Bosnia & Herzegovina: August 2009


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Europe » Bosnia & Herzegovina
August 1st 2009
Published: September 19th 2009
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Our entry into Bosnia from Croatia was unusual to say the least. We had a road map of the general area and we were happily heading to Metrovic to cross the border. We reached an isolated little check point (just 2 guys in uniform waving through a steady line of traffic on a dusty disused road) and asked where the Bosnian border was - the guy just pointed and grumbled “Bosnia.” So we drove off, expecting to find border control shortly. As it happened we ended up driving about 15 minutes on tiny country roads (gravel and dirt) before we emerged to some sort of civilization. We started seeing road signs etc that were very different to those we had seen in Croatia... after much consultation of the map, we realized to our chagrin that we had no idea what country we were actually in! After some confusion we found signs towards the border crossing, which weirdly seemed to be in the wrong direction, however off we went and once we arrived we were intrigued to find that we were in fact in Bosnia in a queue to get back to Croatia! (What The...!?). We ended up having to retrace our route through the dodgy-back-alley-criminal-underground sneaky entrance and ask the disinterested man at the pokey little road side stall to stamp our passports!! How often do you as a traveller have to more-or-less beg to be stamped in?! Whacky! (We were worried we might have trouble leaving if we had not officially entered!)

However curious it was at the time we were soon chuckling to ourselves as we drove up towards Mostar - a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the major tourism draws for Bosnia since the 1900s (Obviously not so popular during the years of warfare). On our way to Mostar we passed many castles and ruins and a generally very lovely landscape, but as we arrived into the city proper we began to get a feel for just what this country had been through. As Mostar is a major draw card for Bosnia, much of the city has been rebuilt since the troubles of the early/mid 90s during the Balkan wars - however it was impossible not to be staggered by the blatant evidence of conflict. Whole sides of buildings were riddled with bullet holes and there would often be large chunks missing entirely (grenades and RPGs). It was crazy to see a nicely refurbished building surrounded on both sides by thousands of bullet holes and battle scars. The famous Old Bridge of Mostar itself was destroyed in the wars and then painstaking rebuilt to exact proportions - using the original materials whenever possible.

After ogling the incredible signs of war we eventually found our Guest-house (no easy task - very few Bosnians speak any English and although they are very friendly it does make it tough - a multitude of one-way streets don’t help either!). We then headed to the famous Stari Most area, which is one of the more attractive places we have seen :-) It’s just such a gorgeous spot, the stunning bridge, the old buildings covered in climbing plants, the cobblestone streets, the beautiful river itself and looming over everything are the impressive and towering stone hills. Altogether it makes Mostar a very special place indeed. Mostar seemed to have a very large muslim population so there were many mosques and a definite Arab influence to a lot of the architecture and cuisine - yum - Turkish delight!

We wandered through the Old town area and had to stop several times for drinks as the temperature had crept up to 38 degrees and in the windless valley it was pretty intense! -still, some homemade lemonade certainly hit the spot! We spent the evening wandering the city (which is actually quite small) constantly staggered by the sheer evidence of the conflict as sometimes a large windowless wall would be literally covered with bullet holes - the questions is: but why would you shoot a wall??!! (target practice or just bad aim?)

The next morning we drove around the city and took in some more of the sights and generally tried to soak up as much as we could of the very unique town of Mostar.


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