Western Balkans – Day 3 – To King’s Landing
Our breakfast fast was rather late – 8 a.m. – but our program for today was not very tight so we could afford a relaxed one. We had to carry our luggage to the fenced parking that caused my sweat to flow in streams – hot and humid mediterranean climate does that to me. The weather was – what a surprise – sunny and hot. We started rather late at a quarter to ten, after topping up the motor oil and chain lube, and left Split riding on the coastal road again. It was a detour but definitively worth it. Lots of beautiful sights, cute little bays and beaches, too many to stop every time. It is tricky to capture the atmosphere in pictures – a lot is lost there, but I think you get the idea:
We filled up again and joined the motorway again. The temperature was in the 30’s with higher humidity at the coastline. Soon we reached the border to Bosnia and Hercegovina and after a short passport control, we were in! I had planned to visit the Kravica water falls, but due to some lacking road signs, I gave up and dumped the idea. The next destination was Mostar, the notorious city known from the Yugoslavian war. It’s not very far from the, just some 50 km.
Mostar is situated on the Neretva River and is the fifth-largest city in the country. It was named after the bridge keepers (mostari) who in the medieval times guarded the Stari Most (Old Bridge) over the Neretva. The Old Bridge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, built by the Ottomans in the 16th century, is one of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s most visited landmarks, and is considered an exemplary piece of Islamic architecture in the Balkans. Two wars (Serb forces versus Bosniak and Croatian and Croat-Bosniak war) left Mostar physically devastated and ethno-territorially divided between a Croat-majority west bank (with ca. 55,000 residents) and a Bosniak-majority old City and east bank (with ca. 50,000 residents), with the frontline running parallel to the Neretva River.
Almost 30 years have passed by and the Bosnian War seems to be over a long time. However, quite a number of ruins reminded us of the past when we rode into the city. Today, Mostar centre is full of tourists and souvenir shops. We parked the bikes in the shadow, close to the pedestrian zone and locked our jackets and helmets to my bike. We strolled between numerous souvenir shops towards the Old Bridge.
The Old Bridge is unmistakenly the outstanding piece of architecture in Mostar. It stood for 427 years, until it was destroyed on 9 November 1993 by the Croatian Defense Council during the Croat–Bosniak War. Subsequently, a project was set in motion to reconstruct it; the rebuilt bridge opened on 23 July 2004. The bridge is considered an exemplary piece of Balkan Islamic architecture and was commissioned by Suleiman the Magnificent in 1557. Upon its completion it was the widest man-made arch in the world. Given that mosques, synagogues, and churches in Mostar were in proximity, the Old Bridge was targeted for the symbolic significance it served in connecting diverse communities.It can be considered an act of “killing memory”, in which evidence of a shared cultural heritage and peaceful co-existence were deliberately destroyed. This resembles latest developments in Ukraine where the cultural heritage is targeted as well.
We crossed the bridge to the other side and discovered some nice cafés under it with a view on the bridge and the people who were eager to join some rafting boats. A large jump into the river was also near where people jumped from 15 or 20 metres height. We found a small table in first row and enjoyed a Turkish/Bosnian Mokka.
After this relaxing break in the cool shade, we walked to our bikes and rode back, in some 35 degrees. But instead going back to the coast, we did a little detour. Bosnia owns a small strip of land at the coast that cuts the Dalmatian, Croatian coast in half. By riding directly to Neum, the Bosnian city in this enclave, we avoided to cross into Croatia, back to Bosnia, and back to Croatia again. Only one crossing to Croatia was needed.The last 50 km today were very scenic, I stopped again a few times, much more stops could happen, but I’m usually too lazy to turn around.
Well, and then, finally we arrived at King’s Landing. Oh wait, I think in this world it is called “Dubrovnik”?
We quickly found our accommodation, like yesterday a place that has a few ok rooms, but is not really a big hotel. But for our purposes it’s ok. A quick shower and we were ready to visit the Old Town of Dubrovnik, historically known as Ragusa. It is one of the most prominent tourist destinations in the Mediterranean Sea, a seaport and the centre of Dubrovnik-Neretva County. In 1979, the city of Dubrovnik was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in recognition of its outstanding medieval architecture and fortified old town.
We walked through the narrow and wide streets and alleys, its picturesque squares. As it was already in the evening, we didn’t walk the huge ramparts on the huge wall that surrounds the old city. A genuinely marvelous city with a very special atmosphere.
I had to think of my favorite scene in GoT:
That was the right hint. We discovered this busy bar outside the wall, just over the sea with magnificent views. Time for an aperitif!
After that, we want back to that yard that we had seen before, looking great. We had some salad and grilled calamari, very delicious.
Cozy. On our way back to the hotel, we criss-crossed the old town and enjoyed the lower temperatures. No fire-breathing dragons anywhere in sight!
Luckily, our rooms have airco again. Tomorrow, the new country will be: Montenegro (Црна Гора).