Italy treated us to a thunderstorm goodbye. We sat under the umbrella’s normally there to provide shade, drinking our Spritz as the rain tumbled down. The overnight ferry was a dream though, we got on early and managed to reserve some sofa benches, so I actually got a full nights sleep.
Heading up onto deck the next morning the ferry was meandering through the outer islands of Mediterranean Croatia, its red and white buildings gleaming in the morning sun. We departed the ferry and went in search of coffee before finding a place to stay.
We ended up sleeping our first night in the spare room of a Nona’s apartment. The hostels were all full, but two lovely ladies on reception in a boutique hotel did some searching, made some calls, and off we were heading to try the apartment of ‘Bujinic’.
Once dropping our bags and realising we couldn’t even say hello in Croat, so instead smiles, waves and awkward half bows (Japan rubbing off on me), we went exploring out around the foresty coastline that spread out from the edge of the old city. The 5km loop saw us weaving through docks, clambering over rocks and jumping into clear waters. It was an awesome place to swim out into the calm water with the forest behind and the mountains panoramering out before you. We stopped at a few locations before heading back into the town to change for dinner.
As it was our first proper night we spoilt ourselves with a seafood delight outside a little restaurant in the winding back alleys of the old town. The streets a glow in orange from the small street lights on the corners.
We departed this morning to Mostar, Bosnia. We return to Croatia and Split towards the end of our Eastern Europe loop so was a brief stopover on this occasion.
The rest of week one has been spent in Bosnia, in Mostar and Sarajevo. The country is absolutely beautiful, yet has a very recent war-torn history. The streets still have ravaged shells of buildings lining leafy boulevards, some left in remembrance, others which just haven’t received any funding to be rebuilt. We went on a very interesting day tour of Mostar and the surroundings led by a local character who had very strong opinions. He talked about lots of tough history, alongside viewing some picturesque mountain villages and waterfalls.
Sarajevo has been a very happening city, we’ve eaten some amazing food with people met in Mostar and drank in some cool bars. The city is built in a bowl with hills surrounding it, giving fantastic views, but also making the city a sitting duck from snipers when it was under siege for nearly 3 years in the 90s.
We went to the exhibition about the Srebrencia genocide, which was the toughest museum I’ve been too. I had to sit down for a while after first entering to recompose, before viewing the rest as it’s pretty distressing and created to give a very intense viewing experience.
What I found toughest about the genocide and war impacts here is just how recent it is, lots of war history taught in England is World War 2 so grandparents or earlier generations. This happened in my life time; if I’d been born here my family would have been running to try get water under sniper fire and I would have been on the cusp of viewed as an adult to be executed in the genocide.
So some difficult but important history, juxtaposed against stunning landscapes. The biggest hope I took from what had happened is the rejuvenation of the country, with before and after pics being crazy. The fact Bosnia is now a popular destination for traveling gives optimism that maybe in just 20 years flocks of travellers will be heading to cities like Baghdad, peacefully wandering the streets with locals and instead of sniper’s watching the sunset across the city, it’s people watching it with a picnic dinner and wine, like us here.
Tonight we have a minivan ride into Serbia to Belgrade. We won’t arrive until the early hours, so I hope our hostel is straight forward to find, signs aren’t the best here. I’m hoping we’ll be winding over some mountainous road as the sun goes down.