2012 - Croatia 

October

 

On this Discovery cruise, we docked at Dubrovnik (5th & 6th October) and Pula (7th October) before returning to Hvar on Wednesday 10th October after visiting Venice and Koper in Slovenia.

Croatia has been formed out of the break-up of the former communist country of Yugoslavia which we had visited in August 1988 as a complete family.  On that occasion we were based in Pula to which we return as part of our cruise on Discovery to the eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea.  This time we visit the ports of Dubrovnik and later Hvar as part of a cruise on Discovery taking in 10 countries: Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Bosnia Herzegovina, Italy, Albania, Greece, Turkey, Russia, and Ukraine.  

1918 - Croatian national assembly voted to join the new Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes on the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

1921 - A unitary constitution abolished Croatian autonomy. The main Croatian Peasant Party campaigned for its restoration.

1929 - The Kingdom was renamed Yugoslavia, and the system of government was further centralised under a royal dictatorship.

It was invaded by Germany in 1941.  It became communist under Tito.  More recently it has had disputes with Serbia and Slovenia.  There have been problems with corruption and organised crime.  It will become an EU member on July1 2013.

It is suffering an economic downturn as it is so dependant on tourism.

Its population is 4.4m.

Friday 5th October

After a flight from Gatwick with Monarch we joined the ship at about lunchtime and after unpacking and having lunch we took the shuttle to Dubrovnik.  Our introduction was a traffic jam as the coaches negotiated the very narrow street leading to a drop off point by the Pile Gate.  There were other ships in port including a huge MSC ship.  In consequence the city was busy! 

Having already had a long day we limited ourselves to a walk around the old city and a drink in a café.  The terrible damage of the 1992-5 war had been repaired and the city was certainly full of character and beauty.

That night we had open dining but we had already met up with Brian and Ann King with whom we would be sharing the rest of the cruise.

Saturday 6th October

Perhaps foolishly, we had booked an all day tour to Mostar, which was 21/2 hours away.  With a short stop on the way and on the way back the coach  journey for the entire day was 6 hours to get an hour walking around Mostar and nearly the same amount of time having a group meal in an attractive courtyard restaurant.  On our coach was Sonia an 80+ year old lady whom we had met on a previous cruise.  We shared a table with Sonia and also with a couple from Somerset Jenny and Matt Hawkins.  They visited us at our new home in Emsworth just after Christmas as they have a daughter living nearby.

The journey was spectacular as we drove northwards along the coast.  It was a winding two way road beside the turquoise sea with its multitude of islands.  Apparently Croatia has 1246 islands of which only 50 are inhabited.  The limestone scenery was somewhat reminiscent of the Costa Blanca area which we had visited the previous February.  There was not a lot of development which left the beauty untouched.  At this point Croatia is a narrow coastal strip into which Bosnia Herzegovina intrudes for a single coastal town.  However, Mostar is in Bosnia Herzegovina and therefore the remainder of this diary entry appears also under that country’s entry.

As we approached Mostar we could see some derelict industrial buildings and then some bullet holed buildings.  Our guide told us that Mostar resembled Hiroshima after the war of the 1990s.  It has now been generally rebuilt but with some damaged buildings being left as a reminder.  Although the (rebuilt) old sector is attractive, it is small and the highlight is the (rebuilt) 1560’s bridge.  This became a symbol of the destruction and division but also of the restoration.  It was originally constructed to link the Christian side of the ravine with the Muslim.

We returned in time for our evening meal which was a formal dinner.

Being very tired still, we had an early night, although Adrian did go to the evening concert.

 

Sunday 7th

Our port was Pula, which we had visited for a holiday in about 1988. It is particularly noted for its Roman amphitheatre which we were able to see as we moored off-shore. 

We  had an afternoon visit to two small villages in Croatia: Hum and Roc.

Hum is a small stone built hilltop village of just 28 people.  Nevertheless it appears to have 3 churches!  These date from the 12th, 14th and 15th centuries although one of these was rebuilt in 1802. One of the churches has important frescoes but it was locked!  The town has extensive views over the green and largely tree covered land where pomegranates are widely cultivated. The settlement is within medieval stone walls and is approached through copper gates in a gateway dating to the 11th and 12th centuries. All very romantic!  The gates have several medallions on them which our guide explained to us. One that Jill photographed appeared to be of a man warming his hands over a fire.  Within are a number of very old stone buildings and in an open area of one there is a stone table around which matters of the village have traditionally been discussed and also the mayor is elected.  These traditions go back to the 16th century when the area was under Venetian rule.

Our guide was a most unusual, very tall young man whose face and hands were used all of the time to give further expression to his words.  He was new to this trip and therefore (we noticed) some of his commentary was read from his notes and a small guide book.  He also had little sense of time and we just wandered around for seemingly far too long.  We had our evening meal at 6.30 which he had been unaware of.  We made it... at just after 7pm!

As in Georgia and Armenia, the people here are very proud of their alphabet and we stopped briefly at a stone representation of this. It is the Glagolitic and was devised in the 9th century and remained in use until the early 20th.

Our second village was Roc, again stone built and approached through a gateway.  It is a pretty rather than spectacular village but a number of stone sculptures added to the interest.

The destinations had been picturesque rather than spectacular.  The drive northwards was interesting in a different way as it took a newly opened toll road and then another smart new road over the lower slopes of the hills with a series of viaducts.  Ah, the wonders of the EU, as we have discovered elsewhere, but not so much in Britain!

 

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Hvar

We returned to Croatia later on the cruise to visit the island of Hvar.  Brian and Ann told us they had stayed there for part of their honeymoon, following the first part at Dubrovnik.

Our visit was quite short and we did not leave the main town.  However, it is a pretty stone settlement that extends up the fairly steep hills.  This involves long flights of steps in fairly narrow passages flanked by old stone shops and houses.  From one of these we bought a little line-drawing of the church.  We climbed up many steps to reach the castle and from there we had glorious views of the beautiful blue sea and also of Discovery, anchored off-shore.  The castle itself was quite limited as to what we could visit but it had these great views and also an interesting little museum which contained items from a 2nd century shipwreck.

Again we saw sculptures of the lion of Venice reminding us of the great Venetian empire.

Certainly it is an attractive country, if somewhat arid being limestone.