|View from the top of
Campanile of Split Cathedral
|Central square of Diocletian's Palace
Fortunately all of the Balkan countries accept the Schengen visa so it was pretty easy getting in and out of these countries by just showing the Schengen visa stamp in the passport.
and seafood risotto
|The promenade in Split
Split is the second largest city in Croatia and is a mix of modern buildings and ancient history. Ruins dating back to the Roman Empire and a bustling waterfront promenade.
We started the next, and our only full day in Split with a trip to the old town and Diocletian’s palace.
Emperor Diocletian, who voluntarily gave up the throne of the Roman Empire, in the turn of the 4th century CE built the palace and after his retirement settled here.
The ancient fortress has become the old town of Split, with numerous shops, cafes, restaurants and also apartments, located in the old buildings on narrow streets of the palace/fortress.
|Our ride through the Balkans
Blagaj Tekija is a Dervish monastery outside Mostar, Bosnia, nearly 600 years old. Situated at the base of a cliff, next to the source of the river Buna, it’s a unique and picturesque series of buildings that looks even better in person than it does in pictures.
The Tekija (or Tekke) was first founded during the height of the Ottoman empire. Time and rock slides have led to extensive repairs and reconstruction to the buildings. Today, thanks largely to a Turkish travel agency, the Tekke looks mostly as it did in the past.
We had a quick lunch at one of the local restaurants which had the spectacular view of the cave and the river. Our last stop before heading to our destination for the day Sarajevo was the town of Mostar.
|The bride marking the
assassination of the Hungarian crown price,
which started WWI
|View from our apartment
We did a walking tour with Sarajevo funky tours. The tour takes you through various stops in the old town and the guides explain the history associated with every corner of the old city.
|The drive from Sarajevo to Kotor
Next morning, we discovered Kotor, which is often dubbed as the "mini-Dubrovnik" due to its architecture and position in the Balkans, but Kotor is in a league of it's own and the comparison neither fair nor accurate.
Located on a beautiful bay on the coast of Montenegro, Kotor is a city steeped in tradition and history, with remarkable scenic views. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the old city was built between the 12th and 14th centuries and is filled with medieval architecture and historic monuments. Extending over four kilometres, the city walls that have protected Kotor for centuries lead up to the fortress of Saint Ivan.
|Budva old town
|Kotor bay view point
|Old town Perast
We ended our day in Dobrota, a suburb of Kotor where we were staying.
|Our Lady of the Rocks, near Perast
We start off around 10 am, but since the drive was a short one, about an hour and half, we decided to stop in between at Perast. Perast is one of the most beautiful places in Kotor bay.
Today it is often called the quietest town in Boka. Its narrow streets and numerous, mostly abandoned renaissance, and baroque palaces, testify about the former richness of the Kotor bay, and about the days when there used to be led a luxurious life of its inhabitants.
|View from our apartment in Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik is one of the world’s most magnificent walled cities, overlooking the calm blue Adriatic. Once the capital of the mighty sea-faring Republic of Ragusa (1358-1808), it's now Croatia’s most upmarket destination. Historically, this diminutive republic was sophisticated, refined and cultured. Today, the pedestrian-only Old Town – packed with aristocratic palazzi and elegant Baroque churches, contained within sturdy medieval fortifications – draws hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.
Touted as the Pearl of the adriatic, crystal clear waters glisten under the sun; boats, one of the primary forms of transportation in the area, dot the sea in every direction; and the medieval limestone walls of the Stari Grad that safeguard the roofed buildings are impressive.
After returning our rental car, we checked-in to our apartment. We were going to spend the next three (and ended up being 4, due to our cancelled flight to Athens) days here, so we were not in a hurry to explore this magnificent city.
The next day morning, we had booked an Airbnb tour guide to walk us through the old town. We met at the entry of historical old city near Miletićeva. After which we walked around old city and saw it's main buildings, streets and squares. The tour mainly consisted of a history lesson of Dubrovnik.
|The walls of Dubrovnik
|The Croatian flags flutters
Dubrovnik’s ascent received a major blow in 1667 as a catastrophic earthquake destroyed a large amount of Renaissance art and architecture in the city. The Sponza and the Rector’s palace were the only buildings that survived the natural disaster. The city was reconstructed in the baroque style that has survived intact until today. Despite the reconstruction, the decline of the Mediterranean as a hub for trade meant that Dubrovnik, like other Mediterranean ports, began a steady decline. By the time Napoleon arrived at the gates in 1806, the Republic of St Blaise was a shadow of itself.
Due to its historic borderland status, Dubrovnik was significantly affected by the break-up of Yugoslavia. In the early 90s, Greater Serb aggression resulted in Dubrovnik suffering its most serious existential threat. Over two-thirds of the historic town’s buildings were hit by artillery. The town’s cobbled streets were struck by hundreds of direct hits. For the first time in history, the medieval city walls themselves received over a hundred direct hits. Many historic palaces were badly damaged by the resulting fires. The renowned Sponza and Rector’s Palace, St Blaise’s church, the Franciscan monastery and the Amerling and Onofrio fountain all suffered severely.
The demilitarised status of Dubrovnik shows that the sole purpose of the siege that was to last until June 1992 was to damage the morale of the Croats during its war of independence. The shocking pictures of the siege on the world television screens and valiant resistance of the Croatian army resulted in the eventual withdrawal of the Serb Army. An international organisation led by UNESCO helped organise a successful reconstruction effort meaning that today Dubrovnik is again back to its former splendour.
Santorini, Greece: Our next stop after Dubrovnik was supposed to be Athens, however, our flight ended up being cancelled and so we ended up spending an extra night in Dubrovnik, and taking a one stop flight to Santorini, via Athens.
Santorini is the southernmost island in the Cyclades. Its official name is Thera.
|Honey and Oil
|View from our apartment in Oía
We stayed in the town of Oía which is the most picturesque of them all. Our first full day we did a Oil and honey tasting experience. We were served organic, extra virgin oils for tasting, as well as four different honeys, flower, pine, heather and cotton honey. The oils were accompanies with crackers, breadsticks, cherry tomatoes, feta cheese and "raki", the local traditional drink.
We ended the day with a sunset walk around Oía.
Day 2: Walking from Fira to Oía is one of Santorini’s top experiences. The next day we hiked along the rim of the caldera from Fira to Oía, with Imerovigli and Firostefani along the way, and enjoyed some of the most beautiful views of the islands. Adjacent are some of the photos from the hike.
Our last day in Santorini was the flight back to Athens and then next day from Athens back to Toronto, Canada.
This brought to an end a wonder 2 weeks in the Balkan peninsula of Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Montenegro, and the Greek island of Santorini. All destinations mentioned here should be on a must-do bucket list for any avid traveler.
What businesses did we use?
Flights: United.com (Lufthansa & Croatian), and (AA.com) British Airways (Booked for $210 USD/person with miles)
Car Rental: Nova Rent-a-car (Croatia, BiH and Montenegro 5 days for ~€300 with full insurance)
Tours: https://sarajevofunkytours.com/, Dubrovnik city tour and Santorini oil & honey tasting
Airbnbs: Split, Sarajevo, Kotor, Dubrovnik, Santorini, Athens