Plan for the day
The plan for the day was to cross from Bosnia & Herzegovina into Croatia again. This time we were going to Dubrovnik which was about 147 km south of Mostar. The driving journey itself needed about 2.5 hour and with a couple of stops for meal and coffee we estimated we should reach Dubrovnik in 4.5 hours.
By the end of the day
We left Mostar at near to 8.30 am and reached Dubrovnik at about 1 pm, this left us plenty of time to explore Dubrovnik. We went up by cable car to a high view point and had a great time viewing Dubrovnik old city 400 metres above it. The sight was stunning and unforgettable but the ride was very expensive. I regretted heeding the advise of my host and not driving up to the high view point which would have saved us a bundle.
Stari Most in the Morning
I wanted to wake up at about 5 am to witness the first sun rays over Stari Most. Unfortunately, my body just refused to co-operate. By the time I was fully awake it was near to 7 am so I quickly went out to the balcony with my camera. Yat Thong was already there for more than an hour, taking many beautiful shots of Stari Most in the cold morning. The sky was brightening up and most of the lights in the houses around the old towns were already switched off. In the morning, the water in Neretva river was very calm and smooth and the bridge was cleared of visitors.
Mostar to Dubrovnik
We said goodbye to our host and drove out of Mostar going toward Dubrovnik. On the way, we were again on a lookout for a nice town with a nice restaurant or cafe. In was about 40 minutes when we reached Stolac, a small town. At 9.20 am the streets of Stolac was pretty quiet. Most of the cafes/restaurants had yet to start operation. But we were hungry and needed food!
We found a nice looking cafe, Epi Center Cafe Bar and went in. The waiter told us that he only served coffee at this time in the morning. So we left and walked down the street in search of food. We came to Doner Grill, unfortunately Doner Grill served food (wrap with meat and vege) and not drink or coffee. We ended up buying wraps from Doner Grill and brought it over to Epi Center Cafe Bar where we ordered four cups of coffee to go along with our food. The cafe bar staff was so nice, he allowed us to consume “outside” food in his cafe.
We left Stolac after a satisfying breakfast and continued our drive on M6. After about 69 km, just when we were about to branch into M20, I saw an interesting structure far away on a hill top. It was an unique structure, different from those we had seen so far. So instead of branching onto M20 we drove toward the direction of the faraway monastery.
This led us into Trebinje town. I referred to google map and spotted a castle (Касарна Хрупјела) in the vicinity (which I thought might be that mysterious monastery) so we drove toward the location marked on the google map. Unfortunately the map led us to some very narrow and steep roads. We seemed to have reached the castle, but it looked so different from the one I had seen earlier. The rain had also gotten heavier and there was no suitable parking place for our car. We could not come out to explore so we abandoned our search of the mysterious monastery.
Though we failed to locate the mysterious monastery, we unexpectedly saw a very beautiful old bridge. It was luck that brought us to this high ground near the “incorrect” monastery that was where we saw the Arslanagića Bridge from afar. This bridge had a very interesting history. It used to be located 10 km upstream from its present location. In 1965 it was submerged beneath the rising water of Gorica reservoir. A rescue was mounted that took six years to relocate it to its present location moving stone by stone.
We left Trebinje without locating the beautiful monastery/castle on top of a hill which we saw from afar. It was only later that I found out that this beautiful monastery/castle was an Orthodox Church of Trebinje (Црква св. Архангела Михаила) and it was located just less than a kilometer west of the “incorrect” Касарна Хрупјела of Trebinje.
We reached Dubrovnik at about 1 pm and luck was definitely with us, because once we crossed the Croatia border the weather turned for the better. It stopped raining! We drove to our rented apartment (Apartment Karmen) and the owner came out to meet us. She directed us to a carpark space nearby which she had reserved for us without charge. Fantastic!
From the balcony of Apartment Karmen we had a gorgeous view of Dubrovnik old city. The scene of the blue sky, blue water, town houses and fortress was fantastic. The view was so stunning that I could spend the whole day staring at it.
Dubrovnik Cable Car Ride
From our apartment we took a 800 m gentle down hill walk to the cable car lower station. According to our hostess, she told us not to drive into the old city as it would be almost impossible to find an empty car park space. Since the cable car station was very near the old city, parking would definitely be an issue, so we went there on foot. The cable took us to the top of Mount Srdj just above the town, and the ride was 520 kuna (SGD$110 or €70) for the four of us.
The ride was pretty expensive considering that the trip was only for 3 minutes and there was hardly any view for most of the people in the cable car. The cable car cabin was packed full of people so unless you stood beside the windows you got no view.
At the upper station there were two huge open decks for viewing the old town below. It was definitely a lovely view, not just over the old city but far out into the Adriatic sea and the Elaphite Islands
Our original plan was to drive up to the upper station of the cable car and view the old town from the two open viewing decks. This way we would save 520 kuna and spent it on dinner at Restaurant Panorama located just beside the upper station. This idea was abandoned because our hostess told us that the road up was very narrow, unsealed and difficult to drive on. So we went up by cable car. It was when we were at the upper station that we could see that the road leading up to the station was perfectly fine, a good proper tar road. Our hostess’s information was too outdated. I should have trusted my own research information on google live map, as the road looked perfectly okay online!
Dubrovnik Old City
After riding the cable car down to the lower station we walked 200 m to the old city. The old city was completely surrounded by a tall and thick city wall of about 2 km long. We entered the city by its north gate, an impressive arch with the date 1908 carved at the top of the arch. Dubrovnik old city was definitely older than 1908 so this gate must had been added in much later.
Going though the gate gave me a strange feeling, it was as though I was stepping into a special place, a protected world. After the north gate were many sets of stairs going down to the center of the old city. They were actually stair alleys with three storey house on both sides. These alleys were not dingy or dark. They were bright, colourful and cheery. The steps were made of light colour cobble stones, the walls of the houses were of sandstone colour, they were rough but clean. The windows were mainly white framed and rolls of “same design” wall lights hanged outside the doors of every unit. Overall the alleys looked quaint and charming.
At the base of the old city were streets lined with shops, restaurants, cafes and souvenirs stores. Like every beautiful grand old city, Dubrovnik was a tourist’s must-go-location, so the place was packed with many people. I remembered reading somewhere on the internet at the start of this year that the mayor of Dubrovnik intended to limit the number of visitors into the old city to just 8000 a day, so as to prevent damage to some of the city oldest building. Oh mine, if the summer crowd size was to double the size of the crowd we saw today, then this place would not be a nice place to visit in summer.
This old city was listed as a World Heritage Site in 1979. It was badly damaged in the 1990s by armed conflict. In 2005 a retired Yugoslavia general was even sentenced to eight years in prison and part of his crimes was for the wilful damage to a number of historical and cultural sites located in the old city of Dubronvnik. In 1991, the damage city was included on the list of World Heritage in Danger in order to drawn international attention to the situation so as to expedite protection and reconstruction effort. After seven years of restorations, Dubrovnik was eventually removed from the “World Heritage in danger” list.
It was amazing that in this crowded foreign old city we met a friend from home, 10,000 km away. As we walked on the streets, Yat Thong came face to face with a colleague. Singapore is a tiny nation with a small population and yet in nearly every trips we went we met other Singaporeans. We recognised each other not through our dressing or our race or our look, we recognised each others through our speech! This uniquely Singaporean accent, that no other nationalities in the world could imitate, gave away the presence of a fellow countryman even before we even spot the person!
Our stroll brought us to a set of beautiful steps at the southern end of the town. This was not the alley stairs that we encountered at the northern end. This was elegant Baroque stairs. The steps brought us up to Piaza di Spana and a church. Church of St. Ignatius which housed the oldest bell in the entire city. The construction of this church started in 1600s but only completed in 1725. In between these period was the devastating earthquake of 1667 that practically destroyed three quarters of the public buildings in Dubrovnik.
The church was opened to visitor (no charges) and surprising photography was allowed in its interior. The church was very empty and quiet, apparently visitors to the old city did not venture so far south. The stained glasses, the ceiling paintings and statues were vivid and beautiful. It was a nice change to have the place to ourselves, we circled the hall, walking up close to study the beautiful paintings and artifacts at our own paces.
We were back to Gunulic Square for an early dinner, the time was just past 5 pm. We zoomed in to Karmenice Seafood Restaurant, a place that had caught our attention earlier on. We ordered mussels bouzzarra, shrimp risotto and tagliatelle with shrimp and finished off with coffee, hot chocolate and caramel custard. The food was delicious, the mussel plate was totally unexpected. We thought like back home we were going to get five or six mussels in the plate, but it came out heap full of mussels in a big metal plate. We had never eaten so many mussels at one go! The entire meal costed 355 kuna (SGD$71 or €47).
Dinner took longer than expected because of the crowd and the waiting time at Karmenice. By the time we were done it was close to 6.30 pm and the sun was going to set soon. I wanted to be back at our apartment, which was 1 km away, to photograph Dubrovnik old city under the setting sun. It was a tiring walk back to our apartment because of the rush and the uphill slope.
Well the sunset was not as lovely as we hoped for but the “blue hour” scene just after the sun gone down was spectacular. As the hours passed, the sky darkened from blue to deep blue to black, at the same time golden lights popped up randomly over the old town until the whole city was lighted up.
Our Accommodation for the night
Our apartment “Karmen Apartment” was a self contained apartment for four. I selected this place because it was located outside the Dubrovnik old city with a fantastic balcony view of the old city! Further more it was only 1 km from the old city which meant we could stay late into the night at the old city and not to have to worry about the long distance back to our accommodation for the night.
When our hostess showed us the apartment, we were more interested in the balcony than the rest of the house. It had a huge living area that faced the sea. From the balcony the view of the old city was fabulous. Though this apartment that I had booked from Booking.com at 632 kuna (SGD$126 or €84) was pricier than others (because of its space and balcony view), I just had to book it for its view!
There was no separate room for bedroom in this apartment. It was just one big space divided into two areas, the living area and the sleeping area. There were two single beds and a double bed just good enough for four of us.
The apartment came with a big toilet with a washing/dryer machines inside. It also had a fully equipped kitchen. On the whole though the cost of the apartment was above our budget, it was a very nice and beautiful apartment.