This time, mostly because of flight availability, I decided to take a longer than usual weekend trip to the southern part of Croatia and the western part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. I have a Bosnian/Serbian friend in Bremen who was planning bringing his wife and coming with me, but he was forced to stay in Germany due to German visa issues. I think I would have really enjoyed their company because they would be able to answer my questions and maybe show me things I wouldn't normally see. Oh well. Such is German bureaucracy.
I started my trip from Zadar, Croatia and spent the first day hanging around and slowly getting to Plitvice Lakes National Park, which is the main place I wanted to go to. The park consists of a series of lakes which were all created by limestone deposits from the Korana river. This is a really special process where the river dissolves limestone from the surrounding rocks and deposits it pretty much everywhere. The result is that over the years the river has turned into about 100 small emerald green pools at different levels. Each lake flows into the next with a waterfall in between. It's like a water wonderland and like nothing I've ever seen before. It definitely makes my list of the most beautiful places in the world.
The next day and a half I spent driving through rural Bosnia. I saw a couple of little towns here and there and had the intention of renting a bike and riding through some of the area. However, with the combination of bad weather and not finding a bike rental place, I gave up on that idea and just took my time getting back to Croatia. But I didn't drive slow enough. It just started to rain (after not raining at all the previous month) and so the roads were more slick than normal. I was on a two lane mountain road going 80 km/h (the speed limit) when I suddenly came up to a speed limit sign that said 30 km/h followed soon afterwards by fairly sharp turn. I braked too quickly and lost traction before the turn even started, but I didn't regain traction until after I ran over the low stone barrier and plowed over one of those plastic reflector sticks. There was hardly any visible damage to the car, but I snapped one of the bars that connects the steering wheel to the right wheel and therefore could not control it. I was forced to stop and wave down some friendly locals who, with some pointing, charades and some basic German, were able to see the problem and call me a tow truck. Thank you very much! 5 hours later the car was fixed at the nearest town and I was happily on my way only 150 Euro poorer. I consider myself lucky and fortunate for the experience and that the car rental place didn't notice the scrapes on the wheel rim.
My last full day I spent in the historic town of Split. This is a nice little city where the ancient buildings are still being used as stores and apartments. It's a mix of the old and the new and was actually pretty interesting. While you're there, you might notice the pungent aroma of sulfur in the air and think someone needs to take out the garbage or something. Turns out that Split was built next to a natural spring of sulfur water. The smell is strongest near the ocean and left me wondering why someone would build a city there. I guess sulfur water has its uses, as the local sulfur spa will most likely tell you.
There was one major theme that I noticed while driving through the area for the past few days. Compared to most of the rest of Europe this place is really empty; meaning, outside of major cities there are hardly any houses and there are lots of fields and forests. Several times I would come up to a sign with the name of the next town, and find that there were only a handful of houses before the town was gone. In many cases half of the houses looked condemned or empty. From what my friend told me, I think at least part of the empty buildings are due to refugees of the Bosnian war not returning.
I've been traveling quite a lot for the past few months and I'm starting to miss hanging out in Bremen on the weekends and seeing my friends. It's a good thing I don't have anything else planned for a while.