We rented a car in Split, said goodbye to our quaint apartment and the palace, and headed south down the Croatian coast for the city of Dubrovnik. Yuriy was behind the wheel of our little red Spark, and I had the camera in hand, window rolled down, madly snapping away (we deleted more photos than we kept). It felt nice to have our own vehicle again, instead of relying on public transportation. When we saw a pretty view, Yuriy hit the brakes and we stepped out to take it in. With stops included, we drove for about 6 hours.
The entire stretch of road went along the Adriatic Sea, sometimes at sea level, sometimes a lot higher. The highway took us winding along mountainous curves that came dangerously close to cliffs that dropped into the water below. Especially when the sun started to set, the scenery was magnificent, and although I was sleepy (as typical with road trips), I forced myself to stay awake. We munched on walnuts, mandarins, fresh cheese, and a big chunk of bread (if this were a road trip in the US, I'd be munching on greasy chips and a candy bar). We drove past little towns, pretty beaches, wild nature, and stopped to pick pomegranates on abandoned land.
There were stretches of road littered with abandoned houses that looked like they were falling apart. Not just one or two, but dozens. Most homes were missing windows, doors, and entire roofs. We couldn't help wondering if they were burned out or just really old. So of course, we pulled over, I put some better (by better I mean tougher) shoes on, and we went exploring with the camera in tow. All that was left of the house we climbed around in were stone walls with holes for windows. Plants had started growing over the floor of the home and garbage collected in the corners. We later read online that the abandoned homes were left by Serb minorities who fled during Croatia's War of Independence. The Croatian government has been taking its time to recover after the war and Serbians who want to reclaim their land and houses have to go through a long legal process that is very confusing with new laws that don't supersede old laws (which discriminate against minorities). The houses served as reminders of war in the country. Apparently Lonely Planet warns against poking around in abandoned houses because there might be unexploded shells and bombs inside. Useful information we found out AFTER our dangerous adventures!
Up next: Dubrovnik, Croatia-- one of the most beautiful towns in the Mediterranean