Moving on, let’s visit Dubrovnik next. Sitting on the very border of Croatia and regardless of whether you are visiting Dubrovnik for the first time or the hundredth, the sense of awe never fails to descend when you set eyes on the beauty of the old town. Indeed it’s hard to imagine anyone becoming jaded by the city’s white limestone streets, baroque buildings and the endless shimmer of the Adriatic, or failing to be inspired by a walk along the ancient city walls that protected a civilised, sophisticated republic for centuries. This walled city remains one of the very few intact walled cities in the area. Sitting high above the Adriatic, only the most jaded fail to succumb to it’s majesty. The inner city remains intact but much worse for wear. As a matter of fact, the World Heritage Site was recently admonished by the organization for failure to attempt to preserve the original site. Indeed the site is literally overrun with visitors daily, but it remains one of the most important ancient sites in the world. There is no doubt a compromise will be reached to control the visitors. Maybe a supreme being is warning us to mind what we are doing to our world, and to live more gently.
Our final visit is to Sarajevo. In the 1990s Sarajevo was besieged and on the edge of annihilation. Today, its restored historic centre is full of welcoming cafes and good-value lodgings, the bullet holes largely plastered over on the city’s curious architectural mixture of Ottoman, Yugoslav and Austro-Hungarian buildings. Most of us in the western hemisphere remember Sarajevo as the scene of horrible atrocities during the endless war. Indeed it was, but there rises out of the blood and dust a monument to all that is and was. The antique stone-flagged alleys of Baščaršija give the delightful Old Town core a certain Turkish feel. Directly north and south, steep valley sides are fuzzed with red-roofed Bosnian houses and prickled with uncountable minarets, climbing towards green-topped mountain ridges. Westward, Sarajevo sprawls for more than 10km through Novo Sarajevo and dreary Dobrinja past dismal ranks of bullet-scarred apartment blocks. At the westernmost end of the tramway spine, affluent Ilidža gives the city a final parkland flourish. In winter, Sarajevo’s mountain resorts Bjelašnica and Jahorina offer some of Europe’s best-value skiing, barely 30km away.
Check back next week for Part 3.