14. Apr, 2016

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MONDAY  11-5-14

We were sorry to be leaving Camping Solitudo in Dubrovnik. It was a nice campsite in a lovely city, but we must keep moving on. If we could have spared the time we would have liked to have stayed another full week. The people are very helpful and friendly and the prices very fair, considering it is a tourist hotspot.

The Dalmatian coast really is as lovely as the pictures in the brochures suggest. The sky and the sea are that blue, and the coastal communities are that pretty. Today we were heading for Mostar to look at the bridge, now rebuilt after the Balkans War. We started by following the coastal road enjoying the wonderful views to our right, before obeying the Garmin Satnav and leaving to go up to Mostar. Soon after leaving the coast we realised we were on the wrong road, there was no way that buses and coaches would have used it. The road was very narrow with extremely tight hairpin bends. On examining the map we realised we were being taken the shortest route cutting off a corner, all very well if you've got a horse and cart, but of no use to us. A quick 'U' turn and we were back on the coastal road for a number of miles. Unfortunately because of the shape of the border between Croatia and Bosnia Herzegovina we first left Croatia and in to Bosnia H', up the E65 a bit and then back in to Croatia before picking up the E75 inland to Mostar before then joining a queue of cars to get back in to Bosnia Herzegovina. I noticed a sign before the border crossing stating 'No Photography', I can see why. It had nothing to do with not wanting their Hi-Tech crossing facilities photographed, it was more about sparing them the humiliation of having their little wooden box with a man in it and a barrier he couldn't be bothered to use between vehicles, photographed.

On then to Mostar. Pleasingly we were not required to go back in to the mountains as we found ourselves on a good road which passed between two mountain ranges. We spotted a couple of good supermarkets along the way and thought we'd stock up on our way back out again.

We had tried to make a fairly early start this morning as I had not been able to find a campground in or near Mostar, which meant we would have to get there and back in one day, or chance our luck in finding somewhere to park for the night.

On entering Mostar it was evident there had indeed been a 'conflict'. There were a number of buildings which had been bombed out with just their shells still standing. Others still had damage to them which remained unrepaired and many properties had machine gun bullet damage in their walls. Most of them having been painted since the conflict, but clearly nobody thought it a good idea to fill the indentations in the walls before painting them.

As usual, driving through town on the main road we were struggling to find somewhere to park the motorhome. In the end, out of desperation, I pulled in to the local bus station (GPS: N43.348024 E17.813298). The Chef went in to the office to enquire if we could park there, cheeky, but if you don't ask you don't get. Out comes a chubby, happy kind of chap who lets us park there for €3. We were having one of those conversations where neither party had a clue what the other was saying yet somehow we were getting there, though at the time I had no way of asking how long the ticket lasted for. That's the problem with communication out here, they speak a language which is not adopted anywhere else, therefore you can't easily lay your hands on a phrase book or dictionary, perhaps because their words seem to be constructed by firstly throwing two dice, then depending on the total number thrown, dipping their hands in to a bag of Scrabble letters and pulling out the required number of letters and laying them out in the order drawn, and that's it - another word created. That's why so many of them speak English, if they didn't then nobody outside of their own country would be able to understand them - a bit like the Welsh, except that to create their words, they throw 4 dice at a time.

In fact thinking about it, perhaps the government should make it a law that every country we either conquer, liberate or give Foreign Aid to must, as part of the deal, learn to speak English as their first language, and adopt the Pound Sterling as their currency. Had that been introduced back in the 30's people like us could move around Europe, nay most of the world, and be understood, as well as not having to get ripped off at those Bureau De Change exchanging the good old British Pound for some Mickey Mouse currency or other. Would Europe be in the mess it's in now if they were all speaking English and spending the pound? Of course not, they'd have all ben busy drinking afternoon tea and queueing for something or other. As for Greece and its debts, we'd have just sent round those dead-'ard bailiff geezers with the van off the telly, and collected the required amount of monies owing and spared them the humiliation of being recognised as the lazy, tax-avoiding nation that they are.

Motorhome parked up we wandered in to town armed with camera and video. We first made for the river in order to try and get a fix on the Mostar Old Bridge dating back to the 1600's, well it did until it was shelled and finished up as a pile of rubble in the river.

We followed the river and came across the Old Town and there was the bridge. You approach it down a narrow street with the usual gift and craft shops either side. The bridge has since been rebuilt using UNESCO funding and the site designated a UNESCO Heritage Site. I have to say they've made a cracking job of rebuilding it using the original material out of the river. It's really only wide enough for a horse and cart and pedestrians. The surface over the bridge is very smooth rock, almost like marble with stone slats running across it to give the horses some traction and prevent the cart from rolling backwards. I can imagine it would be pretty treacherous to walk across when it's wet.

I walked across holding the video camera whilst recording, which is something I like to do from time to time, just so that you get the feel for what it's like to walk over the bridge yourself.

That box ticked we looked for a better vantage point to take a picture. There was a local riverside mosque charging something like €10 for the chance to get a good view of the river and bridge plus a look around the mosque and a trip up the minaret. Now that was tempting, just to get up one of those things, but at €10 each I thought it was rather steep, though if the trip up the minaret had come with a microphone I would definitely have gone up and given them my own version of  'Call to Prayers'.

Just up the road was a bar and restaurant where we were able to have a nice cold beer (and for me a portion of fries) with a very good spot to take a picture of the bridge, all for €5 including the tip, compared with the greedy Muslims down the road at €20 for two.

We then had a good look around before making our way back for a bite to eat. On the way we came across what I called the 1993 cemetery. At first we thought there was just one line of graves from the Balkan war, then realised all of the graves were from 1993. Clearly this was a graveyard dedicated to those in the town who died in the conflict. It was impossible to decipher the inscriptions on the headstones but I think one of them said something like 'Lying here has cured my claustrophobia'.

Our evening meal was a ham and cheese salad and a glass of wine.

Whilst on our shopping trip to Itea in Greece on the bus we bought two five litre boxes of wine. A rosé and a red. The red is ok, it kind of grows on you, but the rosé is gross. Really sweet, it actually tastes of honey, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to find out they'd blended a red and white, and then added dollops of Greek honey. I can't drink the stuff, so it must be bad. In fact it's more unpalatable than some of the cheap brands we bought in Spain, and to be fair to the Spanish I mean CHEAP. I think whilst there we were only one step away from drinking ‘meths’.

We had decided to go back in to town to sample the nightlife and perhaps take some pictures if the town was floodlit. The town was buzzing with folk out eating and drinking, lots of cafe culture. Once again it was noticeable that other nations seem able to come out for the evening, young and old alike, eat and drink and enjoy themselves, and not get loud and abusive, get a tattoo, get in a scrap ,and finish up legless in the gutter, and these days that's just our women!

The only down side was as we approached the Mostar bridge again at dusk. was with the two fairly young proprietors of a gift shop, who were putting their stock back in the shop. I wanted to get a video shot of a large painting they had of the bridge displayed outside, about four foot square, then pan round to a shot of the real thing. So as they were both outside I asked them out of courtesy if I could take the picture. Back came the reply “No photography, but you can buy something if you wish”, I just said “OK” and walked off. You know you get those occasions when the reply you wished you'd given at the time only comes to you later on? Well I had one of those moments there, and the reply I wished I'd given them would have been something like the bridge rebuild was paid for by UNESCO, which is funded worldwide by millions of people like me, so it's thanks to people like me that the bridge got rebuilt because without UNESCO funding it would still be a pile of rubble at the bottom of the river, in a similar state to many of the buildings in town, and that wouldn't have made for much of a picture. But the moment was lost.

On our return to the bus station we went to the office to enquire if we could stay the night. The answer was a polite 'no' as the tickets were only valid for that day, we said something like 'ok, thank you anyway', and left. Half way back to the motorhome the jolly chubby chap came out and was saying something like 'another ticket €3'. I tell you what - I wouldn't want to play him at Charades, he's definitely got better as the day has gone on. Just for clarification I went back to the office with him and had a chat with the lady in the ticket office, who told me that he was prepared to issue tomorrow's ticket early, and we could put it in our windscreen, so I thanked them, paid Mr Jolly, and then got told that he very much liked Coca Cola and would I buy him a bottle as a thank you. Well I suppose he did help us out, and besides he deserved a bottle for his sheer cheek for asking. Thing is it didn't stop at one bottle, as I couldn't come back from the vending machine with just one, I had to by the lady one as well, and of course I was going to work up a thirst getting them out of the machine and bring them back, and so it became three bottles at one euro each. The Chef doesn’t drink the stuff.