Every year the Annual Conference organisers offer all the delegates a high quality programme of cultural and sight-seeing excursions. And this year, the Dubrovnik school had organised this very well- as you can judge for yourselves.
We were offered all-day excursions to Mostar and Medugorje, or an outing to the Peljesac peninsula, Konavle, and the Elaphite Island aboard a magnificent wooden sailboat – as well as a guided tour of the old city of Dubrovnik of course. These were three magnificent places to visit, and a large umber of delegates signed up.
Your correspondent took part in the Mostar excursion, which was a lesson in applied geography given the respective positions of Croatia and Bosnia. Our guide was both a great communicator and well-informed, making our trip a great pleasure. The coastal road follows the undulations of the terrain, and - a thing that came as a surprise for us Europeans from the Schengen area - you still have to cross physical borders between the two countries – particularly to cross a strip about 10 kms wide which allows Bosnia-Herzegovina to have access to the sea. Then further on there is a more significant border-crossing to enter Bosnia. There is a passport check and names of all passengers have to be entered in a green book.
Our first stop for coffee was at Meum, then we stopped at the old Turkish caravanserai in Polje, admiring the vestiges of 15th century faded glory. We are in Bosnia – with minarets rising from mosques, and souvenirs different from those seen elsewhere. Later on from the road we have a splendid view over luxuriant orchards where oranges, tangerines and other citrus fruits abound.
At midday we arrived in Mostar and parked on a square near a completely new church built in the Croat part of the town after the conflict. As you walk towards the town centre and the Stari Most, the famous bridge that was destroyed during the war and rebuilt as an exact replica, you can still see houses that are empty shells and walls riddled with bullet-holes. I can say, as someone who was here as a journalist in 1996 and 1997, that the rebuilding of the town has progressed quickly.
In the old town the streets are paved with cobbles and the tourists are welcome, though this late in the season there are not so many of them. Here is the famous bridge, with the river Neretva more than 20 metres below us, being photographed from every conceivable angle, and presenting a real chocolate-box picture.
At 1.00pm we were back in the coach heading for the Herceg holiday complex, a vacation centre located near to Medugorje, where we were served a delicious meal in a beautiful setting. Then we were given a guided tour of this newly built private tourist complex, where clients have everything they could wish for, even a chapel. The director of the establishment and his deputy provided the visitors with a wealth of information – as you would expect for a visit by tourism professionals.
At 4.00pm we were given a guided tour of the Marian pilgrimage centre, well known to European pilgrims. To judge by the large numbers of armchairs, seats and benches installed on the parade leading to the sanctuary, it is obvious that the reputation of this shrine is already well established. In the street opposite there is a long row of shops selling holy souvenirs – just like in every other shrine of this kind.
We set off back to our hotels at 5.00pm and drove back in the dark, arriving around 7.45pm at the Valamar Lacroma Resort; all those who had taken part in this excursion could say only one thing about it – fantastic!