My travels in Eastern Europe: Croatia & Montenegro – May 2011 cont.
Train rides into Croatia are not yet well established. We flew from Czech Republic into Dubrovnik and stayed at Hotel Grand Argentina right outside of the old town walls. It was a five-minute walk into the old city inside the walls. The city can easily be covered in one day. It’s like a small gated neighborhood surrounded by a wall. It is a lovely place, full of history and untouched by the war.
Some of the locals told me that during the war, there was a ‘pact’ to not destroy Dubrovnik and its beauty; however when Montenegro entered the war and sided with the Serbs, they were the only country that bombed Dubrovnik. They still carry war wounds against their neighboring country and do not welcome visitors from Montenegro. While we were visiting, there was a protest against allowing a Montenegrian business man to attend a global conference in Croatia. I guess some things take much longer to forgive. The same sentiment was felt when I visited Bosnia a few days later.
Walking the wall around the city (only a couple of miles in length) is the highlight. There are some churches, monasteries, a castle within the walls that draw tourism, but as I mentioned before, it’s very small and easily covered in a day. Many would come to visit to enjoy the refreshing waters of the mediterranean coast. Although it was still a bit chilly, I jumped into the water and loved it.
One hint, if you arrive at the airport, save your $50 to take a cab down the hill to the old town, there is a bus which takes a couple of dollars and drops you off in the same spot as the cab with no stops in between. My friend, who is not as public transportation friendly as I am, insisted we take a cab…$50 later, she realized her mistake.
This island off the coast of Croatia is magnificent. We didn’t plan well and allowed ourselves a 1.5 days for this trip. So disappointing. It’s a gorgeous mediterranean island with a great night life. You’ve heard of Ibiza? Try Hvar as an alternative. The crowd was young and ready to party.
The ferry from the coast of Split takes about eight hours but since we were coming from the direction of Dubrovnik, we took the 1 hour ferry (after missing our first one) from Sucraj. The problem was that our resort was 2 hours away on the other side of the island than where we got out of the ferry. We had a car so we drove but OMG, my guts were in my mouth for the duration of the journey. Winding and very narrow roads around the mountain… I thought we were going to drop a few thousand feet to our death. I’d never been more glad to reach the bottom and step out of the car, even not when I went sky diving, as I was that day and on the drive back (and in Bosnia..lol).
We arrived late in the evening and had to drive back the next afternoon to catch our ferry.. that gave us one night and a morning in Hvar.. what a waste. We stayed at a beautiful hotel and we only got to enjoy the beach and the pool for a couple of hours. We dined in the city center the night before but we were too tired to even attempt the night life, which was bustling.
If you go to Hvar, I recommend a few days of R&R here. I hear the ferry from Split is quiet the party scene as well.
Ahhhhhh what expectations we had! A bit disappointing but we didn’t spend much time here. Just FYI, If you are driving here, you will reach a point near Kotor that you must take five-minute ferry to cross a lake. I think driving around it may be possible but will take a much longer time.
The country is poor. The only place to stay (and there’s no parking inside) is inside the walls of the old town. A smaller ‘old town’ than Dubrovnik and it’s smack in the middle of the city that doesn’t offer anything else for tourism. The old town however has beautiful old homes and churches mixed with a few modern hotels. Cruise ships dock here and the tourists can walk the city in half a day or less. It was charming to walk what seems like a one mile radius around town but we were soon bored. Our hotel was nice with friendly staff but given its location right inside the walls of this small area, comparable to a small gated neighborhood, was loud. We couldn’t sleep with all the noise from outside until 3 am and then again starting at 7 am.
This old town is nestled under St. John’s Hill. We hiked this hill one morning – and there is a cost of about 3 euros/person collected by an old man sitting on a chair at the entrance to the trail. I actually thing we were short 1 euro and he let us go by. As we were hiking this 280 meters high hill, and huffing and puffing, a boy of about 10 years old, swiftly walked passed us while carrying four jugs of water. And we thought we were athletic.. reality set in quickly. We did reach the peak and what a sight it was. People hike up here to walk the walls on top of the hill that was designed to keep a protective eye on the old town below at dating back to 13th and 14th century. There are remains of an old church and well-kept shrine half way up the hill.
So we heard about the beautiful beaches in Budva as well as the nude beaches and gliterazies. We got in our car and drove. We found the beach, which we had to pay the hotel to use, but not the nudity (it was a hotel after all) and no celebrities flocking to the coast of Budva. I’m sure we were not at the right location..hint hint. We did spend a few hours enjoying the sun and the water, well I enjoyed the water, my friend found it cold. Then we got in our car and drove more.
We came across a famous hotel which was off the coast, by a few feet, on a small island kind of like Alcatraz. This was supposedly where celebrities, the politicians..etc occupy or did occupy once when visiting. We couldn’t go inside but from the outside, I can see that it’s probably true (see picture below).
We packed up again and headed to Hvar and then Bosnia from here. See my next blog about Bosnia.