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Published: December 20th 2011
We’d had quite a good few days in Sarajevo, and leaving was hard; the stunningly beautiful drive through the mountains of Southern Bosnia made it that bit easier. The bloke on the cruiser in front of us thought the same, repeatedly risking his life to take photos while leaning through the corners one handed.
We headed more or less south, towards Mostar. As we drove, the country dried out, becoming much more Mediterranean, rougher, dustier, more to my taste, less to Klaire’s. We passed through Mostar and headed for the tiny nearby town of Blagaj, about a ten minute drive. There were a number of campsites around. And half of them were shut for the winter. It was the first of the month, and that signified the end of summer for many.
We started to get a little desperate, but wound up at the best campsite yet. Camping Aganovac. Right on the banks of the Buna River, it was tiny – not more than a suburban backyard in size. Cars had to be parked next door. We drove down and were greeted by a very friendly cat and his equally friendly human. We set up our little tent, facing
the pub which was literally a stone’s throw away, across the river. You had two options for getting to the pub; you could walk up and over the nearby bridge, or simply take the canoe from the front of the campsite. You could swim, but the water was barely above freezing.
The young bloke that owned the campsite was very chatty, and spoke great English, having lived in the US for some time. His dad was even cooler – not a bit of English, he was very cheerful, rocking up each day on an old Vespa with a coffee and a huge smile.
We spent the first night watching the football – Bosnia vs Bielorrusia. It was a big game, a Euro qualifier. The campsite had to telly, but we could see the telly at the pub across the river. Some of the other campers were eating a nicely cooked trout. It turned out that you could duck across to the pub and they would wander down and grab one out the river cage for you – ridiculously fresh.
We had some interesting conversations with the owner. When he realised we were Australians and not French he
loosened up a bit, and had a lot to say about the 2006 world cup. There is still a hell of a lot of bad blood in that area between the Croats and the Bosnians, so when Japan played Croatia they were supporting Japan. Then – Australian played Croatia.
The town was painted green and gold, and everyone knew all the names of the Australian team; Kewell, Cahill, etc. And Australia won! Massive celebrations and a few nasty clashes with Croatian nationalists. There remains a problem with Croatian nationalism in and around Mostar – the Croatians still think it should be a part of Croatia, and the Bosnians aren’t too happy with that attitude. This conversation and the sheer amount of clean new white headstones at the local Islamic cemetery a poignant reminder that this hadn't always been a slight out of the way tourist paradise.
A short walk up the Buna River through the little town from the campsite was the source of the river. This was truly a magical spot; although it had certainly been discovered by restaurateurs and locals. The Buna issued from a dark cavern at the base of a towering limestone cliff. The
water was ice cold, an absolute relief in the dry Bosnian sun. You could walk across a small bridge, up behind a couple of old buildings, and you were right at the cavern mouth.
A young Bosnian bloke implored us to hire him for a ride into the cave on a dodgy looking boat. Unfortunately for him he was competing with river-cooled Sarajevska Pivo – I don't need to tell you who won. The river was so cold, having just come out into the sun, that the restaurants and bars lining the river simply lowered crates of beer into the water to join the schools of trout fingerlings in the hatcheries, fishing one out for you, dripping and refreshing.
In Mostar itself we parked near the offensively sized Catholic steeple and walked into the centre. Past the amazingly bullet scarred wall, seemingly left as a reminder. Here, in southern Bosnia, it had been the Croats that laid siege to the Bosnians – it seemed the Bosnians had copped it from just about everyone. They had destroyed the famous bridge over the Buna. It had been rebuilt so young blokes in small togs could leap off it and get
paid by tourists.
We wandered around town, looking at the sights, along cobbled road so smooth by age that I almost slipped and fell on my arse a number of times. It was hot, and quite busy with sightseers, and a beautiful town. As busy as it was in a late European summer, it was still easy to find a quiet, cool out of the way spot to test the quality of the local beer.
And the quality was high.
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