From the Dinaric Alps to the Glistening Adriatic: A Journey through Croatia and Bosnia and Hercegovina
Led by Tom Emmert ’67, Retired Professor of History, Gustavus Adolphus College
May 15–28, 2018
Croatia and Bosnia and Hercegovina are among the newest countries in Europe, formed out of the violent collapse of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Their history is complex and fascinating. They have always been at the crossroads between East and West — between Rome and Constantinople; between the Ottomans and Hapsburgs; between Catholic, Orthodox, and Muslim communities; between the communist and free worlds of the 20th century. Today, as very small countries, each strives to find its place in Europe and the world and to prosper as an independent state for the first time in centuries.
During our time together I want to give you a mini course in the history of this very diverse part of Europe, including its fascinating medieval kingdoms; its centuries-long subjugation to Ottoman, Habsburg, and Venetian rulers; its struggle for national identity in the nineteenth century; its efforts at unity in a common Yugoslav state both before and after World War II; the tragic wars of the 1990s; and the challenges and opportunities for each of these two countries since independence in the 1990s.
The tragic wars seem so long ago now, and we will simply marvel at some of the most beautiful places in all of Europe. I can still remember my first glimpse of Dubrovnik almost fifty years ago from the mountainside road overlooking the city. Even today after so many visits there, it never fails to inspire me. Sailing into Hvar is another of those moments. One can never tire of such beauty and such fascinating history. And I haven’t even begun to talk about Sarajevo!
We will begin our journey in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, and a little jewel in the tiara of Hapsburg provincial cities. Staying right on the main square of the old town makes it so easy to enjoy the heart of this small city’s 19th century character. From Zagreb we travel south to the Plitvice Lakes National Park, one of the oldest national parks in Southeastern Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a stunning day in nature as we hike along trails watching the park’s sixteen pristine lakes cascade in waterfalls from one level to another.
Then it’s on to Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Hercegovina. We will travel through lovely low mountains and small towns whose minarets reach to the sky. In Sarajevo we will encounter the meeting of East and West as we hear the call to prayer from one side of our hotel and the ringing of the Catholic cathedral’s bells from the other side. We will visit the tunnel that was used during the 1990s wars to smuggle people out of the city and we will listen to a survivor of those difficult years.
From Sarajevo we travel south to Mostar, the iconic little city that is the administrative center of Hercegovina, and then to Split on the Adriatic Sea. Roman ruins of the third century palace of the Roman Emperor Diocletian constitute the core of the old center of Split. Diocletian split the Roman Empire into two halves during his reign which essential made the region we are traveling in the border between Roman West and Byzantine East.
From Split we hop a small ferry to the island of Hvar and suddenly we will feel like we have arrived in Italy. Under Venetian rule for more than three hundred years, the town of Hvar retains its lovely Mediterranean character. Here we will enjoy our walks around the town and up to the fortress overlooking the town and island, a wine tasting and farm to table dinner in the island’s interior, and a lovely day at leisure to swim, relax, and perhaps sail to another small neighboring island.
And then we are off to the Pearl of the Adriatic, the beautiful walled city of Dubrovnik. For centuries, as Venetians and Ottomans battled for control of the Adriatic, Dubrovnik enjoyed its independence as a republic. This is another UNESCO World Heritage Site, and we will walk its walls and narrow streets and explore its lovely monasteries and museums. You can plunge into the Adriatic right from your hotel as you reflect on this memorable adventure into one of Europe’s most fascinating crossroads.
~ Tom Emmert
See the full Itinerary.
Tom Emmert is Emeritus Professor of History at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. He became interested in the former Yugoslavia during his undergraduate years at St. Olaf when he did research there under the auspices of the University of Minnesota SPAN program. In his senior year at St. Olaf he was one of eight Oles who participated in the college’s first semester program at Manchester College, Oxford. There he continued his studies in Balkan History. After graduation in 1967 from St. Olaf he attended Stanford University as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow and earned his PhD in History in 1973 with a major field in Balkan history and a minor field in Russian history. He came to Gustavus that same year and taught in its history department until his retirement in 2011.
During those many years he directed two semester abroad programs for American students in Zagreb, Croatia and led several January Term student groups there as well. He has also been a study leader for numerous Stanford University Alumni tours in the region and, more recently, for a number of Smithsonian Institute tours to Croatia. From 2001 until 2012 Tom co-directed a major project dedicated to bringing historians together from the various parts of the former Yugoslavia to work with their colleagues in other parts of the world to create an objective and common narrative of the history of the Yugoslav region during the troubled decades at the end of the 20th century. The work resulted in a major publication that hopes to play a role in continuing efforts toward reconciliation and truth in the region.
What to Expect
Hotels chosen for this program are often the best available in each location, given our group size. We got as close to city centers as possible, and opted for 4 or 5 star as much as possible. You can expect private bathrooms and English-speaking staff.
The weather should be pleasant during our journey. Average highs and lows for our destinations in May are
- Zagreb: low 50°F, high 71
- Sarajevo: low 49, high 72
- Split: low 55, high 72
- Hvar: low 55, high 72
- Dubrovnik: low 53, high 75
However, keep in mind that temperatures rarely actually fall on the average. Be prepared for a variation of 5-10 degrees in either direction. We recommend packing light layers that can be added or removed as needed. There is a chance of rain, of course, so you may also want a light rain jacket or travel umbrella.
Though we will transfer between cities by air-conditioned private motor coach, we will get around within cities primarily on foot. To participate in this program, you must be able to walk a minimum of five miles per day, stand for 2 to 3 hours at a time, of climbing stairs that may not have handrails, of keeping pace with an active group of travelers on long days of traveling, of dealing with the emotional highs and lows that can occur when experiencing a different culture, and of traveling with a group for several hours each day. Facilities, resources, accommodations and protections for disabled and special needs individuals can be sharply limited outside the U.S. Note that wheelchairs, personal care attendants and assistance from fellow travelers are not provided.
You are responsible for reviewing the specific requirements for your program and judging the appropriateness of these travel activities to your physical, mental and behavioral capabilities. Any participant who is unable to fulfill the program requirements may have their registration cancelled. Any participant who has demonstrated an inability, in the opinion of the program leader, of keeping up with the group or of safely participating in program activities may be prohibited from participating in certain activities or excused from the program.
You should plan on seeing your family physician or a travel doctor at least four to six weeks prior to departure, preferably earlier, to talk about routine vaccinations. For more information on travel health, visit cdc.gov or who.int.
The program fee is $3,062 per person. Based on double occupancy, it includes discussions led by Tom Emmert, assistance by a national guide, accommodations, breakfast daily and group meals as listed on the itinerary, admissions for group activities, ground transportation during the program, gratuities to group guides, drivers and meal servers, and some medical coverage while overseas. For single occupancy, add $578.
Airfare to and from Croatia is not included. Participants are solely responsible for all expenses not specifically included in the program fee. Examples of excluded expenses are: Airfare between your home town and Croatia • Airport transfers in your home town and Croatia • Any passport fees • Any recommended immunizations or vaccinations • Baggage insurance • Trip cancellation insurance above $2,000 lifetime coverage • Beverages at group meals • Laundry • Dry cleaning • Phone charges • Room service or other items of a personal nature • Expenses incurred during free time or non-group activities • Lunch and dinner, unless specifically included on program itinerary.
Related Documents and More Info
Immunizations: No vaccines or immunizations are required for entry into Croatia or Bosnia and Hercegovina. Please visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for the most up to date recommendations.
Entry Visa: No entry visa is required for Croatia or Bosnia and Hercegovina for stays of up to 90 days. Visit travel.state.gov for the most up to date requirements. As a general precaution, all travelers should carry a photocopy of the photo/bio information page of their passport and keep it in a location separate from their passport. You will need a passport valid for at least six months following the date of your arrival in Croatia. Therefore, please look at your passport now to verify it will be valid through 2018. If your passport will expire between March and December 2018, I recommend you renew your passport by the end of 2017, latest. Visit the U.S. State Department’s web site at travel.state.gov for renewal instructions and the necessary forms.
Check out our other Resources such as frequently asked questions, general health information, travel insurance info, and more.