Tourism is the main industry in Croatia these days, but it’s fairly low key. We booked two day tours from Dubrovnik, one to neighboring country of Montenegro and the other to Bosnia and Herzegovina. As we were staying at an AirBnB in the old city which is totally care free. We were told to meet at Pila Gate, the main entry to the old city, just a 10-minute walk away.
At the location at 7:30 am were dozens of people doing the same, waiting to be picked up for a tour of one kind or other. Several vans were parked on the curb and young men or women were walking around, holding a list or looking at a phone, quietly calling out names of clients. The vans were not marked and no one wore a uniform of any kind or even a nametag. The only signage was a large card on the dashboard with the destination. Usually the van would have at least a magnetic sign on the door; the guide at least a t-shirt with the company name and logo; the driver a white shirt with epaulettes and a tie.
They must be successful at this, regardless of ‘branding’, because the city is packed. And it’s September, so the real high season is done.
Tour 1 took us to Montenegro, one of the neighboring countries that used to be part of Yugoslavia. We traveled about 90 minutes to the border, where we handed over our passports to be scanned out of Croatia and the EU and then into Montenegro. Then shortly thereafter reached the Bay of Kotor, took a small boat to Our Lady of the Rock, a quaint church and museum on a man-made island. Then we continued by boat to Kotor, a walled city built during the Byzantine era. Scenery from the boat was stunning and it’s easy to see why it is called Montenegro, black mountain. Kotor has lovely little squares, cobbled streets, shops, restaurants, and pubs. The city walls are mostly intact, worth a walk for the hearty.
The next day we traveled to Bosnia and Herzegovina. As you can tell, I’m ticking countries off the list (BiH makes 73). Much of this day was spent driving and we did 3 border crossings in each direction. Mostly landlocked Bosnia has this small piece of the Adriatic coastline, only 12 miles, which necessitates travelers to leave Croatia and the EU and pass into BiH then back into Croatia and shortly again back into BiH, where you catch the highway inland. The process is simple, takes only minutes each time. The guide hands in a list of names and passport numbers along with the passports, and an official scans them.
Our destinations were the beautiful Kravice Waterfalls and the historic town of Mostar. The falls are stunning and a popular swimming spot. On to Mostar, we were met by a local guide who walked us through what is today a very touristic area, the old town with the beautiful bridge as its center point. The bridge was destroyed during the Bosnian war of the mid 90s but was rebuilt using the same materials and method. UNESCO declared it a world heritage site along with the old town. On this day Red Bull was hosting a diving competition, adding a lot of chaos to an already congested area. For generations, young Bosniaks have proved their manhood by diving off the bridge, and now Red Bull is commercializing it. We also visited the Turkish House, now a museum formerly owned by a Turk with many daughters. Bosnia was responsible for the two world wars, Arch Duke Ferdinand was killed in the capital Sarajevo, which started WWI.