Never would you think that a bus ride could be so beautiful, lulling, and yet so delayed. As twisted down the Croatian version of California Highway 1, we found all of the above to be the case and then some.
Naturally, after our ride from Zagreb to Split, we were a little cautious as to what bus line we picked. As it turns out they all cost the same and they are all about the same. The advantages of the free market don’t really come into play for the buses, despite the fact that they are privately owned. And, as was the case with the former bus, we had to pay a little extra to store our luggage under the bus. Unlike the last bus though, this one was very much vacant. While it at first seemed a benefit, since we could stretch out, it soon showed that there was a downfall to this as well.
The initial part of the ride is lovely. It twists and turns along the side of the sea, showing you all the glimmering waters below. Occasionally, you will stop in a smaller town along the way to pick up more passengers or drop off some of the ones that are on board, but these are quick stops. There are old structures and new side-by-side, as elsewhere, but whatever their age, the homes, businesses, and old castle-like fortresses charge up from the sea into the steep mountains the plummet into the water.
Bus drivers for these lines have a tendency to drive a bit maniacally and I’m sure it gets worse as the tourist season moves into high gear. They will pass other cars on these narrow, steep roads. It is highly recommend that you sit on the side of the bus closest the mountainside if you’re used to driving, or just don’t feel as suicidal as the bus drivers.
After you finish shaking hands with the sea for a few hours, you come to the Bosnia Herzegovina border, because there is this very small strip of the country that interjects into Croatia to grab a little bit of the coast, right near Ston. It’s not the biggest of deals, since they’ll check your passport and let you on through to the 10-15 kilometers that the road runs through. You will however stop here, as funny as it may seem. Apparently, the drivers, like most people in the country have their little scam going and will pick up large piles of goods while in Bosnia Herzegovina because they get them at nearly 25% less than in Croatia due to the fact that there are no, or at the very least, less taxes here, which explains why they are a few markets in such an otherwise barren area. Plan on about a half hour delay as the bus drivers do their shopping and set it on the bus. Annoying, but you have little choice. You could probably pick up your own discounted goods there if you wanted. I’m sure that the temerity of the drivers was more than likely due to the fact that there were few of us on the bus at that point and they felt they could probably do as they pleased with little consequence.
Once you pass back into Croatia, which is even less of an issue than passing in BH, you will go a bit more inland, which even though it takes you from the shimmering ocean, it shuttles you along some of the most beautiful farmlands I have even seen in my life and I’m from a farmlands. There are these neat little rows of different crops growing next to each other. It’s a far cry from the large quilt-like patches of homogenous crops that we see growing across the US. There is one particular valley that I never got the name of, but you snake around the edge of it for quite some time, getting to absorb all the wonder of it’s flat, wide, Pollockesque crops.
Dubrovnik welcomes you to Dubrovnik quite a long time before you actually get into Dubrovnik, but you know for sure that you have arrived when you cross a bridge that is both an engineering feat as well as being abstract perfection as to what a bridge should look like.
From there on, it’s a slow descent in Gruz and Lapad, where, if you were lucky like us, you have a wonderful friend waiting for you. If you’re not as lucky, you’ll probably be fortunate enough to find a room from one of the many, many, many people waiting with signs to take you into their home for a good price. Beware lacking hot water heaters… but that shouldn’t be a probably if you’re there in Summer as a true vacationer.