Continuing from Split over Hvar island, then back on the mainland and a side trip into Bosnia and Herzegovina to visit Mostar, before heading on towards Dubrovnik!
23.11.2008 - 26.11.2008 13 °C
From Split, I took another ferry out to Stari Grad on the island Hvar. My original plan was to cycle around Hvar a little bit, and then continue on another ferry out to Korčula Island, which connects at the other end to the Pelješac peninsula. So I could have avoided the main coastal road and its traffic for quite a long time. But getting on Hvar, I asked about the ferry to Korčula, which turned out to be a high speed Catamaran, on which they don't allow any vehicles - not even a small bicycle. So I changed my plan and cycled over Hvar island, which also has a ferry connection to the mainland on the other side.
Jelsa on Hvar Island, and mountains on the mainland behind it.
A bit later in the day when I had some views over from Hvar to Korčula and Pelješac, I was actually glad I was on Hvar instead - the mountains over there are much higher and steeper! As it was a very cold day, and I didn't feel too well, I was also glad to have cycled on Hvar, because the distance to the ferry on the other end is shorter than the way across Korčula. By the time I was back on the mainland, it was night and freezing cold, so I was glad to find a private room in the first town back on the coast.
Entering Bosnia and Herzegovina
The next day started cloudy and windy. I continued on the winding road along the coast, towards the estuary of the Neretva river. From there, I had decided to do a side trip into Bosnia and Herzegovina and follow the Neretva up to Mostar, with its famous old bridge. After passing lots of tangerine plantations with the local farmers just about to collect the tangerines (and tasting a few from a tree that had fallen over the road - very delicious!), I got to the last Croatian town before the border, Metković.
As I was again trying to avoid the main road that goes up to Mostar, I tried a smaller border crossing on the left side of the river first, but was told that it's only an internal crossing for citizens of the two bordering countries. So I had to go back and continue on the main road on the right side of the river. There was quite a bit of traffic, but it wasn't too bad because the road is quite slow on it's winding parts, and wide enough to allow safe overtaking.
Mostar - The Old Bridge at night
Some light rain started soon after the border, but nothing too serious yet. After passing Počitelj, a small town with a castle overlooking the valley from a cliff high above the river, and the ruins of Mogorjelo, an old Roman building dating back to the 1st century, I got to Mostar just when it was getting dark. The rain had gotten a bit stronger in the meantime, but still not too bad... heavy rain started in the evening when I was walking around Mostar!
Mostar - The Old Bridge
Mostar itself has a very shaken history, having been part of the Ottoman Empire, then in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and then part of Yugoslavia after World War I. Mostar was always very ethnically mixed, with Croats living alongside with Bosnian Muslims and Serbians. There are several Mosques and christian Churches around the city. The famous old bridge which gave the name to the city (Stari Most = Old Bridge) was built in 1566/1567 when Mostar was an important Ottoman trading city. The bridge was destroyed in 1993, with Mostar being first attacked by the Yugoslav army, and then in a long and hard conflict between the Croats and Muslims mostly living each on one side of the river, and destroying all bridges and most of the town. The bridge was rebuilt in 2003 exactly according to the original and is now back in new old beauty. The old town was also largely rebuilt, but around it there are still a lot of bombed buildings that look like just after the war.
Mostar - destroyed building left from the war
On the next day, I continued back down to the Croatian coast. My original plan was to continue a bit further in Bosnia & Herzegovina through some mountains to Trebinje, and go back on the coast from Dubrovnik from there. But as it was still raining, I decided to continue back on the coast instead, because I didn't know if I would find any accommodation up in the mountains, and wouldn't want to risk a night in the tent after cycling in the rain for a full day. On this day, I actually did an extensive test of my rain equipment for the first time (I avoided most of the rain before [in Italy] by waiting until it stops...). Result of the test - well it's nice to have rain equipment, but after a while, you get wet anyway... from outside as well as from the sweat. After being completely soaked from a couple hours in the rain, I decided to call it a day and found a place to sleep in Opuzen, a small town back down on the Neretva estuary. By coincidence, when looking for a restaurant, I also found a physiotherapy and massage studio - the decision to get a professional sports massage for my tired legs was quickly made!
Cycling on the Croatian coast on the way to Dubrovnik
On the next day, it was mostly sunny again and my legs felt almost like new - so no problems to cycle the last stretch along the beautiful coast towards Dubrovnik!
More pictures in the gallery, as usual!