Croatia, A Drive Along The Dalmatian Coast

Croatian Islands

I woke in a negative mood and first checked for stomach cramps and when there were none, and it was obvious that last night I was being a total drama queen, I then strained my ears for the sound of pelting rain on the balcony of the room.

But there was good news because I couldn’t hear gushing water or even a gentle pitter-patter or even a solitary drip and when I nervously opened the window blinds I was greeted with a perfect blue sky and uninterrupted views across the Adriatic.  The sun had decided to visit Croatia and I couldn’t wait to get started.

It was a fabulous beginning to the day with a brilliant blue sky and a bright sun burning in the east and this meant that Iveska had once again arranged breakfast on the terrace and she supplied a never ending supply of hot tea and local Croatian pastries.    Iveska was the perfect host, she was Croatian but had moved to Canada when she was young and then returned later to get married and to run the Pink Inn.  She was full of information about Croatia and made useful tourist recommendations.

After breakfast we left the hotel after making arrangements to return in five days time on our way back and then set off south towards our destination of Dubrovnik about two hundred kilometres away.

The first part of the drive wasn’t especially scenic and after thirty minutes we arrived in the busy town of Omiš where there was an opportunity to head inland through the mountains on a scenic detour along the river Cetina.   We followed the route for a few kilometres but then ran into some road works and a long hold up so after a while took our prompt from the local motorists who were turning around and going back the way they came and being naturally impatient and assuming that they knew something we didn’t we did exactly the same and turned around and returned to the coast road.

The views didn’t improve a great deal as we drove through redundant shipyards and derelict industrial areas south of the town but eventually we left these behind and reached a sign declaring that we were now on the Markarska Riviera, which is a forty kilometre stretch of beautiful coastline with the Dinaric Alps inland to the east and a ragged coastline consisting of a succession of inlets and beaches and the islands of Brač and Hvar sitting close by out in the Adriatic to the west.

It is a driving rule in Croatia that main beam lights must be used at all times and I kept finding this quite difficult to remember.  This rule seemed a bit unnecessary to me because the weather was bright and the driving conditions were perfect but the advice was that it is important to remember because the police don’t like it if you forget and can administer a hefty and non-negotiable on the spot fine.

I was a bit uncertain of the driving rules and the speed limits so kept checking that my lights were on and kept diligently to just about fifty kilometres an hour.  I was sure that this was actually a bit too slow because after a short time I managed to get an impressive build up of traffic behind me but at least it gave me the opportunity to do my Lincolnshire tractor driver impression and pull over every now and again to let things past.  I felt a bit like a bit like a cork in a champagne bottle because every time I pulled over there was a rush of appreciative traffic speeding past in an effervescent flow.

I continued to take it steady and we made frequent stops at lay-bys with tempting views to let the line of traffic building up behind me pass by and to admire the scenery.  We drove past the holiday town of Makarska and then Gradac where we had stayed for a night last year.  It was about eleven o’clock and we weren’t making the sort of progress that we had anticipated and the distance to Dubrovnik seemed to remain stubbornly high. After Gradac we arrived at the city of Ploče where the road temporarily left the coast and for a short while followed the river Neretva flowing down from Bosnia and forming a river delta where it met the sea with many hectares of valuable fertile land and with an abundance of crops growing in the fields.

After the little inland detour we were soon back at the coast and heading for Dubrovnik.  At this part of the journey there is an interesting diplomatic arrangement at the town of Neum which is the only seaside town in Bosnia and occupies about twenty kilometres of coastline that splits Croatia in two and which requires driving through border controls at both ends, which quite frankly is a bit of a pain in the arse for traffic travelling to and from Dubrovnik.

The two countries are currently in negotiations about the establishment of a ‘privileged economic zone’ for Bosnian businesses within the port of Ploče to give Bosnia an economic supply line from the sea but this is hindered by the opposition of Croatian people to the concept of a partial loss of sovereignty.  In exchange Croatia, not unreasonably, would like easier passage through the narrow strip of Bosnian territory near Neum but this is opposed by the Bosnian people.

The Croatian solution to the impasse is simple and they have begun construction of a three thousand metre long bridge that will cross to the Pelješac peninsular and solve the problem by bypassing Bosnia altogether and not surprisingly the Bosnian Government doesn’t like this either.

Why can’t people try to get on with one another and cooperate I wonder?

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