Croatia and to a lesser extent Bosnia-Herzegovina have been rapidly growing as premier tourist destinations in the Mediterranean. We wanted to go there before they became too crowded.
This article is a diary based story from a two-week family vacation in Croatia with a day-trip to Bosnia-Herzegovina, in 2006.
Sunday 2.7.2006, Stavanger – Zaton Mali
We were actually going to Croatia last summer but were not able to obtain flight tickets, and instead we chose England and Wales. Perhaps we were at bit late. This time we succeeded, flying Norwegian. We booked accommodation two different places, on the net, the first near Dubrovnik and the second on the island of Hvar. This was going to be a two weeks family vacation.
The plane left around eight in the morning. Less than three hours later we landed on the airport just south of Dubrovnik on the Adriatic coast. The landscape was strangely lush seen from the air and later on from the road. Later we heard that it had been raining for three months.
We had rented a car from Suncars, like on Corsica. We went off in a brand new Opel Astra station wagon. Along OK roads we passed high above Dubrovnik, the fortress city on the Unesco-list. Around 10 km north of Dubrovnik we came to a long bay or little fjord in Norwegian terms and the place Zaton Mali. It was here we would be staying the coming week at
- Mrs Ljiljana Hodak’s Ville Leona. We were given two rooms and a tea kitchen. Actually it was two double room, but who cared. We paid 665 euros for the week. This was a good standard eight room pension with a restaurant on the ground floor.
Arriving in Zaton Mali, shortly north of Dubrovnik
There is a sea promenade winding its way along the bay, and a relaxed atmosphere with few and small hostels. There is a tiny little shingle beach a couple of hundred metres from our hostel, or we could try the swimming from the concrete reinforced edge of the promenade. We tried the pool right behind the pension, just the right size for the five of us. Lovely temperature. In the evening we also got a little sun on an otherwise cloudy day.
One of the rooms is facing the pool, the other the sea. The latter has a door to a long balcony going past the other rooms in the pension. We have our own table and chairs. Who else but a couple from our home town Stavanger were sitting there welcoming us to Croatia? They had been here a couple days already, but were leaving for Montenegro with bus the day after. We talked a bit with them after dinner. They had a boy at 10 who we paired with our two sons for a game of cards. His name was Martin.
We had an alright dinner in the restaurant of the pension. Conclusion at the end of the day: OK temperature, but clouded and with a great location.
Monday 3.7.2006, Zaton Mali – Mostar
A day trip to Mostar
A rainy day on the Mediterranean’s most sunny place. There is no point waiting for the sun. Therefore we took the road to old Mostar in Bosnia-Hercegovina, the town renowned for its white bridge from 1566. The town and bridge were heavily shelled during the fighting in the early 1990’s. The bridge was reconstructed and accepted on the Unesco World Heritage List.
We were far from the only tourists, and there was a lot of juggle in the shops. The town was great anyway with its church spires, minarets and bridge(s). It was a fine, but long drive (130 km) along the coast and inland.
Images from Mostar
And a video
The old bridge in the town of Mostar is old, famous and picturesque. It is also on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
Tuesday 4.7.2006, Zaton Mali – Dubrovnik
Still overcast. For that reason and for the lack of cash we went to Dubrovnik only 10 km away. It was incredibly difficult to park. The town’s medieval walls and old city is fantastic. Hordes of tourists are of the same opinion, but still there was a lot of exciting things to see. We walked half the wall.
The boys collected football cards from ice-creams while our daughter enjoys being with the family.
In the evening we dined another place along the Zaton bay and almost forgot the World Cup semi-final (football). (Italy beat Germany 2-0.)
Images from Dubrovnik
And a video
The Croatian fortified coastal town of Dubrovnik is a fascinating and popular place on any tourist agenda. It is certainly high on the historically interested people’s itineraries. It is no wonder that the old town is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
Wednesday 5.7.2006, Zaton Mali
Sunbathing and sea bathing day under a brilliant sun. We have found a small shingle beach 300 metres from the hostel.
We have lunch there, but dine other places. On the average the food is plain and good, but not very tasty – much grill, some seafood. Breakfasts are taken in the room and we make our shopping in a neighbourhood store.
Thursday 6.7.2006, Zaton Mali
Sun and bath. Fine temperature at 26 degrees and a bit cooler in the sea.
Friday 7.7.2006, Zaton Mali
A day trip south
Grey day. Again! Therefore we decided to drive south to Montenegro, the country which in a popular referendum next week will decide to withdraw from the union with Serbia. To be true, we did not get further than the border. They demanded a “green card”, apparently an insurance paper which was not among the car’s document. In a brochure from Sixt we could read that the car could not be taken outside Croatia, extremely idiotic considering the geography. Anyway, we managed to get just inside another country all five of us.
Despite that the two hours each way was largely wasted. The scenery was not that beautiful. We did however find a beach on the way back, a great sandy one for that in Župa Dubrova?ka. Long, shallow, sandy. Several buildings and a large former hotel right by had been burned out, and they all contained numerous bullet holes. There were apparently big fights here 15-16 years ago.
Images from Župa Dubrova?ka
In the evening we had a nice bath at home.
I may add here that during the same Balkan war Zaton was bombarded by attacking Serbians. A girl was shot and killed while swimming in the bay.
Saturday 8.7.2006, Zaton Mali
Last whole day in Zaton. We walked along the seafront and relaxed with sun and bath. The boys are collecting football cards from ice-creams, and have now also a booklet to paste them in. We have found out that the food in neighbouring Zaton Veliki is better than here in “our” Zaton Mali.
Third place play-off in the World Cup, Germany beat Portugal 3-1.
Images from Zaton Mali
Sunday 9.7.2006, Zaton Mali – Hvar
Departure for the island of Hvar and the town bearing the same name. We said goodbye to the nice personnel at our hostel and restaurant, and some people from Bergen, Norway who had just moved in.
The drive around 200 km north proved to be long, fully six hours. There was a comparatively short wait for the ferry in Drvenika, but the road most of the way on Hvar from one end to the other was bad. Partially bumpy, but especially with many turns and altitude differences. Despite this the scenery and view is great. A lot of lavender grows on this island, ranked by a travel magazine one of the world’s ten most beautiful islands.
I still have to add a description of the road on the mainland. It is of good, or fair, international standard. The coastline is rugged and narrow below mountains several hundred metres high. The many bays leave many bends on the road. Luckily our French travel sickness pills work for the boys. Strangely there are a few kilometres of a Bosnian enclave dividing Croatia in two. There is customs control in both ends, perhaps not so peculiar as the town of Neum appears like a tax-free haven in the middle.
- We arrived at a lovely, large apartment in Hvar City, at the family Maja and Jakov Balic.60 square metres with two large bedrooms, two baths and a large combined living room and kitchen. Complete with a washing machine and dishwasher. Good standard and full equipped. We had much more value for money here than in Zaton Mali.
A welcome drink was served by the host, homemade as well. Jakov is a devout maker of wine, liquor, vegetable oils and most one can think of in this area. He has large casks in the basement and lots of herbs and spices. We concluded nonetheless than his drinks lacked fullness and body. The local store is close by and has like the one in Zaton few square metres but rich content.
We did some recon in town at first, and had a swim in the city bay later. Pebbles here as well, and not too clean.
Football final in the evening with Italian triumph.
Monday 10.7.2006, Hvar
Sun, bath and rain. We first went to the city beach, then had a pizza in a picturesque city centre. After this we wanted to try the other beaches on the island too, so we first went to one of the closest, Milna, but was after a few minutes surprised by a heavy rainfall.
We had dinner at the Balic’s three times this week. It was included in the price and quite alright. Three course meal to the value of 16 euros. The children were discontented all days. Week 1 in Zaton cost us 665 euros, here 719 euros to a lot more value.
Tuesday 11.7.2006, Hvar
Breakfast in the apartment, then off to Milna again. The shingle beach is fine. Here we found one out of countless campsites in the area and we even saw a Norwegian in a motorhome. We had good seafood etc. on a nearby restaurant served by pleasant proprietors.
After lunch we went off to Jelsa and the beach of Mina. Sandy and very nice.
We dined on the main square of Hvar city. Excellent food and lots of people around. Several cool hang-outs and huge high-class motor- or sailing vessels moored on the quay every night.
It has been a warm day, and warmer here than in Zaton. Hvar has the most sunny days in the Mediterranean after Alexandria.
Wednesday 12.7.2006, Hvar
Another day on the Mina beach, and lunch in Jelsa. Dinner at home at the Balic’s. They have guests from England, Italy, Slovenia and Croatia in addition to us five Norwegians.
Thursday 13.7.2006, Hvar
Another beach near Jelsa. The distance there is about 20 km, and the road is good and new. Here too it is shallow and sandy. The two youngest are feeling the strain because of their bellies and the heat. We rest under shading trees, partly on terraces above the sea, partly on the beach.
We have bought carrots and potatoes and our daughter is finally making her nam-nam sounds again. The youngest boy is vomiting in the afternoon while we others go to town and have a very good dinner. The staff is really pleasant everywhere.
Friday 14.7.2006, Hvar
Last whole day in Hvar. The two youngest children are not in good form so I went on sightseeing alone. First to the fortress above the city, pure Disney, then around the area on photo-safari.
I took my oldest son to a beach close to the pension.
We had dinner at home.
The island of Hvar on the Croatian Adriatic coast is beautiful. This video concentrates on the northern part, in and near the city of Hvar. The island also has a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Saturday 15.7.2006, Hvar – Trsteno
We settled the bill with Jakov and left the city of Hvar. The return to the ferry went faster than the other way, but 3.5 hours of waiting in line in 35 degrees was boring. The ferry is slow with too little capacity.
We are flying home tomorrow and were looking for accommodation somewhere on the route to Dubrovnik. We found that in the town of Trsteno about 15-20 km north of Dubrovnik. In contrast to the week-long stays we had booked on the internet we had kind of gambled on the last night. We were lucky on the first attempt in the home of two sisters. Boring, but two clean rooms. Very nice at about 100 euros including breakfast. They even offered a welcome drink.
We had dinner close by and stumbled upon a local “balalaika”-orchestra staging a concert in the town park late in the evening. Very good. The best of all was however the ladies’ garden and what they had to tell. The garden is a shear oasis inside a main road with heavy traffic. The ladies with their cats (my daughter cheered up) told us about the 9 months occupation by the Serbs in 1990. All the younger ones in the village fled to other places. Of 45 remaining old people 25 died of stress during the occupation. The house of the ladies was stripped of all valuables. The sentiments for the Serbs are deeply rooted. We have however seen Serbian registered vehicles here in Croatia with people coming on vacation. It cannot be easy.
Last images from Croatia
Sunday 16.7.2006, Trsteno – Stavanger
Early up, flight home, everything fine and no waiting. We had this time parked on the airport at home, cheaper.
This had been a great vacation. Hospitable country. Exciting. “The Mediterranean as it once was”, as my oldest son had learnt from the advertisement before we came. Not expensive, nor cheap. The food is bob-bob. The beaches are not the best because of a general lack of sand. Crystal clear water though.