Wednesday May 7th ~ Traveling from Croatia through Opatija and Postnoja to Bled, Slovenia
And one more day primarily on the bus. We are covering quite a bit of territory on this itinerary. Our guide, Alex, provides us with some history of the break-up of Yugoslavia as well as both the 10 day Slovenia war and the 4 year Croatian war.
Here is a “short form” of recent history of this area:
- After WWI, Yugoslavia came into existence by combining territories of the Slovenes, Croats and Serbs (which was formerly part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) with the Kingdom of Serbia and the Kingdom of Montenegro.
- Renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929
- 1945 the monarchy was abolished
- 1946 the communist government came into power and the country was renamed the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia, also adding territory from Italy.
- Josip Broz Tito was the ruler as president until his death in 1980.
- In 1963, the country was renamed the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
- The Republic was made up of six socialist republics: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovenia and Serbia.
- In the 1980’s, following political upheavals and economic crisis Yugoslavia broke up along republic borders and formed five countries which lead to the Yugoslav Wars.
- The new five countries included Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bosnia), Croatia, Macedonia, Slovenia, and Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
- In 2006 the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia broke up into Serbia and Montenegro
Some of the atrocities and ethnic cleansing contributed to Milošević are mentioned but not in a lot of detail.
“His presidency was marked by the breakup of Yugoslavia and the subsequent Yugoslav Wars. In the midst of the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, Milošević was charged with war crimes including genocide and crimes against humanity in connection to the wars in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo” ~ Wikipedia
In all honesty I found the political history of Croatia very confusing. More often than not, the majority of our group sleep between stops.
Here is a link if you want to read more about it. Alex is from Croatia and still harbors some resentment toward Montenegro and Serbia which is evident in her descriptions.
I did make a few notes about current day living in Croatia.
- 75% of the people in Croatia smoke
- They have a Mediterranean climate. There are two strong winds that blow through Croatia. Bora are considered an evil or bad wind. If you commit a violent crime, even including murder, during the bad wind, people have been known to be found not guilty blaming it on the wind.
- You need a passport to travel from Dubrovnik, Croatia to another part of Croatia because you pass through Bosnia.
- The strip of land to the ocean that separates the two parts of Croatia was granted to Bosnia in exchange for protection.
- Croatia has the highest tax rate in Europe – 25%
- The legal age 18-65 has 30% unemployment
- They used to have a thriving business in textiles, shoes and steel, but today the #1 business is tourism.
- Food products include honey, eel, tangerines, frogs, oranges and strawberries. They also make an excellent olive oil, but it is only for local consumption as they do not make enough to export. There is currently an incentive to produce more olive oil.
- They have 1200 islands, 64 of them are inhabited.
We drive along the Istrian Peninsula past the islands of Cres and Krk and have a rest stop at the 45th Parallel. I think of the Mediterranean area as much further south than it really is. For reference, the 45th parallel is 1/2 way between the North Pole and the Equator. In the USA, it passes through Oregon, forms the border between Montana and Wyoming, intersects Lake Champlain, and roughly makes up the border between the US (New York and Vermont) and Quebec, Canada.
Postnoja Cave, Slovenia
This is definitely one of the largest cave systems I have ever been in. A cross between Pirates of the Caribbean and a small track train ride, our underground adventure begins. With 21 Km of passages filled with spaghetti formations, stalactites and stalagmites, it is impressive.
Departures leave on the hour, as we are boarded onto small double seated train carts that will take us on a 10-15 minute ride deep below the surface. At that point we walk a short distance looking to find a posted sign in the appropriate language to join up with a tour guide that will take us on an hour long walk through the well-lit chambers.
Sections of the walk include steep ramps, but they have good hand rails and a special no-slip texture on the flooring making it (relatively) safe. The cave guide is professional and offers up good explanations about the discovery, history and geology of what we are seeing.
After the walking tour, we again get back on the train for the return ride back to the surface. For anyone that has mobility issues, you can remain on board the train for a round-trip ride and skip the walking section. You will still see a lot of beautiful formations.
One interesting fact: This cave had electricity installed in 1884 earlier than London!
Finally, after a very long day, we arrived at our destination, Bled, Slovenia.
Fun fact ~ Slovenia is the only country that has the word LOVE in its name!
GRATITUDE MOMENT: Today I am grateful for electricity. When our guide briefly turned off the lights deep within the cave, the darkness was startlingly complete.