Culture and conflicts. The countries along the Adriatic coast showed us the richness of their heritage and gave us insight into some of the most horrific events of the twentieth century. These countries of the former Yugoslavia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro and Slovenia, have to different degrees moved (or crept) toward economic independence and political stability. It has not been easy given the ancient ethnic and religious tensions, which boiled over in the 1990’s.
Our journey hit the major spots, Dubrovnik in Croatia, way down at its southern tip, Sarajevo where all hell broke loose in the 90’s, Zagreb Croatia’s modern capital, and Slovenia’s fabled university town Ljubljana (yes, its harder to spell than pronounce).
There is so much more to this part of Europe than the capital cities. I’ll take you there as we hop skipped from Croatia to B&H, back to Croatia and then to Slovenia.
Dubrovnik (Latin name Ragusa), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is perhaps the best-known and most visited city in Croatia. The ramparts encircling the Old Town can be walked (we did) and afford views down into the fortified town center on one side, the Adriatic on the other.
Every city and town we visited had its markets and Dubrovnik was no exception.
A side trip to Kotor, Montenegro gave us a chance to wander the streets of the beautifully preserved medieval walled town.
We made our way inland toward Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia & Herzegovina, stopping at Mostar. Mostar’s 16th c. historic bridge, destroyed in 1993 during the breakup of Yugoslavia, was rebuilt in 2004 and is a major tourist attraction. The Old Town along the river is, too.
It’s not hard to find evidence of the war.
Visiting the restored Sarajevo of today, it’s hard to imagine the toll the three and a half year siege of the early 1990’s took on its citizens. A rainy day seemed appropriate to ponder that time, not so long ago.
Back in Croatia we spent time in Split before heading to Zagreb, Croatia’s modern capital. Split is another Adriatic seaside gem. The big draw here, in addition to the port and promenade, is the Old Town and the Palace of Diocletian (Roman), his not-so-shabby “retirement” residence.
Zagreb, a busy and bustling city of 800,000 is divided into an upper and lower town, meeting at the Square of Ban Jelacic, a popular gathering place with trams coming and going. The large Dolac Market had everything.
About an hour from Zagreb, near the Slovenian border, is the charming town of Samobor where people from Zagreb go to unwind (or whatever else they do to get away from the city). A short hike took us to the remains of a castle. Coffee and cream cake were the hiker’s reward.
Croatia’s natural beauty reveals itself in the 114 square mile Plivitice Lakes National Park where we hiked to see one of its many waterfalls.
We made our way to Slovenia and stayed at the seaside town of Lovran, Croatia. Its long waterfront promenade is perfect for walking off the gelato that called to us across the street from our hotel. We never pass up a gelateria!
While staying in Lovran we explored some of the hill towns of Istria, a part of Croatia across the water from Italy. Motovun is the largest, Hum the smallest.
Last stop – Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia. It’s a university town so it has a youthful, upbeat vibe. It has historical monuments, cultural attractions, exquisite architecture and markets. There is a lot of activity in and around the main square and Old Town, both lined with shops and cafes.
We end our trip here having spent time exploring the majors, the minors and the in-betweens, all enlightening and enriching.