A challenging trip taking in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro
The alpine-like Zlatibor region in south-west Serbia offers forested peaks, waterfalls, pretty villages – and a few more eccentric attractions
Croatia’s capital is bursting with good-value places to eat and drink. And new flights from the UK have made getting there cheaper too
The Ciro trail, from Dubrovnik to Mostar in southern Bosnia, is encouraging tourists back to the empty green landscape that was largely abandoned during the 1990s wars in the former Yugoslavia
Not including Mostar, I saw two outstanding Ottoman bridges in Bosnia. The first was called the Mehmed Pasa Sokolovic Bridge in the town of Visegrad, built in 1571 by the brilliant Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan, who is mainly known for creating mosques such as the Suleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul. The bridge was immortalised in Ivo Andric’s Nobel Prize-winning novel ‘Bridge on the Drina’. The bridge is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has 11 masonry arches with spans of 11 m to 15 m, and an access ramp at right angles with four arches on the left bank of the river. The 179.5 m long bridge is regarded as a masterpiece of Sinan’s, of whom UNESCO wrote “Sinan, one of the greatest architects and engineers of the classical Ottoman period and a contemporary of the Italian Renaissance, with which his work may be compared.”
Virpasar is a village by Skadar Lake. The favourite pastime here is a boat trip to see some of the 270 species of bird who live on and around the lake. My recommendation is to walk over the bridge and take the road that runs behind the Hotel Vir. After about five minutes of uphill there’s a sign to the right saying ‘Besac’ indicating the 15th Century fortification being restored with the help of EU funding. The 1 Euro entrance fee helps the restoration too. For this amount, the visitor will see the lake with the mountains of Albania in the background. The fortification is small with one central watchtower situated within the walls. There’s a circular staircase which leads to the top of the tower. The gatekeeper owns a small dog, which is the same colour as the fort. The fort dog runs around enthusiastically and wags its tail at visitors.