area. Tomorrow….heading across Yugoslavia and onto Sofija, Bulgaria
25 September ’04, Saturday. Charlie and Tammie from Australia, and now living in London, dropped by early this morning to say goodbye and pass on some literature and advise for our journey into Bosnia-Hercegovina. They had recently been there and had some good advise on were to camp in Mostar and Sarajevo. They also had a couple of funny stories about their border crossings there that they passed on to us. Well, we had to get gas and find a grocery store to spend our last Croatian money in prior to going across the border. As it was, we arrived at the cashiers stand with more goods than we had money for….we ended up putting the additional $5. US on the credit card…not good planning. Ok, finally underway. After back-tracking from our drive down to Dubrovnik for about an hour, we arrived at the border station entering into Bosnia-Hercegovina. We were lucky, as there was only 3 cars ahead of us as we approached. Our luck soon ran out…. We have been through so many border crossings, that I couldn’t even start to tell you how many. Now, not all have asked for our “green card” for the van (That is our proof of insurance), but some had and today was one of those days. It seems that ALL the others had over looked the fact that the insurance rider had the dates for validity all messed up. We were to be covered from March 15, ’04 to March 15, ’05, or as they put it on paper 15-03-04 to 15-03-05. Well, we had never noticed it ourselves, but it reads 15-12-03 for the start, which is ok, but the other side (void after) reads 15-05-03, which means it was cancelled 7 months prior to issue. WE HAVEN’T HAD ANY INSURANCE COVERAGE !!! You might say that I had a lift-off of some type. I am lucky to have a much milder mind and temperament sitting eside me in the van day after day. She stayed cool and made arrangements for us to BUY, 7 days insurance for $20 Euro, to get us through Bosnia and enough time for me to get to a computer and email Donna at Turnervans in Utrecht. The out-come, has yet to be, but we are optimistic things will work out. After all, we have Bon and Douglas to meet in Istanbul on the 4th. We had wanted to stop and spend sometime in Medugorje today, but we felt all we could do was, drive in to see it by car, have a quick lunch, and get on our way to Sarajevo for the night. As it was, we arrived at the campground after dark. This isn’t what you want to do, if this is the first time in the
area. Tomorrow….heading across Yugoslavia and onto Sofija, Bulgaria
24 September ’04, Friday. The Old Fortified City of Dubrovnik was a shelter for the citizens during the war. This war started without warning on Monday, September 30th 1991. There were 2 airplanes that fired rockets at the communication towers and destroyed them. From that time on there was a complete blockade keeping all the food, water, electricity and all communications from the outside world. The city was under attack from air, sea, and land. During the aggression 52 people were killed, 202 were wounded in Dubrovnik, and 15,000 were displaced from their homes. 70 percent of the buildings in the old city received some damage. As we have traveled down the coast of Croatia, we have seen more and more signs of the fighting. Homes, cars, and businesses that were damaged or set a blaze are still empty…weeds growing…unsafe to enter in some cases because of the possibility of land mines still there. We have a large hotel within 100 yards of our campground that still stands empty and shattered. Too many to count small arm pock marks, and 3 or more heavy equipment (tank type) holes, and the building was set a blaze as well. This is only one, there are many. Louise had her hair cut this morning, and directly across the street was, what was, a beautiful two story home with a wonderful landscaped yard….no roof, no windows, pock marks all around the building, some fire damage, yard…gone…tall weeds with the exception of a large group of yellow flowers by, what was the front entrance. Imagine just what was and still is going on in the minds of those that were here then….it has to be tough, although, we have only seen what appears to be a society that is making the best of what was the worst. There is no outward crying, but outward smiles and a warm greeting. Yesterday as we were sitting waiting for the bus, a young man came up and sat down beside us. Really nothing unusual about this. I happened to look over at him as he sat next to Louise, and I noticed that he was paying particular attention to what we were saying, and you could tell he could understand it as well. So I asked him a question about his school, which he answered in broken English. It turns out, he is 9 and goes by bus into the city for his classes, and then returns as well by city transportation. Now, this may not be too unusual, but when you have a city like Dubrovnik, where there are three to four times more tourists than those that live there, I would have thought that he may have been more timid. Not the case….I wont get into a lot of detail, but a nice kid…. Tomorrow…Bosnia-Hercegovina
23 September ’04, Thursday. Out to the little white building across the highway, catch bus #10 for $10 kunas each ($1.50), ride it for 8 km, go under 2 quick bridges, and get off at the first stop. Go across the street, down the stairs, turn left and go down the 2nd flight of stairs and you are at The Polèe Gate. That was the exact instructions that our campground manager gave us and it worked perfectly. Our ride on the bus was like one other that we have had. The bus isn’t new, it definitely is noisy, and the seats are hard. The seats on the bus are just “butt” shaped wood, and there is no give. When the roadways are as rough as these are, you feel every little crack, let alone the bumps. You forget about all this when you look out the window. First, the bus travels fast…second, you are traveling on mountain roads that sit precariously on the edge about 200 feet above the water, and third, the views are unbelievable. You forget all the negative and live for the views. Below you, is the picture postcard of the year, view of Dubrovnik…. I haven’t gotten to take that picture yet myself, but before we leave, we will go back in the van, so that I can add this to my catalog photo’s of Dubrovnik. We got an early start this morning. Upon entering the Fortress, we ran into an English speaking tour. Louise went up to the tour guide and asked if we could join in…no problem, so we slid right in with the group. One thing for sure you do learn more this way. One doorway we walked too, used to be a door that Noble women could bring their out of wed-lock baby too. If she had to leave her baby, she would walk down the street in the evening ringing a bell. If anybody were to see her, they would be sentenced to 5 years in prison, so they all cleared the street so she could have her privacy. Once she approached the door, even the nun on the other side could not see her. She would then leave the child, and move on. After 7 years, if she found she wanted this child back, she could do so if she could identify her/him. This was done, by the mother attaching a ring or something that she could keep half of, around the babies neck. Also, each child was given a name of a saint. That name came from a saint named for that particular day. If the mother knew what that name was, and had that half of the identifying item, she and the child would be reunited together. If not, the child would be well taken care of until adult. It would never become a noble person, but would always have a job of dignity. This is only one small piece of history we learned today, but I will have to wait to give you more later. I can only hold your attention on one page so long…. Anyway, we ended with the tour and then went on our own for the next 4 plus hours. Two hours of this was a walk around the top of the wall. It is 1,940 meters long (6,363 feet), or over a mile, and reaches a height of 82 feet. Some areas are as much as 20 feet wide with a second wall in front of it as well. It has 10 circular “bastions”, or towers. The sights from the wall are incredible, whether looking out to sea or looking into the “Old Town” of Dubrovnik. I personally, really enjoy the old tile roof-tops….Tomorrow….more of today….Dubrovnik
Wednesday Sept 22
Hope you are all well and having a bit of Indian summer.
Well here we are outside Dubrovnik. We woke to another fabulous mornings and after a quick breakfast of French toast and a goodbye to our hosts we got on the road about 10:00. The family that has the campground we stayed at was very pleasant and helpful. The trip down the coast was uneventful. There was a lot of road construction and that held us up some. Also we had to cross the border into Bosnia Herzagovenia for about 12km. We had mountains all the way down the coast. Reminded us of the Baja only lots of pine and cedar. We have only had a brief look at Dubrovnik and wow it blows us away.
We both are getting our tans back and the sun sure feels good.
The area where we are camped shows a lot of evidence of the war. Abandoned homes and hotels riddled with bullet holes and signs of mortar shelling. They have totally rebuilt Dubrovnik and there is a lot of building going on here too. The people are friendly and most speak some English. There are a lot of tourist in the area. In fact we saw a car with California license plates. It belonged to a couple from Carmel who are touring Europe for six months. He shipped his car over. They were having a great time.
After we were set up we walked to the beach and had a beer and people watched. Then back to camp for some bbq pork chops. We were hungry, we forgot lunch!! Who us?? So to make up for it we walked back to the beach, after dinner, for some ice cream.
21 September ’04, Tuesday. Well, there go the church bells…it must be….heck, I don’t care…. I just enjoy hearing them. This morning it went kind of like this….”I’ve been thinking, Split is just another “big city”, maybe we should just head on down the road”…”I was kind of thinking the same”. “But, looking over this “book”, this sounds kind of interesting….”, “You know, I saw that last night as well….maybe we should go see it”….”We’ll have to take the bus”….”I would rather drive, then we can head on down the coast when we are done”….”No way, not that again, I will not take the van into a large city again…remember all the parking problems???? No way !!!!” “Ok, let’s grab the bus”. 20 krun (about $3) and we were in town within the hour. The van was parked in a “secure” campground and the bus dropped us off just at the right spot…no parking hassles… As we crossed the street from the bus stop, we entered a large public market. They were selling everything that you could ever want. We have been to quite a few markets, and they are all fun to be around…no hassling of any kind. Just as we approached the “Golden Gate” to The Palace of Diocletian, the little stalls disappear, and you walk into very narrow walkways and corridors, to visit the shoppes, coffee houses, and in our case, an “Internet Café”. Also of great interest, “The People’s Square”, Cathedral of St. Domnius, Our Lady of the Belfry, and much more…. Split is another city with a busy port, with shipyards, factories, and a large ferry system. The old town center is still full of charm. Emperor Diacletian’s vast Roman palace, one of the largest and best preserved in the world, was built prior to 305 !!! Now, it wasn’t exactly as it is today, because of one war or another, it has been rebuilt many times, and each time more “fortification” was added…. Diocletian, became emperor in 284 and set out to reorganize the immense Roman Empire, dividing it into two parts with an Augustus at the head of one half and a Caesar at the head of the other. After governing for 20 years, Diocletian retired from public life and in 305 moved to the palace which he had commissioned. After Diocletiona;s death in 313, the palace was used as an administrative office and governor’s residence. For a wonderful view of the city and waterfront you can climb the tower of St. Domnius. I really enjoy climbing these towers hoping to get some great pictures…let’s see how they have worked out. Oh yes, I must tell you, every time I climb one of these towers, there is always one spot that they leave just for me to “SMASH” the top of my head on…you would think I would learn… I hope that you don’t get tired of me saying it, but this again, has been a great visit…
20 September ’04, Monday. The last 3 days has been the first that we have stayed in somebody’s beach front lot. We were parked within 15 feet of their home and 2 other campervans. All 3 of the vans had beach front parking and the views were beautiful to say the least. The owners home was reminiscent of homes in Cabo. They are built of concrete block and rebar. If you look closely, construction has not been completed, as the rebar is sticking out the top to receive the new floor to come. They leveled the lot out by making a great sea wall. There were steps built-in so that we could access the beach below. Well, all good things must come to an end, so off we were headed to Split. This part of the drive we followed the coast line all the way. We saw some of the most magnificent shoreline villages you could ever imagine. I’m sure from now on, you will read about many more from one country to another. As I have mentioned before, the water colors are the brightest blue green you could ever imagine. On our way to Split, we passed Rogoznica. This is a very small community that sits on a small spit, just a few 100 yards off the mainland. You will have to check out our picture…. Also, since arriving at the coast of Croatia, we have seen a tremendous amount of signs along side of the road. These signs are a warning about forest and grass fires….well this afternoon, we saw our first. It was just outside of Split and was just getting started. By the way things looked on the hill sides, it wasn’t the first. Fortunately, they were able to put it out in a few hours. If you happen to see some exceptionally red sunset pictures, that is the reason. Our trip to Split was just about 90 miles, so it wasn’t long and we were checking in to our next campground. Again, we are on the beach, but we are parked in the back of a two story pension. A short walk around the building and we are at the beach. After about 3 hours at the beach sunning and swimming, we headed back to Bumble Bee to start dinner. We were met by the owners of our campsite, Jadranka and Branko, who told us about their son Nenad, and his accomplishments at school in America. Jadranka treated us to some home made brandy that her father makes from that, that is left over after making wine. Awful Good Brandy…. You can see were we are if you go to www.autocamptamaris.cjb.net . Well, I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night, so…. Tomorrow….Split, Croatia...can you believe we’re in Croatia ??? It’s awesome !
19 September ’04, Sunday. Temp, Low 80’s, Sea is calm, Coffee is incredible…We’ll stick to home for the morning and then go into Zadar for lunch and a little tour of this sea side town. Our conversation over coffee this morning was Croatia and how recently it had been since they were in all-out war…right here. As we walk or drive the streets throughout Croatia, we see the destruction. Concrete structures collapsed, older standing buildings with holes of different sizes in them from being shelled by tanks are from small arms firing. We even saw a van, from Holland the had a sign on it indicating that they were involved with finding and destroying land mines. All this grim reminders of a few years past, but you know, the people are coming back…. I walked across a field this morning, taking a shortcut to the marina and the market. As I approached a home that was under construction (concrete blocks), a man that was behind a wall as I approached, stuck his head out and in really good English, said “Hi, are you having a good day ?” I guess I was wearing my “I’m an American” hat or something, but this is so typical of most of the people we have come across since coming in to Croatia. I know that things have been tough for the Croatian community for many years and even centuries, but I hope they will finally have the opportunity to live free…. Today being Sunday, there were a lot of stores and market areas that were closed. Having said that, we didn’t have to pay for parking and we definitely didn’t have to fight the crowds while exploring the town. They have a huge old wall that dates from the 14th century, that pretty much surrounds the city. Again, the streets between the buildings are very narrow. There are lots of small windows with shutters, small walkways that will take you back to some wonderful courtyards, and lots of cats…I mean a lot of cats…. Apparently they love their cats. We also found more Roman ruins here than we have seen so far in any other location. One of the funny things we found, was this little concession, that was set up for youngsters to drive their little cars and jeeps around and around some of the Roman pillars, blocks or other pieces of structure. This is also a city with little sidewalk cafés, the colorful umbrellas on every corner, nook and cranny (I love them all !!!). This area is also one huge “Boaters Capitol”. Every style power and sailboat you could imagine, and “The World” is here to man each and everyone of them. As you go to the commercial harbor in Zadar, you will find at least 6 different ferry companies that will take you to all the many islands around Zadar. There are even those that will take you to Italy or on down the Croatian coast. I don’t know if you can tell by my scribbling, but I really like this area we are in…I just wish it were closer to the family. Oh well, that will have to be another life…this one still has too many little towns and villages, coastlines, and coffee houses to visit to settle down to one. Tomorrow…back in the van and head south down the coast…we have company coming
18 September ’04, Saturday. Imagine Cabo San Lucas before 1988, and this is Zadar, Croatia. The Adriatic Sea is a soft blue with some dark shadows that give a wonderful accent. The water temperature is in the high 70 to low 80’s. The sun is bright, little puff clouds float bye, and the day time temperature is in the mid 80’s. The beer temp is cool, not too cold, not too hot, but cool. The prices are low to moderate. The people are wonderful. And my company for this journey is irreplaceable. All together, if this is dream don’t wake me… We woke this morning with the intentions of making this “Laundry Day”, so that was number one on the list. Other than that, it was a perfect day to just lay out in the sun, and have a pedicure. I told you yesterday, “This is Livin”…..
Tomorrow we will be going into Zadar for the morning to visit it for the first time. I want to also find out a little more about the last war they had here in Croatia. It was over 15 years ago, and I would like to refresh myself on the subject.
17 September ’04, Friday. I’ve never seen (except in pictures), I’ve never been in, and for sure, I’ve never driven in one….until today. I’m talking about a wind tunnel. Louise mentioned yesterday that the wind has been blowing pretty strong for the last day or two. We broke camp this morning in a pretty strong wind, but nothing that you would say to yourself…”I think we had better stay put”. Krk is a small medieval town on Krk Island, and we decided that we would make this our first destination for the day. In getting to Krk Island, we would also have the opportunity to cross over the “Largest Concrete Arched Bridge In The World with a Span of over 390 meters”. We saw it yesterday from a distance and it looked magnificent. So, today we were going to cross it…. GOOD GOD, HOLD ON…I’M TRYING TO KEEP IT STRAIGHT…I SEE THE SIDE OF THE BRIDGE…I’M ONLY GOING 5km NOW, AND I CAN’T GO ANY SLOWER…I DON’T KNOW WHY THEY LET US OUT HERE ON THIS SPAN NOW…HOLD ON AND PRAY !!!! Now that was just going over, and we had to go back…. What a nightmare. I might also say one thing, we have gone to a lot of churches since we’ve been on this journey, and we have said a few prayers while there also. Who knows? Well, a word about the town of Krk…It sits right on the shoreline of the Adriatic and has a wonderful port for boats…pleasure boats now… This is a true “Mediterranean” village. We walked the skinny paths that wonder here and there. Every conceivable type of shoppe for the traveler to wonder into. We also visited the 12th century Church of St Quirinus and it’s museum. It is beautiful, and some of the collection of religious items are magnificent. The church was initially an Episcopal chapel, but later used as the Court Chapel of Frankopans. Our time in Krk was limited, so on the road again. We just happened to be following 2 caravans as we approached “The Bridge”. We were already being pushed around a lot, but just prior to the approach, the caravans were pulled into a parking lot that had already about 60 caravans parked. Well, that left me in the lead of about 3 small vehicles to go across this bridge. Ffffaaaaarrrrr below us the water was being blown every which way, and soon it was blowing us every which way….GOOD GOD, HOLD ON…I’M TRYING TO KEEP IT STRAIGHT….. ….. Well, we made it, but I wouldn’t go across that bridge when the wind is blowing for anything !!!! Our turn was coming up to take us on to Zadar and we were on our way. Wait a minute, this wind is going to be with us all the way down the coast for the next 4 hours? It wasn’t exactly, but it did follow us for about 1½ hours before we had to climb the side of a mountain that any mule would balk at…. It was back and forth for about another 30 plus minutes and it was so steep that I had to use 1st gear for just about every corner, and never could use 4th. Once we got to the top of the mountain, we were ushered onto a “Toll” road for the rest of our trip to Zadar. Once after we crested the mountain and headed down, we had the sea in front of us again and we were in the wind again. As it turned out, the closer we got to the water the less wind. Now to find a campground….no problem…we pulled into a private home driveway (they also had a small sign out front “Car Camping”), and now, we are all set up under Olive and Fig trees with the Adriatic Sea, literally, a step away from our door step….This is livin !!!
Zdravo! From Croatia. Well it has been an exciting couple of days. The weather has been unsettled with rain, wind and sun. The temperature is quite mild. Yesterday we visited the capitol of Slovenia, Jubliana. A very beautiful city. We returned to our campground had a nice dinner, visited with our neighbors from Great Britain and turned in. The wind was blowing fairly strong and we thought fair weather was at hand. We went to bed and settled in when it let lose, rain like we’ve never seen before with strong winds. I thought it wouldn’t last long wrong! Soon Joel said the bed is wet. What! Sure enough our little bumble bee had sprung a leak. We moped up as best we could and went back to our soggy bed. A long night. What a mess and it was still raining in the morning. We decided the heck with it and wadded up the wet towels and bedding and headed down the road to Croatia. It rained all the way to Rijeka. The sun peeked out and we could see the Adriatic Sea, so beautiful. Well it was lunch time so we stopped to get some Croatian Kuna, bought some groceries. Big mistake as I was starving so I got lots of goodies. We then headed down the coast to look for a place for lunch. We stopped at a tavern where the parking lot was full. When we parked the car we discovered that there was a fabulous view of Bakar. Bakar is a little town built on the side of a hill sloping down to the sea. It was gorgeous. Lunch was fabulous with fish soup, calamari and green noodles with shrimp scampi. Yummy!!! Wow our spirits sure picked up. A little further on we came to a sign for camping so we decided to check it out. To make the story short we are now all cleaned up, dried out and happy. We went for a long walk along the beach. There are lots of large old homes. Some have been remodeled and others need a little help, but they are wonderful. The water in the sea is warm and the clarity unbelievable. We watched a brilliant sunset, with the wind kissing the sea and making pretty patterns skitter across the water. Must mean sun tomorrow!!