Saturday, June 2, 2007

The day after our visit to Bosnia, we took 3 minivans up the Biokova mountain to the peak of St. George. In about 45 minutes, we went from sea level to the peak at 5900 feet, which is the third highest point in Croatia. For those of you from Georgia, Brasstown Bald is about 4700 feet and is located in the mountains, so going from the base to the top is not as quick of an ascent because the base is higher than sea level. We didn´t have the opportunity to get out of the minivans and hike to the top due to inclement weather, but were able to drive to the top and the view from there while shivering in the frigid rain was pretty incredible. The ride to the top was almost as impressionable as the road was a single lane and took some very sharp curves with cliffs just beyond the pavement. Some of these curves required 2 and 3 point turns to get around. Needless to say all of our heart rates were severely elevated during the ride, but the driver was very skilled and maneuvered the roads effortlessly. This mountain has no inhabitants because it has no water or electricity, and the roads are impassable in the winter. However, this area is a popular location for summer homes, which dot the green, rolling hillsides. The bura that are native to the area can pack winds up to 280 km/hour, which can be very dangerous for anyone driving along the narrow roads during the bura. Another health hazard is the large amount of tourists driving along the treacherous roads and having to back up along the way to allow cars to pass in the road. The local guides would like to have nothing but vans allowed on the mountain but have been unsuccessful thus far in accomplishing this. They do have a handicap accessible van that allows individuals with disabilities the opportunity to ride up the mountain.
On Thursday, we took a ferry to Hvar, and I must say that watching a massive 60 passenger bus load the ferry was one of the highlights of the day! The ferry ride was beautiful as we were able to take in the sights of all the coastal villages with the beautiful aquamarine Adriatic Sea in the foreground and the lush green mountains in the background. Once on the island of Hvar, we bussed 62 km from one end to the other. The island doesn´t have its own water supply and has a pipeline from the mainland that supplies all of its water needs. Amazingly this pipleline wasn´t installed until 1987, so they used cisterns before then to collect water. Because of their water situation, fires along the sparsely populated farms is quite frequent, and we were able to see some of the fire-ravaged destruction. Another problem that stems from having to pump water to the island is the shortage that they often experience during the summer months due to the massive influx of tourists. Sometimes during summer months they have to limit showers to conserve water. They do have a sewage treatment plant on the island, so they are able to properly dispose of all the water that is used on the island. Minor medical care can be attended to on the island but severe cases must be flown by helicopter to Split or Zagreb. During the summer months tourists flood the harbor town of Hvartown, and if lucky one may even have a celebrity spotting as many U.S. celebrities have discovered the luxurious views and beautiful sea found on the island.

On Saturday we took a bus to Dubrovnik and were able to walk around the walled city that has buildings that date back to the 9th century. In the old part of town, we were able to walk on top of the wall that dates back to the 15th century and take in magnificent views of the sea and the city. As we have noticed in other tourist hot spots in Croatia, there are certain health issues that could be hazardous to tourists. The worn cobblestones that line the street are very slippery and uneven, which makes traversing the city for the elderly or disabled a difficult trek. There also is little accomodation for persons with disabilities as we saw very few ramps or elevators. As is the case in other coastal areas in Croatia overcrowding during the summer months is a major health hazard and Dubrovnik has to have traffic patrols to direct foot traffic through the narrow streets in the old town. Another observation regarding the safety of tourists is the lack of guard rails in areas overlooking the sea some 100 feet below. However public health was an important issue to the historical inhabitants of Dubrovnik, where they made any visitors into the city stay in a quarantine house for 40 days to make sure they weren´t diseased before they could be allowed to enter the city. They also had government regulations against throwing out trash in the streets and other acts to prevent the spread of disease. Dubrovnik is the home of the first pharmacy in all of Croatia.
This was our last excursion as a study abroad, except for the lengthy trek back to the U.S., and we hope you have enjoyed reading about our experiences in Croatia. We have had a wonderful time being immersed into their culture and appreciate their hospitality. This has been an incredible learning experience that a textbook could not describe. We will post more of our pictures soon, so stay tuned!


Judy Riley Bland said...

These are gorgeous pictures and makes us all jealous that we are not there also. This blog is a perfect way to share your trip and experiences. You are all so blessed to have these experiences at this point in your college careers! Judy Bland

TzuFann said...

We were in Croatia for 10 days (6/1-6/10/2009). While enjoying the aquamarine sea coast and visiting the magnificent old towns, we could not but asked ourselves the question "how do the little town and villages on the coast deal with sewages?" When visiting one of the islands close to Dubrovnik, we saw a aqua duct like structure running from the small village into the sea over 100 feet. Could that be the discharge duct for the sewage? A photo was taken and I would be glad to provide if you are interested?