27.06.2013 - 27.06.2013
Today the plan was to hire a driver in Mostar (Alma's husband Ermin) to drive us back into Croatia to the vineyards of the Peljasac (PEHL-yah-shahts) Peninsula, and to stop in the Bosnian town of Pocitelj (poh-CHEET-eh?) and the Croatian town of Ston on the way. After some wine tasting we planned to take a short ferry to Korcula (KOHR-choo-lah).
Our driver, Ermin, is a fun and interesting guy. On the way to Pocitelj we talked a little about why Bosnia has so many problems. First of all Bosnia bureaucracy is horrible because it is run by 4 separate governments (3 regional and one overall federal government). Unemployment is 50 percent, and no that is not a typo. Crime is rampant, not violent crime though, we always felt safe. All this government neglect is because the regional areas are split up by the dominate cultural group of each area: Serbs (Orthodox Christians), Croats (Catholic Christians), and Bosniaks (Muslims). It is hard to get anyone to agree on anything. Surprisingly a recent controversy brought out protests by all cultural groups against the government. The government couldn't agree on how to issue their equivalent of social security numbers. A baby that needed special medical treatment in Germany died, because the government didn't issue the number in a timely manner. Without the number the baby could not travel to Germany for the procedure. People were livid. Ermin mentioned various efforts he was involved in to try to help heal the pain originating from conflicts between these groups that occurred in the 1990’s, like an effort to integrate schools between the cultural groups. Mostar has 2 sets of schools, bus stations, soccer teams, garbage companies, hospitals, phone companies . . . one Croat Catholic and one Bosniak Muslim. I guess it would be hard to emotionally move on from such a horrible conflict as a nation if contact between groups is restricted in future generations.
While exploring Pocitelj, Ermin took us to an artist colony where earlier he had helped organize an intercultural musical performance that government dignitaries from different cultural groups attended. Some artist pay for staying at the colony by leaving the artwork they have made.
As I was considering if I should hike up to the tower for a view of the attractive town architecture, Ermin told me a story. A honeymooning couple said they would hike to the tower and would be back in a half hour. He began worrying after waiting for an hour. Eventually the couple showed up huffing and puffing two hours later, admitting the hike was farther than they thought. Ermin laughed and said when they got home they sent him a picture of her pregnant.
As we left Pocitelj, Ermin said he knew of a friend’s place that would be great for wine tasting on the Peljesac Peninsula. Unfortunately Ermin realized he left his supersized water bottle at home, the one he uses to load up when visiting the winery.
After the border crossings, we popped into a convenience store to get something to drink and then we stopped at the town of Ston. The wall of Ston is the second largest man made wall in the world next to the Great Wall of China. I climbed a small part of the wall for a better view.
These walls were built by Ragusa (Dubrovnik) to protect one of its most valuable commodities, salt, or 'white gold' at the time. Shallow salt pans used the evaporation of seawater to make salt, and these pans and salt warehouses needed to be protected from thieves and other republics, like the Venetians.
Salt pans behind the town
We then left Ston and set off for wine tasting. Sadly when we got to the wine tasting place, it turned out his elderly winemaker friend was not in good shape and could not join us. Fortunately his wife was able to come down and host a small wine tasting with us. The homemade brandy, Dingac (flavorful dark red), and Prosec (red dessert wine) were excellent. I’m was constantly and jealously eyeing all their fermentation swag during our tasting.
I loved this sign.
Turns out Ermin was not as thirsty as I thought on our earlier convenience store stop. He held up his large plastic water bottle and smiled, telling the lady that he would trade the water in his large bottle he purchased for some wine as we left. After commenting on his growler sized water bottle full of wine, he commented, “I know, it is tough. All that wine, someone has to help drink all of this.” with a twinkle in his eye. Kind of a Bosniak version of ‘somebody's gotta do it’.
As we left Ermin commented about what a great guy the winemaker was, and that he was sad that his friend couldn’t join us. He said through the years the winemaker asked repeatedly for him to stay and have a glass of wine with him, but because he was always driving people he could never really stick around and take him up on it. Before we got into the van, Ermin points out a wooden donkey standing just outside of the house, and comments on the body of the donkey that is made out of a wine barrel. Laughing, he asks me how I think they pump the wine out of the barrel. Pump the tail, I guess. He laughs and says no. . . hint, it is a male donkey. Laughing sentimentally he says, “ dirty old man” under his breath. And we’re off to one more tasting and then to the Korcula ferry.
View of the ferry crossing the strait to Korcula
Saying goodbye to Ermin
Approaching Korcula on the ferry.
Korcula's old town was fortified, in large part when it was in Venetian control. Probably because it was one of the southernmost points of the empire and was exposed to Dubrovnik and the Turks.
Our Room at the DePolo's on the waterfront just outside of town.
Landside entrance gate.
Gate from inside the town
After lunch, sightseeing, and a little wandering, we decided to grab a drink on the top of one of the towers. After the Venetian Republic collapsed and all the fortifications were less necessary, and stones from the walls were scavenged, making it shorter that it used to be. The tower we climbed was only half a tower, so I wonder if that is what happened to it.
View of the town and church tower from the tower bar.
Climbing down from the tower bar
The pulley system used to bring drinks up to the tower from the bar
We went to see a traditional sword dancing show. Apparently these dances were common throughout the Mediterranean at one time, but now are only performed here.
After the show we grabbed dinner at U Maje i Tonke .
Shrimp and Pasta Salad