Still bearing the scars of war.
27.05.2013 - 27.05.2013 15 °C
So. Today we have continued on - a team of 8 travellers, 6 Belgians and 2 Aussies. The 10 of us (including our driver and Miriana our guide) are in a huge coach. The coach needs to go back to Zagreb ready for the next tour, so it made sense to take us with it.
We left Dubrovnik at 8.30am, going through the little piece of Bosnia, back in to Croatia and then crossed the official border into Bosnia and Herzegovina at around 10am. Bosnia and Herzegovina are two regions within the country. Bosnia means "place of water", Herzegovina means "land of the Duke".
We drove through the small town of Medjugorje (pronounced Madgioray) - which is now a popular tourist destination. In 1981 apparently the Virgin Mary appeared to 6 school children here. Now 1 million tourists per year come to this town.
We arrived in Mostar at about 11am. A lady called Blaschenka (means Blessed) met Red and I as our English speaking guide, and Miriana took the rest of the crew. We went on a walking tour of Mostar - a town that is on the road to Sarajevo. There is a lingering Turkish influence in the town - we were taken through a traditional Turkish House. Walking along the streets, there is evidence everywhere of the war 20 years ago. Buildings that still display bullet holes and shrapnel damage - a very sobering sight. My first thought was - why haven't they repaired the damage? Many people never returned to Mostar after the war - they were displaced. Of those that remain, in some cases there just isn't the money available to fund repairs. Looking at these homes every day would be a constant reminder of their tragic past. We were shown the local mosque and then taken to a lookout to see the beautiful bridge in Mostar. They call it the Old New Bridge as it was badly damaged during the recent war. The original architect of the bridge wanted it to be in the shape of a rainbow. It is really something to see. As with so many of the rivers in Croatia and Bosnia - this one is a beautiful green colour, that way because of the minerals in the water.
At this point Blaschenka said goodbye and we were on our own for a while before we met up with the others. The heavens opened and a torrential downpour took place in Mostar and on us. We found a little restaurant and had some lunch - traditional Bosnian cuisine. We continued walking along the pebble streets (now awash), through the market and then on to the little bridge which (being in the shape of a rainbow) inclines and declines quite quickly.
It was pouring again unfortunately. We met everyone in the little main square and huddled under a verandah, then walked to the bus to continue our journey - saturated - even though we wore rain jackets and had an umbrella.
There was a car accident on one of the small roads and our bus driver (don't know his name yet) had to turn our huge bus around to go back the way we came - he had to do a uey (U-turn). It was an 8 point turn - I counted them - great driver!
We travelled northwards towards Sarajevo through the most beautiful mountains and gorges. I wasn't even aware of this region - the best kept secret in Bosnia.
We arrived in Sarajevo at around 4.30pm and quickly checked in to our hotel. We met again 15 minutes later and took off on our tour of the city. Once again, there was an English speaking guide waiting for Red and I. Another history lesson for us - there is no way I'm going to be able to remember all of this info - but hopefully I'll retain some of it. Our guide Willy is a local guy and he focused more on the history of centuries ago, finishing with a bit of the Serbian-Bosnian War. We stood on the spot where Frans Ferdinand and his wife were assasinated in 1914. This act - with Austria attacking Serbia - was the catalyst for the start of WWI.
A bit of free time to walk around the centre of the city, and we were then taken back to our hotel. We had a really nice meal on Level 15 - in a revolving restaurant - giving us a 360 degree view of the city. We sat with our fellow travellers, and thank goodness - one older gentleman - Raymond (with the emphasis on "mond") - speaks some English. So we were able to communicate - with a bit of difficulty and a lot of laughs.