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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Dubrovnik and a Bit of Bosnia

Mostar, across the Neretva River
Enjoyed a hearty breakfast this morning while listening to Lulu belting out 'To Sir with Love' because unbelievably, that's what was playing on the dining room's giant flat screen TV - un-subtitled at that.

Post breakfast, and my short exploration of the neighborhood, we were off driving south of Togir on our way to Dubrovnik. As we drove along, a map was scrutinized and Jo said she'd been told by a local that we'd be crazy to not visit Mostar, which required entering yet another country. Mostar was only a song and a dance up the road from the freeway we were on. No arguments to the contrary from me. Soon we faced the international border to Bosnia Herzegovina.

When we reached the window, we obediently handed over our passports to the crossing guard. He eyed them idly, then attempted to hand them back.

"NO! STAMP THEM! STAMP THEM!" shrieked to eager traveling women.

He obliged.

The International Border to Bosnia Herzegovina
As we entered the new country - new to us - we both remembered there had been a vicious war there not too long ago really - in the mid 1990s. It was the nastiest of wars too, an genocidal war. Crazy to see beautiful scenery and imagine that any ugliness could dwell there.

The 14th century castle of Počitelj aka 'the Citadel'
Cute countryside church
 Mostar was only about an hour from the international border, and soon we were looking over the city sights as we searched for the 'market place' Jo had heard about.

Bombed out or just wrecked?
A little public square protesting
Finding the market place, we discovered the nightmare of parking there. We were busily ordered into a teeny parking area off a teenier street which once upon a time probably only hosted donkey carts. Once parked we were told a parking fee was due. I offered Euros, and was told, 'No Euros! Marks!' Really... are there any European Union countries that actually use the Euros? I know, but still. After promising we'd return with the parking fee, walked a quarter mile or so back up the narrow road to an ATM. We each got 'markas', then headed back, there paying off the parking fee.

Must admit, the walk was pretty.

Uptown Mostar
The atmosphere was pleasant
Lots of 'Mostar' silk was for sale

The cobblestones were quite a challenge to walk on

The Gelato was as tasty as it was pretty
We were all walked out by the time we toddled back to the car and drove for the border. It was time for even more pretty scenery. Honestly, at one point we were on a mountain road, and looking down from it, we might have been overlooking California's central valley farmlands.

Irrigated farmlands stretched out as far as we could see
Along the mountain drive there were several small wooden, open air shops that also overlooked the valley below. There, honey, lavender oils, dried fruits, and other local products were for sale.

Lots of fresh and dried fruits
Honeys of all sorts, pomegranates, dried figs, nuts and fresh grapes and lemons
Samples of candied fruits & nuts - I hate candied citrus peel but their's was so good I bought a bag
Oils, suffused with rosemary and other herbs
Headed south to Dubrovnik

Our darling Villa Host playing with Jo
We finally made our way down the coast and into Dubrovnik. As we drove there were tantalizing glimpses of a super modern bridge, and even peek at the older part of the city where they film some portions of Game of Thrones.

It took a bit of GPSing to make our way to the Villa Odak where we are booked. The villa is high up on a cliff overlooking the Adriatic sea.  Parking seemed dicey so Jo fetched out host, a tall gentlemen with a sunny smile. He unlocked a huge bow shaped metal bar that blocked anyone parking without permission. Then, he carried our luggage to our room, or rather, our suite. We were both grateful he did the lugging as there lots of stone stairs down, then steps up to the villa. Yay! I do not enjoy hauling luggage up and down stairs.

The dining room in the Villa, facing the patio overlooking the sea
This is the other view from the dining room, pointing to the entrance and the stairs up to our suite

 We had thought we'd be sharing a room but what we got was two beautiful and separate rooms. We each had  own large bed, desk area and flat-screen TV. We shared a bathroom with shower and a little kitchenette. We are so happy with our suite it is amazing.

Half of my enormous, vault ceiling room
Jo trying to look tiny in her not-as-large but still awesome room
We got ourselves settled into our rooms. I lucked out and got the biggest room with a vaulted ceiling.

Our Suite's cute Kitchenette

From my room I could hear persistan chirping. Outside were hundreds of swifts gliding and calling as they had their last hunt for insects before nightfall. It wasn't only the swifts that were in want of a meal. Jo and I got the scoop from our host on where to eat and we headed out and downhill on foot.

On our left the Adriatic, on our right, the stone wall and walkway downhill (or up!)
The march downhill was about a mile, which I as horrified to realize I was in for an uphill march later. No worries though, the hill was a long, long, gentle slope so I knew I could do it. It was a beautiful walk. High stone walls to the north along a long downhill road. On the south we could peer over low stone walls to see the ocean below or look at the various little hotels and family dwellings along the route. At the bottom of the hill we saw the restaurant we think our host told us about. It was only a few thousand feet more to the old city of Dubrovnik but that's for another day.
Down the hill is a view of the old Dubrovnik - can you see the Khaleesi on the parapet?

At the little restaurant we ate on the patio. We were daring in our choice of meals. I had a special wedding beef served with gnocchi. Looked dreadful, tasted wonderful. Jo had a meat 'sampler' plate of different types of sausages and meat cuts served with French fries, and she said it was pretty good too.

This is what the beautiful walk downhill looked like on the way back up
So it was a nice and fairly energetic ending to a long, long day. Tomorrow our southern Croatia adventures really begin!
View of Lokrum Island from the Villa back patio

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