Today was all about traveling south from Dubrovnik to explore the Dalmation Coast in Montenegro, on our way to Kotor. The previous day we had some time to explore Dubrovnik, and take a Game of Thrones tour. We were ultimately glad that we only stayed for two nights given the crowds and touristic maturity of the city. We were not sure what to expect for Kotor, but we did know it was also another cruise stop (my parents had visited a few years ago). After an hour continuing through Croatia, we crossed the border to Montenegro to continue the drive down the Dalmatian Coast in Montenegro. Look at those awesome Junipers! The route we took was called the Adriatic Highway. The border crossing took a while, I’m not going to lie – and then it took even more of a while on the Montenegrin side (since you have to go through two checkpoints, one for each country). Travel blogs recommend going through Bosnia & Herzegovina to avoid making this particular crossing. But, once through, the views of the Dalmatian Coast in Montenegro was spectacular – so it was worth it for us, plus we had nowhere to be, so to….
Dubrovnik by day is much different than seeing it by night, and today we had a whole day to explore – not to mention enjoying a Game of Thones Dubrovnik tour. We had scheduled the tour with Game of Thrones Dubrovnik, who touted tour guides who were extras in the show, at 1000 in the morning. This would be just in advance of the series finale Sunday evening US time – we wouldn’t get to watch it the until the following day in Kotor. An early morning tour had the benefit of forcing us to get up early, and we also opted for the cold -cut and continental breakfast at the guest house (again prepared by Marija’s mother in-law). We were glad we did because it saved us some time, and the variety and the coffee were good. Coffee in a pot is hard to find in the Balkans! We walked down to the city over the steep staircase we had become friends with the previous night, and enjoyed seeing some familiar cats along the way. At the bottom, we headed to Pile Square we were supposed to meet our guide for the Game of Thrones Dubrovnik experience. It was….
Heading out of Mostar, we decided to follow Google Map’s routing instructions for the driving to Dubrovnik – big mistake! We ended up on mountainous, windy, two lane back-roads without a center divider and occasionally loose gravel or dirt. This was the last time we chose Google’s directions over local signage (local signage usually vectored us on larger, more major roads). We are pretty sure the Google algorithm prioritized simple distance as the crow flies when it is lacking data around road quality and speed limits. The drive through the mountains to Neum (the one coastal city possessed by Bosnia and Herzegovina) was beautiful, but it was rainy and I had to really concentrate on oncoming traffic. Drivers in this part of the world did not like to stay in their lane, even around curves. The high point of the drive was picking up some lavender growing wild on the roadside to freshen up the car and our moods. Once we made it to the coast and Neum, driving to Dubrovnik was simple. We just followed the coastal road south, over the border crossing. Shortly after the border crossing, we were entering in to the Dubrovnik city limits. Our destination….
Leaving Split (after figuring out payment for parking) by 1000, we got a fairly early start to Mostar and the 4th country on our road trip – Bosnia and Herzegovina. The road out of Split cut inward on the windy and high highway we came in on (and this time we actually got to see it during daylight). Back on the Croatian main highway/toll road, we cruised until we cut north towards Mostar. That plan was to spend a few hours in Mostar, and then continue to to Dubrovnik for the evening. As you can see from the map, Bosnia and Herzegovina has a tiny piece of coastline (a town called Neum) that separates both parts of Croatia. We later learned this was on artifact of how Marshall Tito drew the state lines during the time of Yugoslavia. Oddly, it wasn’t contest by Croatia during the 1990s Balkans Wars, As soon as we turned off towards Mostar, the border crossing was upon us. It took a while sitting in a long line (over an hour), and we had to pay a 5 Euro entrance fee at a separate checkpoint, which we think was really just a bribe for the immigration….
After our island hopping adventure in Hvar, we went back in to the city for a last Split dining experience before heading to Dubrovnik in the morning. We of course started the evening with a good wander through the city to work up an appetite, continuing to discover new secrets at every twist and turn. A common stop on our wanderings was always the cat park near our guest house. We enjoyed how they stood watch like sentinels regardless of the time you happened to walk by: We had a hankering for something a bit different than Croatian cuisine, fish, pizza, or Italian, so we opted to relocate a place we have stumbled onto the day before called Kinoteka for our last night of Split dining. We found it intriguing with an Asian/Sushi but also cinema theme, and the manager the previous night gave us a tour and did a great job “selling it”. It also seemed fairly new and they were clearly still building the business, so we thought we would give it a try as a new entrant on the Split dining scene. It’s located closer to the Golden Gate, in an alley running east west along the….