl into the shower. He returns with all the fixin’s and we enjoy a leisurely brunch and don’t leave the apartment until after 1.

    We head back to Old Town and the first order of business is to confirm our Atlas tour to Montenegro for Wednesday. There is an office right outside the Pile gate. Turns out they have the reservation but will need our passport information before the tour. We were under the impression that we just needed to bring the passports along on the day of the tour. We didn’t have these with us so they tell us to stop back tomorrow or else to just call.

    Today is the start of the Dubrovnik summer festival and Zeljko had suggested we try to watch the big fireworks display from one of the boats so we headed off to the harbor to see about tickets. He had suggested using the Elite agency boat but as it turns out they were not at this harbor. We talked to a couple of the other companies and decided to think it over a bit.

    We head off to do the tour of the city walls. This is a definite don’t miss. We both get the audio-guide, which is ok, but not great in my opinion, too much “adjective fluff”. The views are amazing here, many great photo ops. When we start the walk, the skies are blue and sunny, but all of a sudden quickly turn dark. Just as the audio-tour is telling us we are at the highest point in the fort, another storm breaks. This is definitely not the place to be as thunder and lightening are cracking all around. We dash for cover under one of the towers and wait it out. We repeat this a couple more times until we can make the full tour around the fort. By the time we are finished the sun is back out and it is hot and humid once again.

    With our daily rain shower out of the way we decide to go ahead and get the boat tickets. We never find the Elite agency so we just choose one of the other boats. They tell me we will get our money back if the show ends up getting canceled.

    Next is a very late lunch at the Pizzeria Mea Culpa. Excellent and cheap pizzas.

    We have a few hours to kill before the boat trip so we take a walk down to the beach just outside the Ploce gates. This beach is rocky (which is typical of Croatia) and I wish I had gotten some water shoes. We are too lazy to get into our suits but just wade in a bit. The water is definitely warmer than the Atlantic coast; I may actually be able to swim here.

    Back to Old Town and we still have a couple hours before the boat trip. We spy a café with some really comfy looking chairs and just plant ourselves. It is getting quite crowded for the festival and we are glad to be off our feet and just people-watch. We really like Dubrovnik, and Y is already plotting how we can get Zeljko to sell us his apartment and move here.

    We get our boat for the show and head out into the harbor. It is windy and the display is late to start, but no storms yet. There are a few crackles of fireworks and then nothing for about 15 more minutes. Just as we are thinking it isn’t going to happen, it does and there is an enjoyable show. It takes some time to get back to the dock with all the boats needing to queue for their turn.

    We are still stuffed from pizza and just walk around a bit to see some of the festival, there are tons of people in the streets, it is similar to the Fete de la Musique in Paris. Lots of concerts and a big show at the clock tower. Around midnight we head home. The bus back is free but packed, and I have horrible flashbacks about the buses in India. It is all very civilized however and we make it off the bus without incident.


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    your trip report is hilarious..."rumbling with the enemy or commiserating with friends". i actually laughed out loud at work. thanks for replying to my post about your diving experience in korcula. i will have to see if we bother with diving in/near hvar. some posters on LP also said the same thing as you...nothing much to see underwater but the wrecks themselves. if we do dive, ill be sure to let you know how it went.

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    Tuesday, July 11, Day 6 – Dubrovnik
    Happy Birthday to Me ! I am so lucky to be able to celebrate in such a wonderful place ! This is our last full day in Dubrovnik and we still have so much we would like to do. Cavtat, Lokrum, kayaking, we should have stayed longer… We decide to start with some of the other sites in Dubrovnik; after all we will have time for lounging about in Korcula.

    First stop is Atlas travel to give them our passport information. Our pickup will be at 7:35 tomorrow at the Atlas agency at the harbor in front of the apartment. Did they really say 7:35 ???? AM ??? They obviously don’t realize that it is my birthday and we will likely be out late tonight, hahaha.

    Our first stop, the Franciscan Monastery and Church. We found the small museum interesting with its pharmaceutical collection. When we see the hole left by a missile hit, we are amazed the monastery is still standing. At the entrance to the museum is the 3rd oldest operational pharmacy, definitely worth a peek.

    Next up, the State Archives (free entry). There is some kind of reception going on here and the War Portrait room is closed. We will come back later. So onto the Rectors Palace. We buy the combo ticket, which includes the Palace, Maritime Museum, Rupe Museum (ethnographic museum), and the Marin Drzic home (who ? yeah, we didn’t know either). I don’t remember the cost but it was less than the palace and Maritime museum, both of which we wanted to see anyways.

    I would say The Rectors Palace is a definite “Don’t miss” with the ornately carved courtyard and the apartments. The Rector served as a sort of governor to the city and lived alone in the palace. He served a month a time, which was renewable.

    We continue on to the Cathedral and treasury. For 10 Kuna (entry for the treasury, cathedral is free) you can see some of St Blaise’s treasures including his skull, arm, and half of a leg. I think maybe the other half was in the monastery museum, but I can’t say for sure.

    On that appetizing note, it is definitely time for lunch. While we are wandering around looking for a dining spot, a couple is yelling and waving in our direction. I don’t recognize them and everyone is staring at us and I wonder what we have done now. Y insists we don’t know anyone here but I persist and make him go back and take a peek again at these odd people. It takes a few seconds but then it all clicks, it is the French couple we had spoken with after the World Cup game the other night. We feel bad for not recognizing them straight away, but hey, it was late, we’d had a few beers… Anyways we chat for a while and exchange some tips, they are really having a great time as well.

    We head over to Prijeko Street. I don’t particularly like this street. There are tons of restaurants here but you can’t walk down it without being asked to sit down at just about every single one. The other day I had seen a place with some interesting veggie items and no one pestering you to sit down and I wanted to try that. The restaurant is the Konoba Moskar. I take a big risk and order the artichoke risotto, fearful of my last risotto experience (even the name of this place reminds me of Mostar; MosKar, MosTar) but also feeling a little daring. Y gets a stuffed chicken breast. Throw in a couple beers and it is a success. No ketchup this time around.

    During lunch, we plot the second half of our sightseeing tour. Y wants to be sure to see the Maritime Museum and I want to see the Dominican Monastery (can’t see the Franciscans and not the Dominican’s after all). He would also like to pop into the 2 other places from our combo pass and maybe stop back at the Archives. This sounds like quite a lot for one day but really the Old Town is so compact and it doesn’t take very long to see each site.

    Our first stop is the Dominican Monastery dating from 1301. The courtyard with orange trees is lovely. The French Calvary under Napoleon once occupied the Monastery. The museum and church is also worth a peek.

    Y insists on stopping at the Marin Drzic home, even though we have no clue who he is (included on combo ticket). He must be important if his home has been turned into a tourist site. An audio tour is included and we are instructed to just follow along. The beginning is pretty bizarre with a story about some kind of scary looking statues in the first room. Next there is a DVD to view of Drzic’s time he spent in Italy. There are only 2 others besides us in the museum and when they sneak out of the film, we follow just after. We are still not sure who he is, just a writer or artist of some sort. After we are home and look him up, I find out he is considered to be one of the greatest playwright’s in Croatia’s history. I would say this could be skipped unless you are a big fan of Drzic’s. Even then, it would be better to try and see a performance as his plays are still performed in Dubrovnik.

    Y is not yet museumed out and drags me to the Ethnographic (Rupe) Museum. The building used to be a grainery in the 16th century. If you are interested in seeing traditional costumes, house wares and the like, stop by here, if not I’d give this a miss as well.

    On the way to the Maritime Museum we pass through the War Portrait room that is now open. There is a film of war scenes, which is interesting.

    Y is able to convince me into a stop at the Maritime Museum with promises of an ice cream break right after. There are lots of ship models here so if that is your thing, stop by, if not, skip it and go directly for the ice cream. There are also some paintings and photos and I do find this somewhat more interesting than the last 2 stops.

    He head to the port to enjoy our much deserved ice cream break. Afterwards, we have one more stop for today, the War Photo Limited. For photography enthusiasts this is an absolute must see. There are photos from various wars; Croatia, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Palestine, Kashmir. There is a special exhibit from women photographers while we are there. These shots are just incredible, each one displays such a depth of emotion, I have never seen an exhibit so moving. We spend close to 2 hours here looking at the photos, slide shows and books. The daily storm moves in while we are here causing some flickering of the lights. By the time we leave here it is over, for once we had good timing!

    We have a couple hours until my birthday dinner so we head back to the apartment to unwind with a birthday cocktail or two. We hadn’t had a chance to try out the liqueurs of Zeljko’s father so this is the perfect chance. There are 3 different ones, a pinkish one, a clear one, and a dark brown. The pinkish/orange one wins the sniff test for the least strong so we start there. It is somewhat sweet, not too strong, I like it. I now believe it to be Prosec.

    Next up is the dark brown. As we are enjoying the sunset, we see Zeljko’s mom in her garden below our window. We raise our glasses to her and thank her for the cocktails. She tells us the brown one is “good for the stomach” and laughs. Oh boy, that can’t be a good sign! I take a sip and it is quite bitter. Not to mention strong. Cough, cough, I think I may have burned a hole in my throat… I decide to skip the clear one and head straight back to pink. Ah, now that is much better.

    We head back to Old Town for our dinner at Domino Restaurant. No, this is not pizza, but what has become known as the best steakhouse in town, at least according to Zeljko. They also have a veggie plate so sounds like a win for both of us. Just as we settle in, a guy at the next table lights up a cigar. They have just arrived as well and there is no way I am going to be able tolerate that throughout the entire meal, yuck! The waiter is most helpful and able to move us in a couple minutes.

    Settled in next to our new neighbors (they are so delightful, the man even gets up during their meal to help me with my chair when we arrive) we decide to ignore the fact that we already had the apero at the apartment and start completely over. We don’t know what anything is so we trust our decision to the waiter who suggests something ladyish for me, and a different one for Y. He says that this one is “good for the stomach” ! Oh Oh! This is too funny as he makes the same gestures as Zeljko’s mom. I end up with the pink drink like at the apartment (Prosec) and Y gets another chance with the brown drink (???). His stomach should be good to go now ! The waiter also brings out some fish pâté for us to try and even though neither of us eats fish, we have had enough aperos to give it a tiny taste to be polite. Y goes first and claims it doesn’t taste like anything but I follow by giving it a very fishy rating. We leave it at that.

    Zeljko (he has become quite the hero to us) had told us if we like wine (who us ?) we must try Dingac wine, supposedly the best in Croatia. He tells us it is better than French wine (now he is really pushing it, hahaha). We order a bottle, which by the way is only a little more expensive than we have seen the stores. Not much of a mark up on the wines here it seems. Zeljko has hit the mark once again and it is indeed quite good. We will need to bring some of this back with us (no, not this bottle, that we are going to finish !). We both start with a salad. I have the veggie plate of course, which is delicious with about 7 different things: baked potato, eggplant, zucchini, fried cheese, I don’t remember what all. Y has some sort of steak, which is also a big hit. Somehow he even manages a crepe for dessert. This will be our most expensive meal of the trip at 688 Kuna (about 95 euro) but it is well worth it.

    We top the evening off with a stroll to the harbor and sit to discuss what a great and interesting trip we have had so far. We have not even left yet but we are anxious for another chance to come back and explore this region further, there is so much yet to be discovered. We head back to the apartment after midnight, hoping to catch at least a few zzz’s before our early departure for Montenegro.

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    Really timely finding this report as I'm now researching an overnight in Mostar, driving up from Split or Dubrovnik (haven't decided on the finer details yet!).

    Where did you stay in Dubrovnik? Can you post the link please?

    Looking forward to the rest especially Montenegro if you have the time...

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    Hi Julia,

    The email for Dube and Zeljko is
    dubravka.vulicevic@du.t-com.hr

    I dont know if they have a website for this apartment. I found them through Dubrovnik Online and had requested availability on their other apt. It was full so they sent me photos of the one we ended up staying in. I did post some photos of it on my website,

    http://kellyee21.free.fr/europe/croatia/croatia.html

    I will post the Montenegro part of my trip a little later tonight, I do have that day written.

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    Kelly - what fabulous photos of Mostar - I haven't been able to view the Bosnia villages page yet, but I am now even more enthusiastic about visiting Mostar, maybe even at the expense of time in Korcula! You have to post that bit of your report now too!

    It is so nice to read that someone has actually driven the roads in Bosnia themselves, rather than gone on a bus, and to read that they are fine and manageable - I have heard horror stories about unfenced sheer drops and all that sort of thing. Given that I am not very good with heights (and that I will be with my teenage daughter who will not have held her license long enough to be able to drivea rented car) I was a bit worried - also we are from the UK so it is the Wrong Side for us!

    So please post the rest of your report when you can, and thank you already.

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    Julia,

    Thanks for the compliment. We really enjoyed our trip and I am sure you and your daughter will as well. The road between Mostar and Dubrovnik is very good, it is not in the mountains at all so thus no drop offs. We also traveled on another route between Split and Mostar on the way to Mostar. This road was somewhat mountainous but still a good road. I don't remember there being any sheer dropoffs, and I probably would remember if there was as it was late and we were tired and it would have made me nervous.

    As for Montenegro, you will see in my report that I wished we had driven there as well. I need to clarify one point and that is the only part that would be bad would be driving up from the coast into the mountains there, that would surely be nerve wracking. But if we did it again we would just drive ourselves and keep to the coastal areas as there would be enough to see there.

    So anyways, here is Montenegro, I hope it can help you. Will post the rest when I can, we are leaving for another road trip on thursday to Munich but I will finish this one before I start a new one !

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    Wednesday, July 12, Day 7 - Montenegro
    Before we can fall into a true state of REM sleep, the alarm reminds us there
    will be no lazing about today. A quick shower and a gulp of coffee and we are
    off to find our bus. A bit of confusion about where to catch the bus leaves us
    lacking in time to pick up breakfast.

    Our tour turns out to be a combination French and German tour. We have two
    guides, both native Montenegrins, one for each language. As we head south
    towards Montenegro, each guide gives a run down of our busy schedule. Both speak their second language very well, however, a lot of chatter in the opposite language while the guide is speaking makes it extremely difficult for me to follow.

    Arriving at the border we are instructed to have our passports out and opened.
    An inspector boards the bus and takes a cursory glance at the passports as he
    passes down the aisle. Without hesitation we are given the go-ahead and we continue on towards Kotor.

    Our first stop of the day is along the Bay of Kotor for a quick photo op of the
    Lady of the Rock Island (Godpa od Skrpjela). The scenery here is stunning; the crystal blue waters of the bay are protected by steep mountains rising high into the clear summer sky. We snap a few photos and are ushered back into the bus to continue on to Kotor.

    Arriving to Kotor, we are walked into the town and given some suggestions on
    what we may like to see and left with orders to be back on the bus in an hour.
    We are in desperate need of another coffee but alas, there will be no time for that and we dash off towards the St Tryphon Cathedral.

    St Tryphon is a work of Romanesque-Gothic architecture built in the 11th century. It houses a silver relief alter screen that is said to be the most valuable treasure in Kotor.

    The rest of our hour is spent wandering the windy streets of Kotor. The city
    ramparts line the mountains above but there is only time to see them from the
    town below. We pop into St Nicholas Serbian Orthodox Church for a quick glance and finish our race around Kotor with some tasty pastries for breakfast.

    We hustle back to the bus and Yannick declares that we should have just come
    with our own car. When we booked the tour we weren't really sure what to expect as for the driving conditions in Montenegro, but as it turns out it would have been fine. We are already feeling way to rushed and the day has just begun.

    We leave Kotor for the windy mountainous route to Cetinje, the former capital of
    Montenegro. We climb higher and higher as the bus driver skillfully maneuvers
    the bus through one hair pin turn after another. We have another photo-op stop
    and are rewarded with incredible, breath-taking views of Kotor Bay, the
    southernmost fjord in the world.

    We continue inland until it is time for our lunch stop. We pull off in a tiny
    mountain town and are taken to one of the two restaurants there. We are told we have 20 minutes to partake of the national specialty, a ham and cheese sandwich.


    The lunch is not included in the price of the tour and for 3 euros you get a
    sandwich and choice of wine, beer or soda. The sandwiches were already made up, but I ask if I can get cheese only. They are happy to oblige, however, the
    sandwich comes out way to fast and I realize why after one bite; they have just pulled the ham off leaving the very smoky taste of the ham (and a few bits along with it) on the rest of the sandwich. I try to rinse the ham taste out of my mouth with a sip of wine, but the wine is terrible, completely undrinkable.
    Yannick is glad he chose the beer instead which isn't great but at least allows him to wash down his very dry sandwich. The French women next to us actually toss the wine off the balcony, it really is that bad.

    More time on the bus and we finally reach Cetinje. We visit the State Museum, the former residence of Nikola Petrovic I, the last king of Montenegro. This part of our tour is the only part that turns out to be guided. It is
    interesting, but not so interesting to have to spend 3 hours on the bus for 20
    minutes in the museum. We have exactly 5 minutes to take a peek at the town on
    our own, which has a few cafés and some interesting architecture. We would have
    liked to have had lunch here and spent a little time exploring but this is not
    part of the schedule.

    Reloaded into the bus, we head back to the coast for a stop in the resort
    town of Budva. The first order of business here is wine tasting. I want to skip out on this but we stay and are offered a choice of red or white wine. No other explanations of the wine or wine making are offered. We try both and they are a little bit better than the one at lunch, but just slightly.

    There is time left to tour the city ramparts here but instead we take in the
    views from the citadel and then head down to the beach in search of something to eat as I am way beyond starving. I try to order just a cheese sandwich but the waiter does not speak English. He takes me over to a board with photos of
    sandwiches but I can't tell for sure if they have meat or not. We go back and
    forth a bit, trying to make out what the other is saying. We are not having luck
    when he comes up with 'Prociutto' meaning ham in Italian which I understand and I am able to tell him no prociutto, please! I am thrilled when I receive my tasty toasted cheese and tomato sandwich.

    After wolfing down my sandwich, we race back to the bus. The final event on the
    schedule today is crossing Kotor Bay by ferry and more beautiful views before
    heading back to Dubrovnik. We arrive around 8pm and while we have enjoyed our
    introduction to Montenegro, if we had a do-over we would definitely go on our
    own next time. We knew ahead of time we weren't really tour people but thought
    we would try it. It just ended up being way to much time on the bus for us and
    not enough time exploring.

    We are exhausted and thought we may just have dinner near our apartment, but it
    is our last night in Dubrovnik and I want to pick up a few souvenirs in Old
    Town. We quickly get our shopping out of the way and decide on the Italian
    Spaghetteria Tony for dinner. This place is yum, yum, yummy. Lots of veggie
    choices for me. We split a salad with polenta to start and I choose the pasta in an asparagus and cream sauce. I wish we still had more time in Dubrovnik as I
    would have really liked to eat here again.

    One last stroll around Old Town and it is time to say goodnight and goodbye to
    Dubrovnik. On our way out of town we end up running into our French friends
    again, so we stop and chat a bit. They have an entire week in Dubrovnik, which I think would be perfect. We could certainly have used a few more days here, however, the road-trip continues on tomorrow to Korcula, where the underwater world awaits our arrival.

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    Hi kellyee!

    Thanks for coming back!

    Good points about the bus tour. No matter what, scenery from a bus does not make up for the hours you are in it and certainly does not compare with scenery from your own car.

    Looking forward to more . . .
    Linda

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    Excellent report kelly. I've really enjoyed it.

    I will be driving to and in Montenegro, and have noted your comment about the road inland to Cetinje - I'd read it in a guide book too, something like 26 hairpin bends in 12 miles! I think we'll stick to the coast, though once I get my road maps of the area I will study them hard - we will probably drive from Mostar direct to Montenegro and spend a few days in Dubrovnik on the way back to Split.

    But thanks for your input and report. Korcula please when you have time!

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