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TRIP REPORT: Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia, and Italy -- September 2019

TRIP REPORT: Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia, and Italy -- September 2019

Old Jan 25th, 2020, 08:55 AM
  #1  
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TRIP REPORT: Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia, and Italy -- September 2019

I'm late getting to this trip report but, as they say, better late than never! This trip spanned 34 days (32 on the ground + 2 international travel days) and 4 countries (Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Italy). It was fairly fast-paced and packed full of beautiful landscapes, sparkling water, dazzling sunshine, mouthwatering meals, and some of the most memorable drives weíve ever taken.

A little about usÖmid-thirties couple with a passion for getting out, seeing the world, and collecting those passport stamps. Iím a compulsive planner while my husband is a happy-go-lucky, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kinda guy. So while I bring all the research and planning for the trip, he does a good job of finding fun, spontaneous opportunities while abroad. It's a great balance!

Before I dive into it, I wanted to thank everyone who helped me plan this trip, whether by responding to my questions or by sharing information through other posts. I devoured so much information from the Fodorís forums and I know it went a long way to this trip being such a success. THANK YOU!

Because this trip report is coming nearly 4 months after returning home, it will certainly be lacking in some details. But I hope that by sharing my final itinerary and highlights of each leg, it will help others as they plan their adventures. Also very happy to answer any questions.

Our final itinerary (along with night stays) was as follows:
Kotor, Montenegro (2) → Sarajevo, BiH (3) → Mostar, BiH (2) → Dubrovnik, Croatia (3) → Hvar, Croatia (3) → Split, Croatia (2) → Rome, Italy (4) → Salerno, Italy (2) → Amalfi, Italy (2) → Sorrento, Italy (3) → Ischia, Italy (4) → Naples, Italy (2)

Overall thoughts on the itinerary before I jump into specifics:
  • This was really more like two trips combined into one -- the first being Montenegro, Bosnia, and Croatia, the second being Southern Italy.
  • It was very interesting combining these regions together as it lent itself to comparing the two coasts. All in all, we were dazzled more by our time on the Adriatic than the Amalfi Coast but both were incredibly beautiful and welcoming.
  • As I mentioned above, the itinerary was a bit rushed -- we got a little overzealous about wanting to see ALL THE PLACES. This was also our first trip of this length. Learned some lessons, for sure, about having to slow down on a long trip in order to keep our stamina up. We found ourselves editing our plans quite a bit on the tail end of the trip based on our energy level.
Some travel notes:
  • We primarily stayed in Airbnbs to help keep costs down, the exception to this was Rome (there is a story here!), Ischia, and Naples.
  • We flew open-jaw Chicago > Dubrovnik and Naples > Chicago via Aer Lingus. Both legs had connections in Dublin.
  • We had a rental car for the first 6 days of the trip (for our time in Kotor, Sarajevo, and Mostar). We picked up and returned our car in Dubrovnik. We used Hertz and had a great experience.
  • The rest of the time, we got around primarily by ferry and train (with the exception of one regional flight from Split to Rome).
Iíll post more regarding each leg of the trip in the coming days! Until then, thank you again to everyone who helped with this amazing trip!
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tera_denten is offline  
Old Jan 25th, 2020, 09:31 AM
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I'm looking forward to the rest of your report. We were in Croatia, Montenegro, and Slovenia this past September, too, for 2 weeks. I'm interested to read about your impressions of every place. Sounds like you had an amazing trip! Hectic, I am sure, but amazing!
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Old Jan 25th, 2020, 10:43 AM
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Now for the nitty gritty!

This post covers our travel from Chicago, as well as our first couple of days in Kotor. I took a lot of notes at the beginning of the trip, so I have a fair amount of detail here. My note-taking lacked as the trip went on! I would LOVE to hear some of your strategies to keep up on trip notes while traveling!

Day 1: Depart Chicago
We flew Aer Lingus. Most of their flights from the US to Europe connect in Dublin. It’s an easy airport and we really enjoy flying with them. We got about 5 hours of solid sleep and landed in Dublin just before 5 am. We had a couple of hours to kill before our connection to Dubrovnik, so we headed to the Terminal 2 lounge (which opens at 5 am), and had some breakfast. Our connection to Dubrovnik took just over 3 hours. We slept on this flight too and got about 2 more hours of sleep.

Day 2: Getting to Kotor, Montenegro
We landed in Dubrovnik just before noon. Getting through the airport was a breeze (we travel carry-on only, so no worries about lost luggage or waiting for bags) and headed straight out to the Hertz booth at the far end of the parking lot. Once we got settled in the car and on the road, our first stop was at a small little convenience store for some beverages and snacks. From there it was 100km to our first destination, Kotor.

Sidenote: I am very aware of the passionate opinions against driving after a transatlantic flight. For us, knowing that we would be driving upon arriving means: no drinking on the flights, prioritizing sleep, staying hydrated, and both taking responsibility for being alert and focused for the entire drive. We also had a contingency plan in place in case we had a bad flight and didn’t feel up to driving. We did not find this drive to be difficult and were very well rested, but use your best judgment on whether it is the right decision for you.

I had read prior to traveling that the border crossing from Croatia to Montenegro can be a mess and to get there early as possible. Knowing we would be there midday, we weren’t sure what to expect. We crossed at Karasovići, and the entire process took under 10 minutes. Super easy. I will say, however, that once we were on the Montenegro side, the line to get INTO Croatia was INSANE. Parked cars for about 1.5 miles. Dead stop, people out of their cars playing frisbee. No idea if that is normal or if there were extenuating circumstances but WOW.

Soon, we were soaking in the beautiful Bay of Kotor (see photo below) and by 3 pm we arrived in Kotor.





Day 2: Kotor, Montenegro
We had researched before the trip where to park our car outside of the city walls, as well as a grocery store where we could get some essentials. It was a short (about 5-7 minute) walk from the grocery store to our self-check-in Airbnb inside the walls. After a quick shower, we headed out to explore. We spent the evening wandering around the old town, popping into churches, and just generally getting our bearings.

Before dinner, we headed to Citadel Bar for “magic hour.” I had a perfect Aperol Spritz and a stunning sunset. The service was a bit slow but the view compensated for it.





Dinner was at Ladovina Kitchen and Wine Bar, which is about a 5-minute walk outside the walls. Great, spacious outdoor patio. Very friendly service. At one point, our waiter started dancing with a little girl at another table - so sweet! For dinner, we had the beef ragý gnocchi. Very meat heavy, almost like a stew. Large dumplings like gnocchis. Very good and memorable dish (the waiter said it is a local specialty). We also had the fresh catch of the day, which was the Sea Bream. This was my favorite dish of the dish. Served whole, amazingly fresh and light. Finally, we also got the grilled meat platter. Because the gnocchi was so meat-heavy, we really didn't need this and it paled in comparison to the other dishes. It came with chicken and two different kinds of sausage. It was nice to sample but nothing outstanding. Overall, we had a great al fresco dinner in beautiful Kotor!

Day 3: Kotor, Montenegro
We were up and moving by 8:30 for a jam-packed day of exploring. Our first stop was a little coffee and pastry shop across from our apartment. Fed and caffeinated, we started our hike up to the Castle Of San Giovanni. It was an incredible hike, and it was just what we needed to beat our jet lag! The hike took us about 2 hours up (it was VERY hot and we stopped a million times for photos). The way down only took about 50 minutes. So I would say 3 hours is on the long side if you are trying to plan your time. There are local vendors scattered here and there along the way where you can buy refreshments, so make sure to bring some coins with you. The drinks get more expensive the higher you go (I think they started around 1 Euro and by the top they were 3-4 Euros)! You would be remiss to go all the way to Kotor and not do this!







Back in the Old Town post-hike, we had time for a light lunch at Konoba Scala Santa (it is very near to where you re-enter the city). We sat outside watching the hustle and bustle, sipped on a cold Plantaze Krstač, and tasted the local ham and cheese. Never had a chance to have a full meal here, but several people recommended this restaurant to us as an excellent option and the patio was packed every night.





After lunch, we stopped by our apartment to change to get in our bathing suits, as we booked a 3-hour Our Lady of the Rocks and Blue Cave Boat Tour through Montenegro Submarine and Speed Boat Tours. Highly recommend! This was such a great way to spend 3 hours in Kotor and we were amazed that this tour was only 30 euros. We had a great guide and loved the whole tour. The highlight was swimming in the beautiful Adriatic Sea and then coming back into Kotor just as golden hour set in. Beautiful!






By the time we got back to our apartment around 6:30, we were starving for a big meal. We weren’t able to get reservations at the coveted Galion, and instead headed to Astoria Restaurant, which was recommended to us by a local. We had the MOST INCREDIBLE dinner here! We walked up on the beautiful patio and buzzing atmosphere, and immediately got a table outside on the busy square. Our waiter was fantastic and over the course of our meal, we really bonded with him, hearing so much about his fascinating life story. For our dinner, we started with a perfect bruschetta. I have to say, the TOMATOES in Montenegro and Bosnia were next level. The best tomatoes I have ever had in my life. For our dinner, we splurged and got a whole, grilled sea bass. It was incredible. It was served with "dalmation potatoes" which was a combination of a gold potato, spinach (or maybe a chard?), garlic, and olive oil. They were so good! This was truly one of the top ten meals of my life, we loved every minute!

By the time we finished dinner we were well and truly wiped out and promptly went home to get some sleep. I will say that having a healthy dose of physical activity on day 1 really did wonders for beating jet lag. Normally, I feel jet lag pretty hard but this trip it hardly phased me!

Up Next: Our drive from Kotor to Sarajevo via Trebinje!

Last edited by tera_denten; Jan 25th, 2020 at 11:10 AM. Reason: spacing
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Old Jan 25th, 2020, 12:25 PM
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Great trip report. Fantastic photos. I recall your attention to detail when you were planning this trip. So I was hoping you would write a trip report.

The do not drive after flying across the pond Fodor police have science on their side. But we drive anyway. They are like the guys knocking on our front door wanting to save our soul.

I am especially interested on your drive Kotor to Sarajevo, route, stops, road condition, driving time vs predicted driving time, etc.
Were times spent in Sarajevo, Mostar, and Dubrovnik about right? Tunnel of Hope worth a stop? How was the Spit-grilled lamb? Meet expectation? Anything you would do different on this trip?
Keep it coming!
dugi_otok is online now  
Old Jan 25th, 2020, 12:38 PM
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Hi dugi_otok! Thank you!

I have no hard feelings towards the "do not drive after flying across the pond Fodor police" as you call them, haha. I will say their words of caution didn't COMPLETELY fall on deaf ears -- we absolutely took precautions to be in the best condition possible upon arriving and had a contingency in place if we didn't feel confident in our ability. So calling it a compromise. To each their own!

I'm working on the next post now and will be sure to include some of the details you are requesting! Stay tuned!
tera_denten is offline  
Old Jan 25th, 2020, 01:01 PM
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Your photos of Kotor are beautiful! And it sounds like you love Kotor. We were ho-hum about it, and I really think that is because we did a day trip around the Bay of Kotor. Staying overnight somewhere, even if it's only for 1 or 2 nights, makes a big difference. We didn't have time to overnight in Kotor, so we hired a private driver in Dubrovnik, and made stops in Budva, Kotor, and Perast (our favorite). We enjoyed our day trip, but I wouldn't call the scenery breathtaking, but I think that is because we saw the Bay only from the vantage point of the road around the Bay. We didn't do the hike in Kotor because I was recuperating from hip replacement surgery, but even if I wasn't, I don't think I'm in shape to do a hike like that, especially in the heat. I see that you are also much younger than us! I just turned 70! Perhaps I could have done that hike in my 30's, but, alas, not now!

Looking forward to your impressions of Mostar and Sarajevo. We didn't have time for Bosnia.
KarenWoo is offline  
Old Jan 25th, 2020, 01:13 PM
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Hi KarenWoo! Thank you!

I'm glad that the photos turned out well. This was our first trip ever leaving our big DSLR camera at home! We shot the entire trip on our iPhones, with the assistance of some Moments Lenses. It was such a good decision and I'll probably never go back to lugging around a DSLR and 4 clunky lenses!!

Yes, we really liked Kotor. The town itself was lovely, but to be fair, we didn't spend a lot of time there during the day. The two evenings we spend in town were lovely, probably because so many of the crowds had left for the day. It was a lot of fun to have such an active day to kick off the trip but without those two big activities, I could see getting bored with the town pretty quick (and frustrated by the crowds). We also got lucky that there weren't any cruises docked there during our stay.

The hike was strenuous for sure! But if it was a cooler day with some cloud cover I think most people could do it. We saw people of all ages making the trek. Really it was just the heat (and jet lag) that got us. But every step was worth it for those views! We also noticed a lot of people only going halfway up (for views) and heading back down.

That said if someone asked us if we would we go back to Kotor, the answer would probably be no. I'm happy we went but been there, done that!
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Old Jan 25th, 2020, 01:21 PM
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I’m enjoying a quiet Sunday morning reading about your travels, great photos and detail.
Adelaidean is online now  
Old Jan 25th, 2020, 01:40 PM
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I hope everyone is enjoying this trip report so far. It is my very first, so bear with me! This post covers our drive from Kotor all the way to Sarajevo (via Trebinje) in one long, beautiful day. We are definitely the “getting there is part of the fun” kind of travelers. So while this was a long day (the total drive was about 320 kilometers through all kinds of terrain), this also turned out to be one of our favorite days of the trip. There is just something about getting in a car and road-tripping to destinations unknown that is so thrilling!

While planning the trip initially, Sarajevo never even hit my radar. As I read more and more about this region, we decided that we couldn’t skip it, even though it was a bit out of the way. I am SO GLAD that we did for several reasons. First, getting to Sarajevo included one of the most beautiful drives we have ever taken. Bosnia is so underrated and we loved driving through this wild, beautiful country. I’m really glad that we got to see (and taste) more of Bosnia that just a day trip to Mostar (as most do). Second, Sarajevo is so eclectic and beautiful, not to mention resilient and proud. We got a lot of strange looks from friends and family when we said we were headed to Bosnia --- their loss! What a gorgeous, gorgeous country!

Our day started with packing up our stuff in Kotor, loading up the car, and hitting the road, headed first to Trebinje. Oh, and don’t forget to stop at a bakery to buy yourself some of the cherry pastries sold all over Kotor for an on-the-go breakfast!

We opted to take P11 and M6 vs E65/E80 because the latter seemed repetitive to our drive on the first day. I’m so glad we made this decision, as we saw so many beautiful things! In fact, we only made it 25 minutes before stopping to take photos! As we climbed elevation on P11 overlooking the Bay of Kotor, we couldn’t resist getting out and getting some photos.





This route to Trebinje means using the Ilino Brdo Border Crossing. Once again, this was easy and fast. There was no line and we were in Bosnia before we knew it! Shortly after the border crossing, the vistas quickly became stunning. The roads were great and while there wasn’t a ton of signage, it was a direct shot and our GPS was working perfectly. There were also lots of pull-offs where you could safely get out of your car for photos. Our next photo break was on M6 overlooking the Trebinje Damn (not sure if this is the official name). One of the things I will never forget is that when we pulled off here, there was wild oregano growing everywhere and the smell was incredible! I can’t look at those photos without smelling oregano!






Just a few kilometers later, we came across the Goričko Jezero Lake. It was a clear, sunny day and the lake was smooth as glass. We spent a good 20 minutes here getting some gorgeous photos, enjoying the view, and stretching our legs.





At this point, we realized that if we wanted to get to Sarajevo at any point today, we would have to stop pulling over every 20 minutes for photos! So we buckled up and made a bee-line for Trebinje, with our first stop being the Tvrdoš Monastery. Upon arriving, there is a car park near the gift shop. Walk up the hill a bit and there are some gentleman waiting to make sure you put on your smock thing. Continue walking up the hill, past the grapevines, and you get to the winery. Behind that is the ancient 15-century monastery, which is built on top of the 4th century Roman foundations. It's a beautiful, colorful little monastery. After our visit there, we headed to the main building, where you can taste the wine made here. After a quick tasting (husband couldn’t taste much since we were driving), we bought a few bottles to enjoy in Sarajevo. In total, our stop here was about an hour, give or take, then we headed back into Trebinje.





We couldn’t stay long in Trebinje, but the town was very cute and busy. We made our way to the famous Arslanagić Bridge for photos and then to Studenac Restaurant for a light lunch (clearly, I ate too many cherry pastries for a big lunch!).







Let me tell you, the craziest part of our drive so far was trying to find Studenac Restaurant. Our GPS led us down a dirt road that, in hindsight, perhaps wasn’t even a road at all? We ended up in a construction site and very out of place, only to realize that there is another lost traveler behind us presumably also trying to find this restaurant. We decide to forge on, and after reevaluating things, determined the restaurant is on the OTHER side of the river. We flip around, cross a bridge (all with the other car hot on our tails), and our GPS seems to catch on and reroute us but it AGAIN took us down a questionable dirt road. My husband, being the fearless driver that he is, continued on. We got to an intersection -- one way was a beautiful paved road, the other was a switchback down a gravel road. Of course, the GPS told us to take the gravel road down to the river. We made the switchback (the other car chickened out at this point and took the paved road) and sure enough, the restaurant was at the end of the road. And I, for one, was ready for a glass of wine! Anyway, lunch was a simple fare and we opted again for the local meat, cheese, and wine with a big side of beautiful views.





We easily could have spent the rest of the day exploring Trebinje if we didn’t have a big drive ahead of us. For those debating whether to include a day trip or overnight in Trebinje, I recommend it. One note of caution: if you are driving from Dubrovnik to Trebinje, the drive can be difficult. Some friends of ours attempted this last June and what should have been a 45-minute drive turned into several hours due to poor signage, bad directions, and roadblocks. There are bad feelings between the two towns dating back to the war (and probably far longer) and I can’t help but think this is intentional. I believe there is a bus that goes from Dubrovnik to Trebinje -- perhaps check that out instead!

Back on the road after lunch, it was time to cover some serious ground. We opted for the M20 and M18 route that basically follows the Montenegrin border all the way to Foca and through Sutjeska National Park. All I can say is WOW, this drive was so beautiful. Granted, it is not for the faint of heart or novice drivers. This was at times a challenging drive, but you are rewarded 10 fold by the views. The Sutjeska National Park is STUNNING. The elevation gets quite high at points (I think we topped out at around 1200 meters), and there are lots and lots of tunnels through the mountains. We found out later that Sutjeska National Park is known as the Yosemite of the Balkans and is one of the last primeval forests in Europe. All this to say… had I known how incredible and historic this park was, I probably would have added a night here so that we could have explored more and broken up the drive to Sarajevo. As it was, we had a beautiful drive but had to forge ahead. Also, I didn't get many photos on this leg in part because I was so engrossed with just soaking everything in and because we took some really fun video instead. But here are a couple of photos for you photophiles.






By the time we cleared the National Park, it was about 5 pm and we still had about 100km to go. I don’t remember this portion of the drive being particularly scenic, and by this point, we had a singular focus on getting to Sarajevo before dark. We ended up arriving in Sarajevo around 7 pm, about 90 minutes later than I had originally planned.

All I can say to anyone considering this drive is that I will remember it for as long as I live. It made me fall in love with Bosnia, and I’m sure I will return someday to explore further. Yes, the drive wiped us out a bit. As I said, had I known what I know now, I probably would have stopped near the National Park for the night but my final verdict: I have no regrets!

Next up: 3 Nights in Sarajevo!
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Last edited by tera_denten; Jan 25th, 2020 at 01:43 PM.
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Old Jan 25th, 2020, 03:32 PM
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This post covers our three nights (2 full days) in Sarajevo. We really just scratched the surface here, and if this region is of interest to you, I suggest having more time. For us, two days was a great amount of time and gave us a good feel for this city. Our favorite part of this leg was really just appreciating the juxtaposition of the Ottoman and Habsburg history and how, together, they create a modern Sarajevo. We ate lots of lots of cevapi (my husband could live on this alone), drank many Bosnian coffees, and consumed countless fresh-made pastries while wandering the streets. All in all, we ate well, learned a lot, and were very glad we included Sarajevo in our itinerary.

Day 4, continued: Sarajevo
We arrived in Sarajevo tired and hungry from our journey. It was after 7pm by the time we got to our Airbnb, and close to 9pm by the time we got settled in, so we didn’t have time for anything except a big dinner, some wine, and a good night's sleep.

Our Airbnb was up on a hill about a 6-minute walk from the Sarajevo Town Hall. Given that we were heading out for the first time in the dark, we were a little unsure of where to go; however, once we got down the hill it was pretty obvious where the old town was. Once in the old town, we wandered a bit looking for somewhere to have dinner. We ended up stumbling into Dzenita Restaurant right as it started to rain. What followed was a perfectly lovely dinner! The whole front of the restaurant is open to the street, so we watched the rain, had some wine and filled our bellies with some authentic Bosnian cuisine. Just as we finished, the rain stopped and we dashed back home for a good night's sleep!







Day 5: Sarajevo
For our first full day in Sarajevo, our plan was to follow Rick Steve’s “Welcome to Sarajevo” walk, which takes you through the Ottoman Old Town, into Habsburg Sarajevo, and all the way down to Marsala Tita Street.

Sidenote: I really like Rick’s walks overall, he does a good job of laying things out in a good order and giving enough (but not too much) background about what you are seeing. At the same time, you can’t take it as a concrete plan. Definitely follow your travel intuition and explore things that interest you beyond his highlights! We like to cover a portion of the walk, then duck in somewhere and have a drink or coffee and I’ll read a bit about the next portion to my husband before we continue. That way we don’t spend the whole time with our nose in a travel guide instead of looking around! And the periodic stops for a beer keeps my husband a happy traveler!

On our first day, we were able to cover the Ottoman portion of the walk, as well as part of the Habsburg portion, with lots of stops along the way for Bosnian coffee, cevapi, and some shopping. We saved the rest for the next day when we had fresh eyes and feet. We opted to end our day at the Sarajevo Brewery, which has both historic value and great beer! We didn't do a full sit down dinner this day but opted instead to snack a lot throughout the day so we could taste more things!

One concern I had while planning the trip was the weather in Sarajevo. While the majority of our trip would be spent in warm, sunny spots, we knew Sarajevo could be chilly. We brought layers, but I did (oh darn) end up buying a beautiful warm scarf to take the chill off. We also ended up having to buy a cheap umbrella.

Rather than drone on about everything we did and saw, here are some photo highlights of our day!



















Day 6: Sarajevo
Day 6 of our trip, and our last in Sarajevo, had a decidedly somber tone. Obviously, if you are visiting Sarajevo you know about its war-torn recent past. Prior to visiting, I read many books about the Siege of Sarajevo, the resilience of its people, and complicated history around the war. I’m a firm believer that doing your research ahead of time helps you understand just how complicated these situations are, and how to approach visiting these destinations with respect. Many of these sights were sad, but I think visiting places like this has really made my husband and me more appreciative of everything we have, including peace and a safe, warm bed.

That all being said, our route for the day picked up Rick’s “Welcome to Sarajevo” walk at the Catholic Cathedral, through Part 3 of that walk (Marsala Tita Street), and onto part of his “Siege of Sarajevo” walk. We got as far as the Hotel Holiday (where the world press posted up while reporting on the war) and turned around back towards the Old Town. Again, I don’t want to go into a blow by blow account of the day, but the most moving sights were: the Srebenica Exhibition (located behind the Catholic Cathedral), the Memorial to the Children of Sarajevo (most, had they lived, would be about the same age as my husband and I), and standing at the main intersection of “sniper valley” and trying to picture the scene that took place not 30 years ago.

Last comment before moving on to happier things: When visiting these sights, please please please be respectful, especially while taking photos. I sadly saw many people not being as respectful as these sights demand, and its important to remember that, for the most part, the locals walking around you SURVIVED the siege. Ok, rant over!

Once back in Old Town, we spent the rest of the day leisurely strolling the many twisty, turny streets, ducking into cozy places to warm up, and soaking up all we could of beautiful Sarajevo! For our last dinner, we actually decided to go back to Dzenita Restaurant. Our second visit was as yummy as our first!














Next Up: Our drive from Sarajevo to Mostar, with stops in Jablanica and Blagaj Tekija!
tera_denten is offline  
Old Jan 26th, 2020, 08:44 AM
  #11  
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Good morning! Itís a cold, snowy weekend here in Chicago and Iím sick, so trying to knock out lots of this trip report! Next upÖ our drive from Sarajevo to Mostar, including stops in Jablanica for the famous roasted lamb, a scenic drive down the Neretva River Valley, and a visit to the 600-year-old Dervish House at Blagaj Tekija.

Our plan for the day was to drive the 152km / 3 hours from Sarajevo to Mostar, with several stops along the way. We can never seem to get ourselves out of a place on ďscheduleĒ (in quotes because we ARE on vacation), and we werenít revving up the engine until 10:30, 90 minutes later than we (I) had planned. Iím pretty sure sleeping in was my husbandís plan all alongÖ

Anyway, I did want to make it to Mostar early-ish, or at least in time for a pretty sunset. Looking at our route for the day, our first stop was meant to be Tunnel of Hope, located about 20 minutes outside of Sarajevo. Truth be told, we both had a bit of an emotional hangover from all the sights we visited the previous day. It was a gorgeous, sunny day and we really just wanted to turn on some tunes and hit the roadÖ so we made the decision to skip the Tunnel of Hope. Iím sure itís a moving sight, and a little bit of me regrets the decision, but places like that stay with us and it just wasnít the day for somber reflection.

With that, we hit the road. Leaving Sarajevo, we took A1 to E73/M17 all the way to Jablanica. Itís a very easy, straight shot and by 12:30 pm (we hit some traffic leaving Sarajevo), we were pulling into Restoran Kovacevic for a big lunch of roasted lamb. This restaurant was recommended in our Rick Stevesí guidebook and I did some cursory research online and this place seemed legit. As we drove into the town, we saw many restaurants advertising the lamb, several with big tour buses parked out front.

As we pulled into Restoran Kovacevic (the sign is easy to see as you approach), we were very happy to see we wouldnít be dining with several busloads of other people. Our waitress led us outside to a beautiful patio overlooking the Neretva River. This is the same river that cuts through Mostar, though it looks decidedly tamer in these parts.

For lunch, we didnít even look at the menu. Once we explained to the waitress that we wanted lamb, she simply asked if potatoes and salad were good and next thing you know we were feasting! The roast lamb was very good. Oddly, it actually reminded me quite a bit of home-cooked meals my Irish American Nana used to make - a nice roast along with ever-present roasted potatoes. It was kind of bizarre to me that I was sitting in a fairly remote town in Bosnia, being strongly reminded of my Irish grandmother but it was the kind of meal that all sorts of people from all sorts of places and backgrounds can find familiar and there is something very beautiful and universal about that. After lunch, we took the stairs down towards the water and soaked in the views a bit more before hitting the road.




The view at Restoran Kovacevic


Roast Lamb from Restoran Kovacevic


The view at Restoran Kovacevic


Restoran Kovacevic

The drive from Jablanica to Mostar is only about 45 minutes, straight down E73 along the Neretva River Valley. This is an easy, beautiful drive that would be just as beautiful in the other direction (saying this for those who may not be going all the way to Sarajevo, but instead posting up in Mostar for a couple of days). Itís not as remote as most of the drives we took in Bosnia, so you do have to deal with some ďtrafficĒ (I say this in jest, Iím from Chicago) but itís a gorgeous drive nonetheless. I wish I had taken some photos to share with you guys!

Our next stop was The Dervish House, a 600-year-old monastery built right into the base of a cliff on the River Buna. Itís a beautiful spot and well worth a detour. To get there, you simply stay on E73 as you pass Mostar until you are routed to a small side road (M6.1). A few minutes later you will start to see signs for the Monastery. In all, itís a 20-minute drive from Mostar (or a quick bus ride).

As you get closer, you will start to see signs for parking. We passed a few of these before we reached the Tourist Center and decided to park there. From there, itís a 7-10 minute walk down the road to the actual Monastery. We were visiting in early September it was blazing hot and I would have sworn this walk took us 30 minutes! Anyway, there are lots of vendors and little booths along the way where you can buy anything from cheap souvenirs to water to local honey. As you get closer to the Dervish House, you will start to see restaurants along the river. Keep going, cross the little bridge (if you want the view of the house vs going inside of it), walk through/behind the restaurants and you will see a path to walk down to the river bank right across from the Dervish House.

We took a bunch of photos while trying not to melt, then posted up at a restaurant for a drink with a view. A few notes: based on my research pre-trip, we decided to not go into the Dervish House (itís basically empty) and simply view it from the other side of the river bank. We also did not eat at any of the restaurants which have a reputation for bad, overpriced food. But the beer was cold!



The Dervish House... one of a zillion photos I took

We left the Dervish House around 4:15 pm and were settled into Mostar in time for a gorgeous sunset. All in all, our drive from Sarajevo to Mostar was beautiful and relaxing. This isn't a drive for thrill-seekers per se but would be very rewarding for those who like to drive abroad but within reason. In fact, if you are considering driving from Kotor to Sarajevo as we did but want an easier drive, you could take P11 to R427 to E73. It will take a bit longer overall but it a much easier drive.

Next up: Two Nights in Mostar!

Last edited by tera_denten; Jan 26th, 2020 at 08:47 AM.
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Old Jan 26th, 2020, 09:02 AM
  #12  
 
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I love your photos of Bosnia! The country looks gorgeous, and I am disappointed we couldn't fit it into our trip last September. But when we do visit some day, I definitely want to visit both Sarajevo and Mostar. And at my age, I prefer easy scenic drives. Heights and hairpin turns make me nervous!
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Old Jan 26th, 2020, 12:10 PM
  #13  
 
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Absolutely fabulous. Thank you for that. We visited Kotor on a cruise ship and it's definitely on the list "return to and stay for a couple of days or more." Your photos are stunning.
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Old Jan 26th, 2020, 12:34 PM
  #14  
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Treesa I've never taken a cruise but I've always thought it would be neat docking in so many new destinations and being able to get a quick taste of a place in order to decide where to revisit someday! Glad you are enjoying the report and photos!
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Old Jan 26th, 2020, 01:41 PM
  #15  
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After settling into our apartment in Mostar, we headed out to explore a bit before night fell. Seeing Mostar for the first time during “magic hour” was, well, magical! We wandered the cobblestone streets, took lots of photos of the Stari Most bridge and posted up on the terrace at Terasa to watch the sunset with some drinks. The sunset was spectacular, and the terrace has a perfect view of the bridge. CAUTION: Prepare for photo overload, this town is just too pretty not to share these photos!



Our first glimpse of the Stari Most Bridge!


Exploring!


The entrance to Terasa Terrace


The view from Terasa Terrace


Looking down on Mostar


Cheers!


Sunset


After dark, we wandered around a bit more before heading to Sadrvan for a traditional Bosnian dinner. Unfortunately, we didn’t have reservations and the spectacular outside area was full. We were too hungry to wait so we dined in the slightly drab inside instead, but any disappointment we felt went away shortly! Our waiter was fabulous and we dined on generous portions of Bosnian specialties.



Traditional Bosnian Food at Sadrvan Restaurant

The next day, we set out to explore Mostar. The nice thing about this town is that there isn’t a lot to actually see, which makes for a really relaxing day of sightseeing. We very loosely followed Rick Steves’ Central Mostar Walk, just to make sure we were hitting all the highlights and getting some historical context as we went. After a really nice iced coffee at a cafe near our Airbnb, we heading to the Franciscan Catholic Church. I was disappointed to learn that you cannot enter the church unless they are giving mass, but we did end up going up the tower (there is an elevator) for some great views of Mostar.



View from the Franciscan Tower

After wandering around a bit more, we decided to take a quick break from the scorching sun and popped in the Turkish Hammam, which is a restored Turkish Bath turned museum. It was very small and we weren’t really impressed by it, but it was only 4KM per person (about $2), and it was nice to cool off for a few minutes. Next, we headed down to the riverbank under the Stari Most Bridge hoping to see some of the famous divers jump from the bridge and, boy, did we! Amazingly, we saw not one, not two, not three, but FIVE amazing jumps in about a 30 minute period. There was a group of divers visiting from The Netherlands and we got there just in time to see them all jump, along with a couple of locals. It was insane to watch! We ended up speaking a bit to a local tour guide who was also there and he said that in 15 years of giving tours, he had never seen so many dives in such a short period of time. So you could say we got very lucky!



View of Stari Most Bridge from the riverbank


Diver #1 about to jump!


Look at the waterline! Perfect form!


The Dutch divers helping each other out of the water

We spent the rest of the afternoon casually wandering the town, shopping for a copper souvenir to bring home, drinking some wine, and just relaxing! Late afternoon we headed to Tima-Irma for a late lunch / early dinner. The hype about this place is true!! It was SO AMAZING and ranked as our top meal in Bosnia. We had a nice table outside and ordered the mixed grill plate to share. We sat there for a long time working on the huge portion, drinking wine, people watching, and just generally having a great time. If you only have time for one restaurant in Mostar, let it be this one!



Late lunch at Tima-Irma

After our meal, we headed back over the bridge for the 100th time and couldn’t resist going back to Terasa’s terrace for another sunset and it was just as perfect as our first night!



Another day, another sunset

After sunset, we called it an early night. We were wiped out from the sun and heat and had a big drive planned for the next day!

Next Up: Our Drive from Mostar to Dubrovnik via Kravice Waterfalls!
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Old Jan 26th, 2020, 05:53 PM
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Just wow!
I so wish we were brave enough to drive in Europe....but, that will never be us.

Really enjoying reading along with you. And your photos make me want to go.
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Old Jan 26th, 2020, 06:00 PM
  #17  
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@adelaidean So glad you are enjoying the trip report and photos! I'm very lucky to have a husband that is a fearless driver, I could NEVER do these drives myself! I do my best to be a good navigator and passenger but there is always room for improvement!
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Old Jan 26th, 2020, 06:32 PM
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Wow! Just wow! I’m still reading your fantastic, detailed report and am loving the photos! They are wonderful! And I definitely want to travel in this region! Beautiful!
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Old Jan 26th, 2020, 07:05 PM
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@progol I'm glad you are enjoying it! It's been fun revisiting all the photos and committing some of these wonderful memories to "paper."
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Old Jan 26th, 2020, 07:24 PM
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This post covers our drive from Mostar to Dubrovnik. While planning the trip, we knew that we for sure wanted to visit Kravice Waterfall on our way to Dubrovnik, and had jotted down a few other interesting stops as well including Mali Ston for oysters or Počitelj to hike up to the medieval tower. In the end, the weather slowed us down a bit and after visiting the waterfall decided to just enjoy our last drive of the trip and head straight for Dubrovnik, where we would be returning the car.

We woke up in Mostar to a cool and rainy morning, a big departure from the weather we have had ever since leaving Sarajevo. It was slow-moving getting out of town, in part because we got blocked in and had to wait an hour for the car to move. It ended up working out fine because by the time we hit the road, the rain had lightened up a bit.

We werenít sure that the weather would allow us to hike down to the waterfall, let alone go for a swim, but since Kravice is basically on the way to Dubrovnik, we decided to drive there and assess the weather upon arrival. I am really glad we didnít let the rain scare us because after 20 minutes or so of driving, it was sunny and clear.

We pulled into the Kravice Waterfall car park around 11:15 am and we were on the trail by 11:30 or so. It was a very easy walk down to the waterfalls; however, they also have a very long extended golf cart that leaves every 20 minutes or so to take people down (and back up) who arenít able to make the hike. There are lots of scenic spots along the way to take photos, just be patient if there are crowds. They clear out after a few minutes and you get your turn to take your own photos and selfies!






Once you get down to the waterfall level, there is a little bridge that brings you over to the other side of the lake, where several cafes serve drinks and snacks. We walked all the way to the last cafe (across the narrow plank, closest to the falls) and got a table with a clear view. After hanging out a bit and taking a million photos, we mustered up the courage to take a swim in the cold lake -- and Iím so glad we did! Yes, it was cold, but when else do you get a chance to do something like this?!








After our swim, we were drying off and enjoying the view when the sky darkened and clouds started rolling in. It turned out that rain from Mostar was going to catch up with us after all! We decided to get moving and hike up and get to our car before the imminent storm. Itís a 15-20 walk up and as we approached the car park, the sky OPENED UP. We ducked into a little cafe that we were passing, which was really a small bar, some picnic tables, and a tin roof. Visibility was zero so we got some coffees and decided to wait it out for a little bit before getting on the road.


The storm moving in!

Just as we were settling in with our espressos, several things happened at once. First, quarter-sized hail started violently falling and ricocheting off the tin roof making a noise like you wouldnít believe! Second, a group (or perhaps a better term is gaggle?) of little old ladies came into our line of sight having just finished the hike up. They were running for cover and made a beeline for the cafe. They were soaked through and freezing so my husband, being the gentleman he is, immediately gave them our dry beach towels and got them hot coffees. It turned out that they were, in fact, Mercy nuns visiting from Ireland. My husbandís good deeds and kind heart got us many prayers and blessings for our journey ahead!

The rain finally let up enough for us to get on our way and soon we were Croatia bound! There are a few ways to get to Dubrovnik from Kravice, and we decided to head towards Neum, cross the border there, and take the coastal road into Dubrovnik. It was a beautiful 3-hour drive and we pulled into Dubrovnik around 5:30 pm. It was time to return our car -- from this point on, our travels would be by plane, train, and lots and lots of ferries!








A few notes: we use Hertz and had a great experience. We picked up the car at the airport and they allowed us to drop it off at their city location (near the port) for no extra charge. We were staying within the wall, so the easiest thing to do was to return the car first and then have an Uber take us (and our luggage) to the gate nearest to our Airbnb. Worked out great!

Next up: Three nights in Dubrovnik!
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