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Englishman in Dubrovnik Englishman in Dubrovnik

Has the new Peljesac Bridge created Dubrovnik’s Route 66

Written by  Sep 03, 2022

“What does this remind you of?” I said to my wife as we watched a documentary. “Where will this happen again but on a much smaller scale,” I continued. We were watching a documentary about the most famous road in the world, Route 66, in fact the rise and fall of the road that crosses the US from Chicago to Los Angeles.

The road was the lifeblood of the small towns along the way. In fact, many businesses sprung up and grew thanks to the traffic on the road. Communities were formed, families lived off the revenue from passing trade and infrastructure was constructed.

Whilst at the time it was built it was wide enough and large enough to handle the traffic flow over time it, as more trucks used the road, became too small. After opening America, from coast to coast, it was replaced by larger and wider highways. Of course, as the traffic moved so did the business.

Over time the small family businesses closed down and Route 66 was lined with ghost towns. The only real traffic on many parts of the road today are tourists following the romantic dream of this iconic road.

This documentary really reminded me of a trip closer to home. “Oh, it looks very nice, very impressive,” said my mother as we crossed over the new Pelješac Bridge. It is impressive, but there was one thing that was bugging me.

We had just driven part of the new access road that connects the south side of our county to the bridge, the part that isn’t completely finished yet. The road was as smooth as a baby’s bottom and was a joy to drive on.

We had, in the past, got used to driving on the old bumpy road that ran like a spine across the middle of the peninsular. And it was that bumpy road that I was thinking of, Dubrovnik’s Route 66.

Opening up the county with the new bridge has certainly improved the traffic and indeed opened many new doors for tourism. These new challenges haven’t yet been answered. Of course, we were going to get day-trippers from Split coming to Pelješac, this should have been clear to everyone. The bridge has not only cut the journey by around 100 kilometres but also bypassed the border controls at Neum. Of course more people would come from the north than the south, and head towards Korčula, which is absolutely rammed, to the “hidden” areas of Pelješac.

If you are driving from the south then it is still quicker to use the old route through Neum, providing that the queues at the borders aren’t too long. Although someone I know in Neum said that traffic has dropped by at least half. Pelješac is open for business and I expect that next year it will be extremely busy.

But the “mass tourism” that the bridge has brought isn’t welcome by everyone. Funnily enough I can vividly remember reading some articles about three years ago that highlighted the positive expectations of business owners and people on Pelješac as they believed that the bridge would bring them a whole new world of opportunities. It did. In the first month after opening almost half a million cars crossed over the bridge.

The bridge has changed the south of Croatia. Pelješac has become busy, the beaches there are full. But the one part of the peninsular that doesn’t appear to be that busy is the old road before the bridge, what I’ve already described as Dubrovnik’s Route 66. “Passing trade has just disappeared overnight,” explained a local to me. He has a small vineyard and used to sell wine to locals and tourists who used the old road. I say used to sell because the new bypass has meant that the old road is a ghost road. “I’m not sure what to do now, I don’t think it will get better,” he added. At least four small villages are completely off the radar now. If they were looking for a tranquil life then great, but if the old road brought you a way of living, well not great.

Time will tell whether these vineyards owners will survive, or whether they will fall like their American counterparts.

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