Euro Trip 3 – Croatia – Bosnia and Herzegovina
After a successful trip to Macedonia and Kosovo, Keith and myself were keen to yet back to former Yugoslavia to visit more of theÂ sights and interesting monuments. After lots of research and map plotting we worked out a route which would start at Osijek in Eastern Croatia. We would travel west covering central Croatia before heading down through Bosnia and Herzegovina then cross back into Croatia and head up to the Eastern city of Rijeka to chill out before our flight home.
This blog documents how we got on!
Day One – Friday 10th June 2016
The flight was at 7am which meant we needed to be at Stansted around 5am. I didn’t get much sleep and Keith picked me up at 3.15am!
We made good time. Stansted was mega busy considering it was so early and by the time we’d checked in, gone through security, wolfed down some breakfast and been to the toilet it was time to board the plane.
The flight was pretty smooth and only 2.5 hours.
We landed at the very small airport at Osijek, probably the only flight of the day. The architecture of the buildings was very 1960s.
There were few other people queuing at the Sixt car hire desk, but it wasn’t a long wait before we were driving away in our Skoda Fabia. They added an extra charge of €20 for the green card for travel to Bosnia.
I added an Eastern Europe map to my satnav before leaving the UK, it covers a number of countries, Croatia fully (though the maps are probably over 5 years out of date) and Bosnia Herzegovina but only connecting roads.
Vukovar was only a short drive from the airport.
The first point of interest was the water tower. It got badly damaged during the 1990s Croatian war for independance. Instead of knocking it down or refurbishing it they have left it as a memorial to the pain and suffering Vukovar underwent during the war. It has become a popular tourist attraction for the area; at least it seemed like it as while we were there quite a few cars pulled up to grab a couple of quick photos. As we were about to leave a coach of school kids pulled up, they took lots of photos and selfies.
Here is an old photo of the tower from some time before the 1990s war. (I don’t own the rights to this picture – if you are reading this and it’s yours and you want me to remove it please comment below).
There is a souvenir shop next door where I bought a little water tower ornament.
I watched a documentary about the wars in Yugoslavia and it looked like Vukovar had been completely destroyed and was keen to see what its like now.
We found a pay and display car park in Vukovar town centre so parked up and took a wander.
It seemed like a nice town, there are still remnants of the war with some derelict buildings and lots with bullet holes but most of the town has been reconstructed.
We set of for the next destination on our itinerary – Jasenovac.
I got pretty confused by the toll on the main road, on our Macedonia trip you just paid the man, here there was no man, eventually a man came over and pressed the button for me which gave me a ticket! I felt a bit stupid! The road was really good but I got confused again on way out of toll! The man pointed at lit up display of the cost. Simples really.
Jasenovac Stone Flower Moument
The stone flower (actually made of concrete) is set in a picturesque location next to a lake, formerly the location of the Jasenovac concentration camp during World War 2. It is a memorial to the victims the concentration camp. Around 100,000 people were killed there.
My parents visited Yugoslavia back in the 1980’s and had a guide book and map from 1979. The book does not mention any of the monuments but it does have a couple of photos of them, here is one of the Stone Flower.
Prisoners were brought to the camp by train
The flower is a symbol of eternal renewal, as a connection between the victims and new life (from the website below).
We knew it would be a long day so we had booked an apartment for the night in a town on the way to the next monument – Lipik.
The apartment was easy to find, getting in was more difficult. Keith phoned the number on the booking. The guy spoke no English. Things were not looking good! Luckily a couple of girls were walking past, they spoke English and agreed to help, one of them spoke to the apartment man for us, they even took us to his office. Thanks again!
By now we were shattered and hungry. The town was very small, we couldn’t find anywhere to get any food apart from a small supermarket where we almost settled for a loaf of bread and some cheese. I persuaded Keith to walk a little further before we resorted to that. Luckily it paid off, there was a restaurant and I had the best pizza Iâ€™ve had in a very long time!
Day Two – Saturday 11th June 2016
We got woken by church bells at 6am which continued every hour on the hour. Keith said he’d woken up in the night to a beetle crawling over his chest!
When we booked the apartment it offered breakfast for an extra £2, we took a gamble on it. There was a restaurant next to the office we had met the apartment man, he had given us breakfast vouchers. We were given the breakfast menu; I opted for fried eggs, gouda cheese, bread and orange juice and Keith an omelette.
The weather was great, hot and sunny.
After a quick stroll through Lipik to get a couple of snaps of a derelict restaurant we headed for the next monument.
The satnav took us down an unsurfaced road.
Monument to the Revolution of the people of Moslavina, Podgarić.
Monument to the Revolution by Dušan Džamonja is dedicated to the people of Moslavina during World War II. It is really cool and epic and such a interesting design, my favourite so far.
There is a plaque which reads (translated by google translate): “Buried here are more than 900 soldiers from a wider area Moslavina who sacrificed their lives for freedom and independence of our nation during the national liberation struggle from 1941 to 1945.”
The next stop was Zagreb, but we had a bit problem. Soon after we’d left Podgarić we had a warning message appear on the cars display – “check tyre front right”.
We pulled over. The tyre looked a bit lower than the others but not flat so we decided to carry on and pump it up at the next garage.
I pulled into the garage and we examined the tyre. It was now pretty flat. I had to bite the bullet and change the wheel. I was very paranoid now that it may happen again! What would we do? We were only 2 days in to the trip!!
Luckily in Zagreb we found parking right to next the hotel. As was it was Saturday we only had to pay for 3 hours as Sunday was free.
We checked in to the hotel, it was really nice.
After a very brief break in the hotel we went for wander. The only place I really wanted to check out was the funicular railway; unfortunately it was out of service for a month for maintenance! So we checked out the usual tourist sites.
There were police everywhere in the city centre, we found out this was due to the pride parade happening that day.
After freshening up we went out for food followed by a few drinks. England were playing Russia in a group match of Euro 2016, we missed the first half as the meal took so long. As it was now half time we checked out a bit of ska band that were playing on a stage in the street complimented with a pretty good cocktail.
We caught the second half of the football in a bar.
There was another stage where another ska-y sounding band were playing, there were lots of people dancing!
The annoying thing about bars in Europe is table service, I think Brits are too impatient, at least I am, we sat in a bar for absolutely ages but did not get served so gave up and moved on.
The next bar was a bakery!! We sat on a table in the street and the waiter went into the bakery to get our drinks!
We decided to call it a night, it was raining pretty hard as we walked back.
I had a pretty sleepless night; I’m too much of a light sleeper for Keith’s snoring. Apartments are definitely the way forward!
Day Three – Sunday 12th June 2016
We were up fairly early as we had a lot to cover today. The first stop of the day was the Petrova Gora Memorial park which is located at the top of the Petrova Gora Mountain. We were able to park pretty near the monument.
Monument to the uprising of the people of Kordun and Banija.
The Ustaše took control of Croatia during World War 2 after the Axis powers invaded Yugoslavia.They were a a Croatian fascist, ultranationalist and terrorist organization. The monument is dedicated to the struggle and suffering endured by population in the region. The first partisan units in Kordun and Banija; Croats and Serbs fought together against fascism and occupation. The construction of the monument was completed in 1981.
This main building is clad with stainless steel sheets, many of which been stolen.
It was raining and foggy/cloudy, the monument was getting hidden within the cloud/fog. We spent 2 hours inside and outside the monument; there was a lot to explore. This pushed back the schedule.
Here are some photos of the monument in its glory days. (I don’t own the rights to any of these pictures, they are from various pages on the net – if you are reading this and they are yours and you want me to remove them please comment below)……
….and now for my photos of its current state.
We had the area to ourselves apart from a couple who were having a picnic nearby.
The basement and lower floors were quite eerie, it really sounded like there were other people inside the building but it was it was just the noise of wind and rain.
The building is in a very derelict state; all doors are open bar one where you can hear an electrical humming coming from inside, it must be the plant room for the telecommunications equipment on the roof.
We finally left and headed for the border. It was the quickest/ hassle free border I have ever driven through.
Day Seven – Thursday 16th June 2016 continued……
At the Croatian border we were pulled over and the car and cases were checked. I had a half eaten packet of crisps in the side pocket of the door, the man proceeded to open it and check inside it, it amused me.
We continued along the A1 through Croatia until we neared the first monument stop of the day.
The Ruduši monument at Sinj was one of the easiest to get to. It is a very simplistic design compared to some of the others we had visited.
The monument was erected in 1962 in memory of the executed captured soldiers of the First Split Partisan Unit during World War 2.
As we were getting ready to leave some other people turned up and started taking photos.
A quick food stop at supermarket was needed before driving to next monument.
Again the roads were pretty good.
We parked up as close to the pin on my map as possible, we found a narrow over grown track heading into the woodland that seemed to be in the right direction. It was a long trek up a hill. The monument came into view and it was really overgrown, again it was huge in comparison to what I expected from the photos seen online.
I’d never seen an really old photo of the monument and it wasn’t until I’d walked around the back that I realised it used to be vertical; you can see rebar sticking out from the fallen structure.
By doing some research I found some old photos and bit of information on it.
The monument is dedicated to the soldiers who liberated the city of Knin during World War 2. It was a difficult 15 -day struggle against 8,500 Germans , 3,500 Ustashe, 629 partisans from Dalmatia mostly Croats were killed .
The monument was blown up in 1990s war. I found a scanned in page from a Croatian book on a facebook group, I translated it using google translate and a bit of common sense, it asks the question “why did the people who participated in the war from 1991 to 1995 destroy the Liberation monument 1941-1945 and profane the victims of the Croatian people who gave their lives for survival and freedom? How would you feel if those same wreckers that started to demolish the monument to the Homeland War? That would be a crime.”
Here are some photos of the monument before its destruction. (I don’t own the rights to any of these pictures, they are from various pages on the net – if you are reading this and they are yours and you want me to remove them please comment below)
The next destination was Rijeka, Croatia’s 3rd city where we would stay for the last two nights of our trip.
We knew it would be a horrible long drive but what was about to happen made it 10 times worse and almost 10 times longer.
The stupid satnav thought fastest route was on a dirt track, for some reason all dirt tracks in Croatia have a 90KM speed limit so being a shorter distance than main roads the satnav seems to love them. The car on the other hand does not like them! Our average speed about 10KM per hour for about 12km!! KeithNav had to use maps.me to find a way off the dirt track. It added an hour on to the ETA.
On the plus side the dirt track took us through the little village of Bender!
Eventually we were on a decent road and rest of the journey was painless.
We located Apartment Jenny and met the man. The apartment was on the 4th floor, another place with no lift!
The man lead us to somewhere to park, a pay and display on the street which was not too far from the city centre. It was supposed to be 20 Kuna for a day (about £2). It only gave us about 15 hours for some reason.
The apartment man drove us back to Jenny.
After chilling for a bit we set out on a quest for food was now 10pm.
We found restaurant, ordered the medetrrania lasagne (or something), it was supposed to be aubergine based rather than meat based but when it arrived it was full of meat. I told the waiter who took it back to the chef who was about to leave, he had his backpack on, literally ready to hit the road but he had to go back and cook another. There was also a guy constantly walking past behind our table the whole time we were in the restaurant which was really annoying, think he might have been the waiters brother as he looked similar.
After a ‘wonderful’ restaurant experience we headed back to Jenny as it was now pretty late.
Day Eight – Friday 17th June 2016
This was planned in as our chill out day. We had to go to the car pay and display by 11.40am, before heading there we grabbed a sub from a sandwich place (first place with pre-made sandwich type things we’d seen on the whole trip).
We topped up meter. We paid for a day but it only gave us 5 hours!!! We were pretty annoyed about this but there was nothing we could do about it.
The weather was good, sunny and hot so we headed for the closest beach, it was horrible, small with coke and beer bottles all over it.
Keith looked on his phone using data and found the best beaches were a drive away so we went back to car, on route spotted a street slightly further out with no parking restrictions.
The fuel was very low again so we had to stop on the way to the beach, the lady pump operator was really friendly.
The beach was very pebbley and stoney. Went in sea it was rocky and I cut my foot. It was also very cold but after being submerged for a while it was fine.
We spent a while sunbathing until it became a bit too cloudy and we were feeling a bit burnt. There was a shopping mall on the way back so stopped off, checked it out and bought a few things.
I had pin pointed the place we’d spotted free parking earlier and eventually we worked out how to get there!
It was early Saturday evening and there were loads of people in Croatian football shirts as Croatia were playing Czech Republic in the Euros later.
After freshening up we headed to find a restaurant, the one we chose was next to a bar playing the game. It was just after half time. When Croatia scored their second goal someone set off a banger/flare ting and was dancing around with it. Unfortunately for them; Czech Republic scored two goals and it was a draw.
We could hear a lot of noise so followed it to find a band playing on a stage at the waterside. The atmosphere was really good; nearly everyone was in football gear. Something like this wouldn’t happen in England, people wouldn’t be that happy after a draw. Everybody was singing along and dancing.
After going to a couple more bars we called it a night.
Day Nine – Saturday 18th June 2016
After packing our cases we headed for the car. We stupidly ended up walking down a dead end and having to double back.
The flight wasn’t until 4.30pm so we had a few hours before we had to head to the airport.
After food and a smoothie from a Subway type place we went gift shopping. I had googled souvenir shops so headed for one. It was full of handmade and gifts, souvenirs, chocolate, tea, wine etc
The lady thought we were Croatian! She was really nice and said she loved Only Fools and Horses! She also asked if I had ever met Del and Rodney!! I laughed and said no!!
After a bit more shopping we headed for the car.
We left with plenty of time to get to the airport but as we got close the traffic came to a standstill! There were roadworks, luckily it didn’t add too much time on but it was stressing us out. There were no signs for the airport which was worrying too. I had plotted it on the satnav back in UK. Eventually there was a sign but it said Zračna luka Airport, not Rijeka Airport, which was worrying too. Eventually we were there and it was the right place.
Before checking in our cases we had to go to the Sixt kiosk, it took ages. We had to pay for the puncture and fill out an accident report and they seemed to be having trouble with the card machine.
Eventually we were on the plane. We had visited everything on the our list, it was fun but stressful, we had a few fallings out and I think we did too much in the short time frame we had but it was worth it.
Check out Keith’s vlog about the trip…..