The 6th day of our travel to Albania was a busy piece of trip and ended our transit along Croatia! From the Neretva River wetlands and trough Dubrovnik, we moved to ex-military base at Prevlaka peninsula, right at the Montenegro border, along the way paying a visit to less touristy, but still worth seeing spots – the town that stinks, the bay, where hotels are dead and the southernmost Croatia fort.
The Raba olive grove base camp
We woke up early to the sound of some bird scuffling angrily in the olive trees’ leaves. The sky was still gray with no trace of sun, so even the grove colors were faded.
When we were pitching up our tent in the dusk the day before, I wasn’t so sure if we are invisible to the outsiders passing by the road from Raba to the Slivno Ravno. After all, the trees didn’t grow densely, bark-to-bark. But now, in the daylight, we could plainly see that, although the olives were planted sparsely, each next row of trees was filling in the space left by the previous one. So we were actually nicely covered from the unwanted public by a nice green wall.
However, we wanted to spare ourselves some morning adventures, because we’d got enough morning adventure dose the day before (✌ ﾟ ∀ ﾟ)☞ So we didn’t hesitate with packing.
Packing procedure is rather dull, but I discovered some weird flowers…
When the sun stuck out its nose above the horizon, we were ready to leave.
Tough, only now the grove was getting more interesting as the light started to play in leaves and the colors flared up.
So our emergency wild camping wasn’t so bad after all. It has its charms and got us covered well.
Seeking the hidden fortress around the Kuti Lake
When we returned to the Adriatic Highway from our unnamed road, we were only 16km from the Bosnia and Herzegovina border crossing in Neum. But we decided on one more adventure before!
We were about to find the Smrdan Grad – a 17th century fortress build upon the ruins of an older, medieval keep.
The fortress lies above the Klek town, so we rode down the Adriatic Highway, almost to the Croatia and Bosnia border crossing.
This was maybe about 13 km from our olive grove base camp. Although, the way that branches from the Adriatic Highway to the Smrdan Grad is quite inconspicuous, so we missed it at first and had to turn back. But eventually we got it right ;)
And we were quite surprised! We were expecting just a nice fortress sightseeing. And what we got a twisty road climbing up the hills with an amazing view on the sea behind our backs!
Did I said it was a surprise? This was a double surprise, actually. Because it even looked like, besides us, no one was tempted to try this route… Like… What?! (ʘ‿ʘ)
If you think that, oh, the road must have been full of holes like a Swiss cheese, then not at all! Of course, it wasn’t so nice and smooth as the Adriatic Highway surface, but really decent. No need for the 4×4 tanks :)
However, before we found the right road branch that led us to the Smrdan Grad, we got lost a little in the net of local roads with our GPS, which was so besotted with the heat, that it stopped functioning ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
But it turned out for our good. We stumbled upon the Kuti Lake (ʘ‿ʘ)
Though, maybe saying that we stumbled upon it isn’t quite accurate phrase. The lake is big if you check the map! But this awesomeness wasn’t in our trip plan ;)
I’ve read that during the summer the lake dries out a little. But still… what a view!
I wondered if there are some field crops down there, but I later learnt that people used to cultivate land here some time ago, but now the Kuti Lake is more of a local attraction for tourists… which we have not seen.
The views were so unexpectedly enjoyable that we rode this little unnamed road up to the border crossing.
Just then we turned back for another round of ride around the Kuti Lake and for further seeking the Smrdan Grad,because it became obvious we missed a turn and have to look around more carefully to find it.
The right turn was just near Zavala.
At first the road was okayish. But then it got us some gravel and sand. Maybe the 4×4 tank wouldn’t be necessary again, but the cars with a specially low clearance might have a hard time.
Our little offroad route was making the bike’s back wheel happily slipping every dozen meters when moving forward, so I did hide the camera, expecting some closer contact with the ground. And, unfortunately, this is the reason we don’t have much photos from this part of our road.
The Stinky Town – Smrdan Grad
We found the Smrdan Grad desolated.
No tourists were here either. We had the whole courtyard for ourselves ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Maybe the hour was still too early (around 9 AM?), although, the ruins didn’t look much like someone tends to them and there weren’t any traces of human beings etc., so I belief it isn’t much popular spot.
You have only around 30 minutes of driving to Dubrovnik from here, so I guess most of the people are more keen on seeing some of the Game of Thrones scenes background, then visiting a place, which is literally called a Stinky Town (ʘ‿ʘ)
Although, it’s not that something really extremely stinks there testing your strength limit, actually ;)
The legend says that the fortress was occupied by the Turks for some time. But then the locals recaptured it and when the Turks attempted to take over the fortress again, the things came to a really bloody fight, where about 60 Croatians were defending the place against 6000 enemies. In the result there were so many unburied dead, that the stink of rotting bodies gave the name to this fortifications ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
We didn’t know if there’s something special to look for around the fortress, so we just kept exploring the terrain on our own. The abandoned and forgotten walls, of course, can’t compete with the better preserved historical monuments of Dubrovnik. But this place definitely has its own unique atmosphere – a strange, mysterious aura, which is hard to put into the words. Moreover, apart from that, it is also not out of nice views on the Adriatic Sea!
At first, during my terrain inspection, I met a dead end escarpment with not so wide view on the sea as for my liking. But a little more traversing along the cliff edge…
And here you have it!
A nice place to rest and have a breakfast. Though you might some company here… This time we were getting to know local arthropods (◉‿◉)
There was also a little temple with belfry, which looked better than the other fortification walls, but it was closed.
All in all, the Smrdan Grad is a really lovely place, to which you can easily drop by on your way to epic Dubrovnik. And another pros – if you’re less lazy than we, it can be also reached on feet by a picturesque trail ᕙ(◉‿◉)ᕗ
From Neum to Dubrovnik
From the Smrdan Grad we rode down to the border crossing in Klek.
There was a little queue at the crossing, but it was not so bad. We didn’t wait long.
We were in Neum maybe in half an hour.
It looked like Neum is also a nice beach resort, but we, being we, just payed the local bakery a visit and asked for a burek, of course :P
So our Neum sightseeing was short as we didn’t get our butts anywhere around. But anyway, I think Neum is best for those who seek more sunbathing or are after a cheaper holidays option, when they want to see Dubrovnik, Mostar and other attractions around.
After stop in Neum, we rode up straight to the next border crossing to get back to Croatia. From there we stuck to the road 8, of course, so we could keep an eye on the sea, which didn’t let us down, as again we could soak in some picturesque views.
Near Mali Zaton the coastline started to be more dappled with marinas filled with white ferries.
And as we were approaching Dubrovnik, the boats traffic was growing and the ferries themselves too.
We took our time to admire those monstrosities from a closer distance, when we decided to leave the Adriatic Highway and go beneath the Tudman’s bridge in hope to find a place, where we could jump into the water as we were tired with the heat.
There was no way to get wet safely, but it was cool anyway ;)
This is one of my favorite things in the Dubrovnik coastline. Without all those big, majestic ships cruising around, Dubrovnik would lost lots of its appeal.
However, this time we rejected the Dubrovnik’s advances. We’ve already visited the Croatia capital city 2 years ago, when we stayed there for 2 days of sightseeing. Dubrovnik is beautiful and also its neighborhood (like the Lokrum Island) is worth of anchoring there for few days.
But we were planning 2 more attractions away from Dubrovnik this day and we wanted to find more remote place to stay over the night. So we gave Dubrovnik a pass, hungry for new places and new views.
The abandoned hotels graveyard – Kupari Beach
Instead of roaming around Dubrovnik, we chose something for the entry level urban explorators ;) We rode the Adriatic Highway up to Kupari and its abandoned hotels complex, which is sometimes poetically called the bay of the dead hotels.
Back in the day luxurious hotels were the favorite rest site for the upper crust of Yugoslavia, especially officers, but sadly today they are the Yugoslavia’s civil war memento – their skeletons towering silently above the little sandy beach, where only few decide to bath in the perfectly azure water.
But although I’ve read in some sources that most of the people don’t have enough courage to rest there on the beach, because of the legends about dump squibs still lying there after the war, it’s not that the beach is completely empty.
Nevertheless, it’s not that it’s crowded by the people. The place gives up quite odd and uneasy vibe with this pristine-looking beach with crystal clear water contrasting with building noticeably pitted with bombs and bullets. Some don’t like it, some are fascinated…
We also seized the opportunity to cool off after boiling in suits. The water was so awesome that we got stuck in it for like 2 hours, before we moved on to check out the ruins of the Pelegrin Hotel.
The Pelegrin Hotel is one of the 7 hotels, which are part of the former Kupari resort, along with a camping and two residences. The oldest, Grand Hotel, was built just after the I World War, whereas the Pelegrin was brought to life in the 60s.
The luxurious splendor of the whole complex ended in 1991, when it was strafed by the Yugoslav People Army from the bay’s waters and taken over by the Serbs during the Croatian War of Independence.
After looting, the army burned down the hotels floor by floor. So no treasure finding here ;) Just lots of debris and broken glass (watch your feet! (づ☉.☉)づ)
What caught my attention also, were sometimes the drawings or inscriptions on the walls. Sometimes ironical, sometimes weird or creepy, sometimes contrasting with the place again, so giving this uneasy feeling…
There were sign that the stairs can fall apart, but we gave it a go to see the rooms and terrace.
As far as I’ve digged into information about the future fate of the resort, I found out that there are some investors, which declared to once again build up a very expensive, luxury hotels resort around the beach in the place of the dead hotels, but… 4 years passed and nothing actually changed.
At all, the place can feel depressing and stir some uncomfortable emotions. But maybe it’s sometimes good to put oneself in such a place…
We ended our exploration in the Pelegrin Hotel, but as far as I know, you’re free to enter any of the hotels. At least for today. Maybe they will start rebuilding the resort someday?
The most Croatia ending end – Cape Oštro
From the Kupari beach we set our direction to Prevlaka (Croatian word for portage) – a small peninsula, which is the most southern and eastern point of Croatia.
Prevlaka has rather stormy history and witnessed lots of wars and battles since the XV century, because of its location as it was always a good point to control access to the Kotor Bay. Napoleon, Nazis, Yugoslav People Army… Prevlaka saw it all.
Where the Prevlaka narrows and connects to the Croatia mainland, you will find last groups of people, which are sunbathing at a little sandy beach near a small café. There is also marina from which you can observe the ship leaving the Kotor Bay.
Riding peninsula deeper, though, will leave you rather lonely. Apart from the Punta d’ Oštro fort, right at the Prevlaka tip, which was for the first time fortified in 15th century in the Bosnian Kingdom back then and which is still visited by some few tourists, despite the damages it is carrying since the II World War.
To get to the Oštro Fortress you just ride straight along the coast. The road surface is a nice asphalt. However, there is no entry point at the parking lot at the fort most bottom point.
As we were on the bike and it’s seemed like almost no one is around, we rode the bike up, although the road wasn’t so good here. It was steep and rather damaged.
Unfortunately, when we got at the top, the entrance was closed.
So we had to be a bit cunning to get inside… We entered by a little window on the entrance left side. Some cobblestones have been already lying beneath it as if someone used it to crawl inside before us. So why not? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
The building was, of course, neglected and devastated.
The coolest part, I think, was the side of the cape, which faces the sea.
The information sign says that the today’s form of the fortress originates from the 1850, actually, as it was fortified again by the Austria-Hungary back then.
It’s a pity that it looks like no one wants to renovate this place.
Though, maybe it isn’t so surprising if you think that demilitarization of this territory ended just in 2002, when it was agreed to return it to Croatia.
While we were searching the fortress, the sun started to set behind the horizon. So it was time to find a place to rest and endure the night.
Camping at Prevlaka
I found it odd idea to camp at the cape, as it really close to the border and I expected to see some Croatian coast guards around.
Nevertheless, we decided to try and chose some route visible on the Google maps.
It lead us up and up, through the bushes and abandoned, devastated, creepy buildings growing out of nowhere on the path sides, which are leftovers of military architecture. Prevlaka was closed since 1955 for common people as the Yugoslav People Army have begun the installation of artillery there.
We looked inside those barracks, but found only debris and broken furniture.
What surprised us the most, really, was that at the end of our journey up the cape we found… a loudly working power generator.
This looked super weird. But as we checkout the little entrance just around the generator…
It turned out that the generator powers up the lighthouse. And, yep, no one was home. We suspect there were only some motion detectors and maybe once in a while someone drops by to check if everything is ok.
The views from around the lighthouse were awesome. Be it on the sea or on the Cape Ostro.
We also followed a small trail, past the lighthouse, passable only by feet I think, which leads to a lookout point on Fort Ostro, Fort Mamula on the little island and an incredible view on the Kotor Bay entrance.
Unfortunately, we didn’t make our camp there. The bike would be too far away from us and, of course, we would have to carry all our luggage with our own hands.
So we found some branch from the way we rode up to the lighthouse, somewhere between the barracks.
It doesn’t look like it, but the ramp was really steep, so sadly the pillion rider had to walk up on his own :P
But the spot was great. Specious and with marvelous sights all around – on the open sea on one side and the coastlines on the other!
There was also a bunker hidden there, but there was nothing there, besides some small lizard.
Although, I was a little worried with the place, because of the border proximity and the fact that those terrains were so neglected and desolated that could be visited by people, which you would rather not met at all. But the night went by peacefully.
Well, almost… No one disturbed us, but there was one strange thing. When we were just about to go to sleep, I heard this strange sound like someone is slowly creeping to our tent as warily to not make much noise as he can. Step… by… step… Only the rustling of dried out grass betrayed his position.
‘What is that?!’ And I heard that my sudden, loud springing to my feet made this special someone leap away instantly somewhere into the dense darkness.
The situation didn’t repeat after that, so otherwise our camp was a great spot. Though, I was really terribly frightened and I wonder up to this day… What was that?!
Though, at some point anyone, who camps, owns some creepy story to share. Do you have some? :)
The only major cons of this place, was that somehow, while we were sitting there, our phones connected to the Montenegrin BTS and mobile network, though we though we are quite away from the border ヽ( ͠°෴ °)ﾉ So better watch out for this!