29.06.15 – 30.06.15
After a few recovery days in Split, our time has finally come to say our farewells to Croatia after a month long adventure along the coast. While we’re excited for the next chapter of heading further east, we’re still feeling slightly sad departing this country which has been a personal highlight for us both so far. Apart from anything else, it’s sad enough just leaving the coast; something very apparent to us once the bus from Split commenced its drive and we hugged the beautiful secluded bays for as long as possible until we headed east and eventually arrived at the Bosnian border.
After waiting for what felt like a lifetime, we pass through passport control and head onto Mostar. We instantly feel as if we’re in another world, and it’s a bit confronting. We can’t drive more than two minutes without passing a cemetery, in the remaining few hours of our bus ride it makes me shudder to think the number of ghosts we speedily passed. I obviously know there was a war here that happened in the 90s, as a result of the break up of Yugoslavia –but that’s mostly the extent of my knowledge. Daniel and I feel equally quite ignorant about this, so I can tell our time in Bosnia Herzegovina (BiH) and then Serbia is going to extremely eye-opening in a very raw way –starting with when we pulled into Mostar and approached the bus station.
Mostar was one of the most heavily hit parts of BiH during the war, and you can plainly see these fresh scars all around the city. Buildings are completely pock covered, the government not having the money to repair the damage caused by the constant shelling of the city. Aside from the bullet holes, there are also just abandoned, destroyed buildings, rather ruins, which look as if they need to be just torn down instead of sitting there as a heavy reminder of a violent war less than 25 years ago. We later learn that in fact, Mostar alone was under siege for 18 months from early 1992 until the end of 1993.
The old town is the main attraction for visitors, and it was wonderful to spend the afternoon wandering the laneways –although the cobblestones are particularly brutal! The winding streets all lead you to the old bridge, Stari Most, an exact replica of the original which dated back to the Ottoman Empire before it was destroyed during a massive bombing of the city in 1993. The Islamic style architecture marries well with the rest of the old town, which has a distinct Arabic feel to it, something really refreshing and interesting to see after spending so long in Catholic dominated Croatia.
Of course, another sight to see is in relation to the bridge –if you’re lucky you might see members of the local dive club jumping from the top. They usually collect money (just throw in a handful of change), and once they have enough, one lucky man will file along the edge of the barrier to the centre, and then perform a perfect pin drop falling 22m to the river below. Eeep. It’s not for the faint hearted. Aside from the height, the water is extremely cold, and the current is very strong. For all of these reasons, only members of the dive club are allowed to jump. Nonetheless, tourists who are
crazy brave enough can pay to take part in a course, culminating in them being given permission to jump.
We’re staying the night at Hostel Dino, less than a 10-minute walk from the old town. The owner, a kind lady whose name I wish I could remember, was very warm and welcoming. It’s a bit basic, but comfortable nonetheless. Plus we’re only here for the night so it’s not really a huge inconvenience.
Dinner tonight was at a local grill restaurant, where we had a stark introduction to the Balkan style of cuisine. Meat, meat, meat! Skinless sausages called ‘cevapi’ are a favourite around these parts, plus just about any other grilled meat. Vegetarians beware.
We’re only here for the night, just passing through on the way to Sarajevo. Only a short stop, but definitely worthwhile, and a good introduction to BiH and their fascinating and divisive history. Now, onwards to Sarajevo for what I can tell will be just as interesting.