Author Archives: JWH

Mostar and Sarajevo Part I

Croatia is divided into 2 parts separated by 20 miles of coastline that belongs to Bosnia-Herzegovina. This means that we drove north from Dubrovnik, following the coast line and enjoying the views of the many islands off the coast. We then passed through immigration at the border with Bosnia-Herzegovina where we presented our passports to an officer to leave Croatia and then drove 50 feet and presented them again to enter Bosnia-Herzegovina. After traveling 20 miles, we again presented passports to both countries to reenter Croatia. We were fortunate that there were only a couple of tour buses ahead of us. Our guide informed us that at times, it can take up to three hours to get through these check points. But then, because we were headed for Sarajevo, by way of a certain highway, and Saravejo is in Bosina –Herzegovina, we had to go through still another checkpoint where we presented our passports to officials from both countries.

Because of the delays and problems this routine creates, Croatia will be linking both parts of its country by building a bridge from the west portion of its country to the east part by joining a highway via a peninsula located parallel to the coast. This way the road will by-pass the 20 miles belonging to Bosnia – Herzegovina. Funding is coming from the European Union since Croatia is a member and the Union wants all of its territories linked. This solution is controversial because Bosnia – Herzegovina claims that the bridge will block their access to the sea, even though the water is too shallow along their 20 miles of coast for a port. Construction of the bridge begins this November.

(Orange was our route and blue were the immigration check points.  Red is the new bridge.)

Today Bosnia is actually two federations that were combined after WWII as “Bosnia and Herzegovina” in the consolidation of the federations of Yugoslavia. The two federations chose to remain together after Yugoslavia dissolved.

Our first stop in Bosnia and Herzegovina was Mostar,  known for its magnificent arched bridge. The 16th century bridge has been restored after its destruction in 1993 during their most recent war. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Young men jump from the bridge into the emerald water below for the pleasure of tourists and the tips they earn from them.

Here is a Youtube video of a jump!

As we continued on to Sarajevo, we passed through spectacular mountain-scapes!

As we approached Sarajevo, our guide reviewed with us the long history of the Balkans and the 20th century events and  circumstances that led up to the 1990’s war in the area.  We learned how complex the long history of the area is and how territories were juggled around from one rule to another.  We also learned how Tito wanted to unify the area because he felt a united country offered a better life for all but we also learned how ruthless he was.  Today there are still problems in the area that the Dayton Agreement, which ended the recent war, did not address. The aftermath of the war was still visible in Sarajevo even though it has been largely rebuilt.

Over the centuries, Sarajevo has been a meeting of the east and the west. First settled in the 15th century by the Ottoman Turks, it was taken over by the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the late 19th century. Evidence of the Austro-Hungarian rule of country from 1878 – 1918 can be observed in the grand style of the architecture of much of Sarajevo. Neo-Baroque, Art Nouveau, and other turn-of-the-century decorative details adorned a lot of the buildings.  On the other hand, many of the buildings, although restored after the war, appear grungy.  A good coat of paint would do wonders throughout the city!

Unfortunately, graffiti is rampant in Sarajevo.  Many of the exquisite buildings are marked up.

We also saw lots of bullet marks and patched surfaces.

During the Communist area under Tito, lots of plain blocky buildings were erected that look pretty shabby today.

Perhaps the most impressive building in Sarajevo is the City Hall.  It was built in the late 19th century in a Neo-Morrish style and became a library that housed 1.5 million volumes and over 155,000 rare books, manuscripts and documents related to Balkan history.  In 1992 during the Siege of Sarajevo, the building was bombed and almost all of the holdings were lost.  The magnificent building has since been restored and is used for events, meetings, and concerts.

When it was destroyed.

The atrium restored.

During some free time, Charlotte and I sought out the Academy of Fine Arts where we were graciously given a tour of the print studios ( where they still use toxic supplies and processes.)  The building dates from Tito’s era, but the new bridge was designed by art students.

There is more of Sarajevo to come….



On a day trip from Dubrovnik we ventured south along the coast of the Adriatic to visit the small country of Montenegro (pop. 600,000.) We spent the day in the area of the Bay of Kotor, which penetrates deep into the coastline. We traveled by bus (red) to Perast, then took a boat (pink dots) to the town of Kotor where we hopped back on our bus. A short ferry ride brought us back to the highway to Dubrovnik.

The water in the bay was still and the water exceptionally clear and the views quite scenic.

Since Montenegro is very mountainous, towns and villages are located on slopes. At Perast (above) we boarded a small boat to visit a church on a small man-made island, the Lady of the Rock. Legend has it that a painting of the Madonna was discovered on a rock in the middle of the lake, so the locals brought more rocks to create an island on which they built a church.

Then we continued by boat to the medieval town of Kotor – another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Like Dubrovnik, the Venetians walled the city in the 1500’s to protect it from the Ottoman Turks. The streets were very narrow and steps led to various levels. It was charming place and fun to explore the maze, but packed with tourists and souvenir shops.

The country is totally dependent on tourism and it is drawing visitors from around the world. We encountered a lot of them including huge cruise ships that accommodate up to 5000 tourists.




Charlotte, my travel buddy, and I toured the old city of Dubrovnik with our tour group. The city has a very old history and became important during the Ottoman Empire as a trade connection with the West. The land around the city is not suited for agriculture, but with a fine port, the city expanded with merchants, shippers, and bankers. It also had soldiers to defend the city along the 1.2 mile medieval walls that encircle the city. We walked the top of the walls and lower streets, and alleys.

The old city is a National World Heritage Site and the buildings and walls are made of light colored sandstone and roofs are red clay tiles. In 1991 the Yugoslav People’s Army, made up primarily of Serbs, attacked the city and much damage was done, which has since been restored. 80% of the red tiles had to replaced and today you can see the difference in the roofs of old and new tiles.

The red arrow shows where we began our walk of the ramparts.

Dubrovnik has become a thriving tourist destination and our guide told us that there were masses of tourists, especially from cruise ships, visiting the city in July. Today there were still a lot of tourists in the old city along with lots of restaurants, museums, gift shops, and apartments for rent. Only 800 live there today because the rents are so high.

Countries of the Adriatic

I’ve just returned from a two week tour Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Slovenia and my head is spinning with memories of glorious sites, experiences, and people.

After arriving in Munich, I had an emergency false medical issue at the airport.  The pain in my leg turned out not to be thrombosis and I am very grateful to the attentive medical staff at the airport and a local hospital for the attention and care they gave me so that I could continue on my way to Dubrovnik.  Here I am being transported to the hospital.


This is Dr. Hana who conducted tests and determined that I was “fit to fly.”  I needed a letter from her so that Lufthansa would let me board my connecting flight. Everyone I encountered was wonderful and along the way I learned a bit about the German system of universal health coverage that dates back to the 1883.


Here is map of the route the tour followed beginning with Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Throughout our travels, the terrain and landscapes varied; all quite beautiful.  Along the Adriatic coast we encountered gray rocky mountains descending to the water with many islands off shore. Many of the walled forts were built by the Venetians in the 15th century to protect their claim over the Adriatic against the Ottoman Turks invading from the east.

As we traveled inland, we passed through villages and farmland located in valleys surrounded by mountains.  Buildings are consistently light colored stone with red clay tile roofs.  Vineyards were everywhere.

The area of Croatia that borders Hungary is rich, flat farmland where a variety of crops are grown.

We also viewed snow covered mountains, lakes, and walled cities atop high hills.

More to come….

Last Day in San Francisco

The Road Scholar program finished yesterday, and since I was taking a red eye flight home, I had all day to explore on my own.  I began the day with a tour to Muir Woods which took me by bus over the Golden Gate Bridge.  Muir Woods is a National Park with trails through tall, very majestic old redwoods.  The ground was covered with a lush array of ferns and sorrels and pre-historic horsetail plants.

After spending time poking around the shops in Sausalito, I returned by ferry to Pier 39 in San Francisco to view the sea lions.  These sea lions made their home along the coast and just days prior to the earthquake of 1989, they disappeared.  Then a few days after the earthquake they appeared and made their home at Pier 39 and have been their ever since attracting hordes of observers.

My final adventure was to visit the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park, the oldest public Japanese garden in the US. Created in 1894, the garden features a moon bridge, a tea house, pagodas, stone lanterns, stepping stone paths, native Japanese plants, koi ponds and a zen garden. Because the garden is more than 100 years old, the trees are very tall and mature and remind me of gardens I have visited in Japan unlike some of the newer gardens in the US.

The visit to this serene garden was a nice way to finish my time in San Francisco!

San Francisco Day 4

We began our 4th day with an informative talk on San Francisco architecture where we learned the difference between Victorian Italianate, Stick/Craftsmen and Queen Anne styles. (L to R below.)

Then we visited a private Victorian home, the Fisk House, built in 1884.  The current owner and his wife have been restoring the home for the last 13 years.  He detailed the history of the house for us and the research that has gone into finding out the histories of the families who owned it over the years.  The 5 bedroom home is filled with an eclectic mixture of antiques and we were encouraged to visit each room and examine the vast collection.  We were then treated to lunch in the third floor ballroom and adjacent outdoor sitting area.  To learn more about the house, visit:

Here are some views of this incredible place.

For my free time afternoon, I visited the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art where the special exhibit featured the influence of Matisse in the work of Richard Diebenkorn, a Bay Area artist. 

Even though I purchased tickets that allowed a limited number of people to enter the exhibit at a given time, it was packed.  So packed that it was a hassle to view the work!  I viewed my favorite works, and quickly headed to the fairly empty galleries in the rest of the museum with its outstanding collections.

On the way back to our hotel, Mary and I stopped for tea in the Garden Court of the landmark historic hotel, The Palace Hotel.  This famous, elegant and sumptuous, hotel takes up two city blocks and replaces the original hotel that was lost in the 1906 earthquake.  The “new” hotel was built in 1909 and is reported to be less extravagant in decor than the original.

Our tea with scones.

The day wrapped up with the group attending Beach Blanket Bingo, the world’s longest running musical revue with great singing, wild costumes and outrageous head gear where the cast acts out social and political satire and the audience loves it!

Great fun!


San Francisco Day 3

We began the Day 3 by traveling form our hotel down the hill on a cable car – for the fun of it!  We then visited the Cable Car Museum to observe the cables that are constantly running underground to keep the cars moving.  While the cables are moving, a gripman uses a lever to grab the cable and the car moves.  When he releases the lever the car stops.  It is a simple mechanism that takes lots of maintenance since the cables fray and need replacing and the gripper on the lever wears out.  There are eight different cable car lines and each has its own, constantly moving, cable.  The cable cars date from 1873 and enabled the city to expand up the steep hills, hills that were treacherous for horse and wagons.

The red arrow above is pointing to one of the constantly moving cables. Below is the device that grips the cable.

We then learned about some of the mansions that occupied Nob Hill but were destroyed in the 1906 Earthquake/Fire.  The largest was a 127 room Victorian built by Mark Hopkins, one of the “Big Four” very wealthy men who financed and created the Central Pacific Railroad. The railroad  became the western part of the First Transcontinental when it linked up with the eastern part in Utah in 1869.  Below is what the mansion looked like.  A hotel now occupies the site.

We visited Grace Cathedral also located on Nob Hill. Construction began on the church in 1927 and was completed in 1964.  It replaced one destroyed in the 1906 earthquake that dated back to the Gold Rush of 1849. The main doors of the Cathedral display a replica of the 15th century Gates of Paradise by Lorenzo Ghiberti that are on the Baptistry of the Cathedral in Florence, Italy.

The Cathedral is the third largest in the US and has gorgeous stained glass windows.

The church supports and promotes various arts events including an annual artist residency.  Installed in a side aisle of the nave is this years project by Benjamin Bergery and Jim Campbell, entitled “Jacobs Ladder.”  It consists of a ladder of light tubes with a changing pattern of colored lights that depict a figure moving up and downward that reference a passage in Genesis where Jacob has a dream where he sees angels descending and ascending a ladder to heaven.

The Ferry Building on the wharf is one of the few buildings that survived the earthquake and fire of 1906.  The building covers three acres and was the transportation hub for ferries until the 1930’s when the bridges were built to accommodate people coming to the city from the Bay Area.  Today it houses a food court and that is where we had lunch before hopping on a ferry to Alcatraz.

The island started out as the first lighthouse and fort on the West Coast.  From 1850 to 1934 it was a military prison and then from 1934 to 1963 it was a federal prison.  Only three men escaped from Alcatraz who were never caught.  There is doubt that they survived the cold waters of the 1.25 miles to the mainland. Today it is a National Park.  The audio tour was an excellent way to learn about the facility.  Narrated by former prisoners and guards, the tour revealed inside perspectives of what it was like to be imprisoned there.

Referred to as “The Rock,” I was surprised to see the lush gardens on the grounds.  These gardens were started by the military families who lived on the island and were maintained by prisoners.  The park system has restored them as they were.

The prisoners occupied small, individual cells. The photo on the right is one of the cells where an escapee removed concrete around the opening of a ventilation duct using spoons.

Visiting Alcatraz was a sobering experience!