Bosnia: A Country with a Troubled Past

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Europe » Bosnia & Herzegovina » West
July 17th 2011
Published: July 18th 2011EDIT THIS ENTRY

Last night the tour committee had a special meeting to discuss the itinerary for today. After reading about Bosnia it was decided to alter our original plans of driving north through Croatia and instead take a route through Bosnia to our destination at the Plitvice Lakes.
The first part of our drive took us north through Mostar to Jablanica. The road followed the Nevetra River through a picturesque gorge with rugged mountains all around us. The river is used for hydro electric power so there are many small lakes where the water is a brilliant green. From Jablanica we headed west through a mix of forested, agricultural and mountainous countryside. At one point we had to stop at traffic lights by some road works in the middle of nowhere. Sitting there was an almost dead gypsy woman with a “baby”. She staggered to her feet and came and asked for money. As we moved on we spotted a group of at least three other women sitting slightly off the road all smoking and waiting for their turn to collect money from the gullible. How they got there or who dropped them off was anyone’s guess. Perhaps they had the Mercedes stashed in the bushes somewhere.
We had chosen the city of Jajce for lunch as it came with good recommendations in the Lonely Planet guide and the receptionist at our hotel said it was worth a visit. We were on a fairly tight schedule so we couldn’t spend as much time exploring as we would have liked. Jajce has been there a long time and parts of its city wall still surround the old town. Like much of Bosnia there is evidence of the war in this town beside quite new modern structures. From a distance the local cemetery stands out with its white headstones marking the graves of victims of the war.
It didn’t take long before we entered the Republic of Srpska, a semi autonomous part of Bosnia, and homeland of a notorious Bosnian-Serb leader. This part of Bosnia had open countryside suitable for mechanised agriculture, similar to that of many parts of New Zealand.
We were heading for Bihac, a large town in Bosnia and our last chance to use up our small amount of Bosnian Marks before crossing the border from Bosnia to Croatia. This crossing was unlike any of the others we have made on this trip. There was a very long line of trucks with drivers waiting patiently, but their patience grew thin and before too long a cacophony of sound emanated from their horns in the hope of encouraging the border guards to get a move on. After about 40 minutes it was our turn to confront first the Bosnian officer and then the Croatian officer. No problems from the Bosnian official but we began to wonder when we presented our passport to the Croatian officer. First she checked our photos and then flicked through, obviously looking for a visa. Good Kiwis don’t need a visa. It appeared that our new passports with dual English/Maori language were troubling her. However, after an anxious wait our passports were returned and we were on our way to a delightful destination near the Plitvice Lakes.
Some standout features of our short stay in Bosnia are the amount of rubbish everywhere, the constant reminders of the 1990s Balkan Conflict and the incredibly hair-raising driving of the locals. The people we have met have been extremely friendly. We have felt quite safe, except when meeting an oncoming car on our side of the road. Any worries about entering Bosnia before we left home were quite unfounded. It has certainly been a country worth visiting.


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