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Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia-
4-6 Oct 2006

We leave Venice and make a decision to head south along the Adriatic coast as opposed to north and visit Austria....we'll save the latter for the next life.

We cross the border from Italy into Slovenia at a particularly poorly marked border at Kozina.  The crossing resembles a large deserted parking lot with a nondescript 'gas station' in the far left corner and what resembles a small shopping center on the right. l ignore the former and park at the latter. As l climb out of the rentaracer, followed by a small flood of 'beverage' containers, l am met by a somewhat agitated Slovenian border guard, armed with the requisite automatic weapon.  Apparently we have entered his two-bit country without going through 'customs'.  However, once l explain to him we are Canadians, he says he understands and allows us to continue on our way. We pick up HW 7 and continue south through the mountains.

Slovenia borders Italy on the west, the Adriatic Sea on the southwest, Croatia on the south and east, Hungary on the northeast, and Austria on the north. Four major European geographic regions meet in Slovenia: the Alps, the Dinarides, the Pannonian Plain, and the Mediterranean. The Alps dominate Northern Slovenia along its long border with Austria. Slovenia's Adriatic coastline stretches approximately 47 km (29 mi)[19] from Italy to Croatia. On the Pannonian plain to the East and Northeast, toward the Croatian and Hungarian borders, the landscape is essentially flat. However, the majority of Slovenian terrain is hilly or mountainous.

Slovenia covers an area of 20,273 square kilometres and has a population of 2.06 million. The majority of the population speaks Slovene, which is also the country's official language. Other local official languages are Hungarian and Italian..all of which help us 'nada'.

Although Slovene history can be traced back to the 8th century, Slovenia itself is a relatively modern political entity, having been independent since 1991. During its history, the current territory of Slovenia was part of many different state formations, including the Roman Empire, the Frankish Kingdom, the Holy Roman Empire, and the First French Empire.  During World War Two, Slovenia was occupied and annexed by Germany, Italy and Hungary, only to emerge afterwards reunified with its western part (Slovenian Littoral) as a founding member of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, before declaring full sovereignty in 1991.

The earliest signs of human settlement in present-day Slovenia are two stone tools approximately 250,000 years old. During the last glacial period, present-day Slovenia was inhabited by Neanderthals; the most famous Neanderthal archeological site in Slovenia is a cave close to the village of Šebrelje near Cerkno, where the Divje Babe flute, the oldest known musical instrument in the world was found in 1995.

We uneventfully enter Croatia and take the A7 south along the Adriatic. The highway and tunnels are fabulous, constructed with German engineering and funding.  We eventually get to Zadar where we decide to pack it in for the night.

Zadar faces the islands of Ugljan and Pašman, from which it is separated by the narrow Zadar Strait. In the early 1990s the Yugoslav wars began to devastate the country and Zadar became a part of the new Republic of Croatia. During the Croatian War of Independence, Krajina rebels (with the protection of the serbianized Yugoslav People's Army (under Slobodan Milošević's control) converged on the city and subjected it to artillery bombardment, in what is now known as the Battle of Dalmatia. Along with other Croatian towns in the area, Zadar was shelled sporadically for several years, resulting in damage to buildings and homes as well as UNESCO protected sites. A number of nearby towns and villages were also attacked, the most brutal being the Škabrnja massacre in which 86 people were killed.

We decide to stay at the Hotel Donat, located in the Borik resort complex, for the evening.  Our first thoughts are that we have stumbled in the 1980s by mistake as we now are staying at what we later we refer to as the 'Heroes of the Soviet Republic Pleasure Hotel Number 49"....where you are ordered to have a good time.  The complex is very militaristic, even for Jim and I, with 3 buildings that share a common mess hall.  Once we've entered the main building we face a check-in desk that must be close to 100 ft long, albeit with 2 staff clustered around a mid 80s PC at one end. The main floor of the hotel is enormous and faces a swimming pool and the Adriatic, which gives us some hope the place is not going to make us field strip an AK for supper.  The staff is extremely courteous and very fluent in English....and very, very apologetic for some reason.  We are a bit suspicious of their behaviour as a few Croats had run into a Canadian battle group during the war that did not end well for the Croats, but this does seem to be the issue here: end product is that they lower the already ridiculously low room rate and give us what turns out to be a platoon-sized room for next to nothing. They also throw in a free supper in the mess hall, which is soon closing.

We quickly move into our room and then head 'double time' to the mess hall....errrr, dining room.  The place is cavernous, loud and full of poorly dressed Slavic tourists wearing cardboard suits.....we can only imagine a Soviet motor rifle regiment chowing down in here not too long ago.  At first glance the place has table after table piled sky-high with gorgeous fruit, meat and pastries and all sorts of other stuff....which, oddly enough, we quickly find to all taste the same.  However, we quickly gravitate to the endless beer and wine offering, which again suspiciously taste pretty much the same as each other, but effectively masks the taste, errr, none-taste, of the earlier mess chow.  We imbibe....endless wine and beer comes only a handful of times in one's life, and this is Croatia, after all....

After dindins, we head out on the beach which we follow north to a small bar....somehow, all of the wine glasses we have borrowed from the mess hall end up ceremoniously on the bottom of the Adriatic.  We have a couple of beers in the local bars and then head back to the shack.

We get up the next day and head to Split.  Again, the roads are great, the scenery better, and we get some great shots along the way.

Split is a very agricultural soviet-style port city with gloomy unimaginative architecture and is the largest Dalmatian city and the second-largest urban centre in Croatia. The city is located on the shores of the Mediterranean, more specifically on the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea, spreading over a central peninsula and its surroundings, with its metropolitan area including the many surrounding seaside towns as well. An intraregional transport hub, the city is a link to the numerous surrounding Adriatic islands and the Apennine peninsula, as well as a popular tourist destination.

Split is also one of the oldest cities in the area, and is traditionally considered just over 1,700 years old, while archaeological research relating to the ancient Greek colony of Aspálathos (6th century BC) establishes the city as being several hundred years older. The passenger seaport in Split, with its annual traffic of 4 million passengers, is the third busiest port in the Mediterranean, with daily coastal routes to Rijeka, Dubrovnik and Ancona in Italy.

We search for somewhere to spend the evening, but to little avail. However, at one hotel, we 'luck out' as the manager allows us to rent his loft out for the night. We pick up a couple bottles of wine and head to the sea for supper.  The scenery is beautiful and l take many shots as night falls.

We then decide to head east into Bosnia and Herzegovina for a 'day trip'....we had Canadian Forces friends who were stationed here during the war.  Heading south along the Adriatic on HW 8, we pass through an aptly named community called Dugi Rat....this is my kind of town.

We leave Croatia at Arzano. The border crossing resembled a scene from a bad post-Apocalyptic movie.....everyone, except us, is armed to the teeth, in bad uniforms, and is very big and angry.  l am told to leave the vehicle to buy a visa and end up in front of more big, large, angry guys with automatic weapons.  Somehow we sort out the visa and we are on our way to Mostar.

Bordered by Croatia to the north, west and south, Serbia to the east, and Montenegro to the southeast, Bosnia and Herzegovina is almost landlocked, except for 26 kilometres (16 miles) of Adriatic Sea coastline, centered on the town of Neum. The interior of the country is mountainous centrally and to the south, hilly in the northwest, and flatland in the northeast. Inland is the larger geographic region with a moderate continental climate, marked by hot summers and cold, snowy winters. The southern tip of the country has a Mediterranean climate.

The country is home to three ethnic groups: Bosniaks, the largest population group of the three, with Serbs in second and Croats in third. Regardless of ethnicity, a citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina is often identified in English as either Bosnian or Herzegovinian. Formerly one of the six federal units constituting the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Herzegovina gained its independence during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s.

Mostar (Cyrillic: Мостар (how apropos) is situated on the Neretva river and is the fifth-largest city in the country. The Old Bridge, a 16th century Ottoman bridge thoughtfully destroyed during the war, was rebuilt in 2004 and it is one of the city's most recognizable landmarks.  Between 1992 and 1993, after Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence from Yugoslavia, the town was subject to an 18 month siege.  Mostar was divided into a Western part, which was dominated by the Croat forces and an Eastern part where the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina was largely concentrated. After the war, the ICTY accused the Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia leadership for the crimes against humanity and other war crimes during the war, including the destruction of the Stari Most bridge.

Every village enroute to Mostar has nice houses alongside burned-out houses with bullet holes and the former inhabitants buried in the garden.  Signs along the highway indicating that the surrounding ground is still mined are pleasant reminders of former times and we pass at the opportunity to get blown up.

Our stay in Bos is short and unpleasant and we could not wait to leave....the gloomy, overcast weather pretty much sums up our thoughts of the entire country.  The high point of the trip is passing a sailing ship-shaped house made out of concrete....we'd have taken pictures but the aforementioned mines made the thought unadvisable.  Getting across the border into Croatia, again staffed by very large, looming border guards,  was very welcoming, and we made our way back to Split.

We spent the rest of the day waiting for the ferry that would take us back to Italy.  There were a lot of people moving around the terminal and we refrain from saying hello to a bunch of clearly identified Canadians. When the time comes to board the ferry, a large german SUV decides he wants to cut me off and board the ferry ahead of no avail. l pay his vehicle a visit once we get on board.

Jim has booked us, at enormous expense, a cabin with bunk beds and a window a foot thick and over 100 ft above the Adriatic. Once the thought dawns on us that we are doing a night crossing in a room we would never get out of alive if something bad was to happen, we decide to kill the couple bottles of wine we have with us and avoid any pretense of sleeping.

The resulting ride across to Ancona, Italy, was uneventful but getting off the ferry and having to deal with italian traffic with a belly load of Croatian wine made things interesting for a while....

 click on a picture to see a larger image. hit arrows at either end of the slideshow for more pictures.


heading south to Croatia and appropriately gloomy times


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