I really want the Venetians to invade and take over America.
Just think, we would finally have some really beautiful cities in the USA. And some good pizza and pasta too.
The Venetian Empire spread down the Croatian Coast. I just wish they had spread all the way to America, because they just did a fabulous job with whatever city they touched.
The Dalmatian coast
The Dalmatian Coast is the crown of Croatia, and the city of Dubrovnik is the finest jewel on that crown. Here's a simple map.
Maria (the Swede) and Marco (the Italian) walked me to the train station in Sarajevo and bid me farewell.
I arrived late at night in Ploce, Croatia, which is near Baina on the map. I camped and took the 5 a.m. ferry to a small island, hoping to cross it by bus. No bus on Sunday. So I hitchhiked with a guy who was delivering bread. I bought some bread off him to thank him, even though he wanted to give it to me for free.
From that small town I hopped on a ferry to Korcula.
I meet my match in Korcula
Korcula is pronounced "Core-chu-la". Marco Polo, the ultimate world traveler, made this trip I am on look like a daily commute for him. He started his trip across Asia from his little house in Korcula. It's still there, although not in great shape.
Polo's journey through Asia lasted 24 years. He reached further than any of his predecessors, beyond Mongolia to China. He became a confidant of Kublai Khan (1214-1294). He traveled the whole of China and returned to tell the tale, which became the greatest travelogue.
Although the temps were warm, the citizens told me that it gets quite windy and cold in the winter, although it never snows. So the smart Venetians built a high wall around Korcula to block the wind and made tight convoluted little streets to also deter the
wind. It makes for a delightful city.
Off to Hvar
I crossed the island of Korcula by bus to get to Vela Luka, a simple but cute town. I grabbed the ferry to the town of Hvar.
Hvar is another spectacularly romantic city at the base of several small hills. At the summit of a hill is a castle that's worth checking out.
I slept in Hvar and took a crowded bus to port of Stari Grad. While an Italian couple looked after my bags I ran a couple of miles to the old town of Stari Grad (which means "Old Town" in Croatian). Stari Grad was another cute town with a rich Venetian heritage. I ran back just in time for my ferry to Dubrovnik.
The diamond of Dubrovnik
I saved the best for last and took a 7 hour ferry to Dubrovnik. Just the ferry ride itself was marvelous, passing endless islands along the Adriatic Sea. I sat outside, reading a book while reveling in the warm temps.
Dubrovnik is like Venice's ugly sister. But Venice is such a hot sister, that Dubrovnik is still incredibly beautiful.
It's a horrible crime that the Serbs shelled Dubrovnik during the war. It had absolutely no military value. They ravaged the city with bombs. Fortunately, the Hague also thought is was a bad idea and sentenced the Serb admiral for 7 years in jail:
International aid helped repair Dubrovnik. The upside is that the rooftops and cobble stoned streets are all new.
Maybe the Serbs should shell San Francisco....
See this picture?
I swam from Dubrovnik to that island. It looked pretty close, but after 45 minutes of swimming I realized that it's not. Luckily no motor boats ran me over and I only cramped up at the end.
The best part of swimming to the island is that the ferry doesn't check for tickets so you save $6 bucks. ;-)
But bring sandals because walking all over the island on bare feet is more challenging than swimming there. There are a couple of old buildings, including a fort to see there.
The only downer
The only negative on Dubrovnik is that it's like a NY grid in a bowl. So it misses the charm of many Venetian designed cities which have circuitous streets and random plazas sprinkled around for variation. But it least the edges have mini hills that adds a cool dimension.
Go to Dubrovnik. It's the poor man's Venice and that's still pretty darn good.
Zipping through Zagreb
When I was going from Slovenia to Hungary, I stopped for 24 hours in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. It's a very nice city, with an old section on a hill. For fun I went to a Tolkien's Cafe, which has a Lord of the Rings feel to it. You don't need to linger there, but it's worth a peek if you're flying into it.
Croatians aren't saints either
The past two emails have made the Serbs look like the bad guys in the conflict. But as the Serbs like to remind me, the Croats were allied with the Nazis and did some of their own ethnic cleansing in the 1990s when they pushed Serbs out of Slavonia, a popular Serb region in Croatia.
Croats will tell you that the Serbs started it. That's correct. After all, all the weapons in Yugoslavia were in Serbia. So there's no reason why the Croatians would start a war with Serbia. It's like Estonia attacking Russia.
Although all parties share part of the blame, I conclude that the wars in the Balkans during the 1990s were basically the fault of the Serbs. After all, when I ask them what started the conflict, they get flustered and bumble through the answer like child who is guilty and knows it. Meanwhile, the non-Serbs give a crisp and clean answer: "The Serbs started it."
The average tourist has no clue of any of these tensions. So you can visit the Dalmatian Coast and delight in one of the most beautiful regions of the world.
I was waiting in line to buy my bus ticket to from Dubrovnik to Montenegro when I turned around and saw Marco and Maria! I thought I would never see them again after we parted ways in Sarajevo, Bosnia.
Maria decided to explore Croatia some more before returning
home to Sweden. Marco and I bid her farewell and then boarded the bus to Montenegro.
My adventure in the Balkans continues...
September 17, 2004