Bosnia 30/08/ – 02/09/2016
We embarked on our crossing of Bosnia-Herzegovina with the aim of taking in the crown jewels of this recently war ravaged country; Sarajevo, Mostar and Trebinje. The first impressions as you travel from Croatia are not great. The place looks a bit run-down and there are lengthy queues at the border. Our view took a further nosey downwards when the surly border guard insisted our Green card was not valid and confiscated our passports until we went and purchased some ‘proper insurance’ from his mother/sister/girlfriend. We went and met this apple of his eye and after an exchange of €20 and a bit of paper in Russian we were welcomed into the fledgling state and sent on our merry way. Crooks.
This country is a bit of a basket case with the Serbs in the majority in the North and East and the Bosnians in the middle. Various flags fly depending where you are and what religion you are but in the main all parties seem to get along on the surface. There is plenty of evidence in the Serb dominated north of the religious cleansing that was carried out in the recent war. There are endless blown up buildings and houses. As we don’t want to glorify war we took no pictures. However, after a while the landscape improves dramatically as head further into the mountains and the heartland of this new and vibrant land.
Sarajevo 30/08 – 01/09/2016
This is a city that sits in the centre of a bowl surrounded by mountains. May be for this reason this quite insignificant city keeps making world headlines. Firstly we have the assassination of Franz Ferdinand that kicked off the First World War, thanks for that lads. Next we have the siege that lasting for three years during the 1990’s that culminated in the biggest atrocity so far, Bono and his perennial Irish funsters knocking one of the worst songs ever made; Miss Sarajevo. Listen and weep.
We stayed on a campsite on the edge of the city and it nvolved a fifteen minute walk and half-hour tram ride into the centre. First point of interest was the Latin Bridge where the aforementioned Ferdy got his brains blown out. There is a stone that commemorates the point of one of the biggest turning points in European history. This was the start of the downfall of those evil empires that ruled and oppressed most of the world’s people including Britain. So maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing.
The Latin Bridge over non impressive river
Us looking happier than franz did
Where FF kopped the bullet that changed the world
Like all European cities this is made up of an old-town and a new town. The old town is this case is very Islamic centric and is reminiscent of a tiny version of Istanbul. There are small lanes with shops selling pretty awful tea sets and that is about it. There are some wonderful courtyard cafes where you sit and drink anything soft, no alcohol here. There are a few mosques which you can enter and a rebuilt town hall.
Monument. Think it is for pigeons
Rows of fake stuff for sale in Istanbul Grand Bazaar lookey likey
The Western Christian part of town has fewer buildings of note, more bars and streets of branded retail outlets.
Not seen a sign like this since Arizona
We finished with a meal on a riverside restaurant. It wasn’t that great. Next day we visited the Tunel Museum which lies to the South of the main Airport. This tunnel was built in 1993 to link the besieged city of Sarajevo with the last remaining part of Free Bosnia. Due to poor maintenance there is only 25m of the tunnel to walk through. This does give you a sense of the hardship involved during the recent dark days. This is a museum that is well worth a visit with some good exhibits, excellent looping movies and a free audio guide.
Tunnel Museum Entrance
Entrance to the Tunnel
Not ones to hang around we left the sights and sounds of Sarajevo and headed for Mostar. A city known throughout the world for its bridge. But before we get there we should mention the drive. Gosh this is a beautiful country. Thickly wooded slopes adorn irregularly-sculptured Karst mountain peaks. There are wonderful aqua marine lakes and glacier blue rivers to follow for most of the journey.
The road South
The first thing you notice about Mostar is the change of currency from the Bosnian Marks to the Euro. And not any old Euro the rest of the Belgian-based club the rest use. Nope, this new improved Euro only comes in multiples of 5. Everything here is priced in the Euro based upon the five times table. Could this be a way for the rest of the contracting Eurozone to follow? Could Italy, Spain and the rest stop being serial financial no hopers?
The next thing you notice are the swarms of tourists. Let’s be fair, there is only one thing to do in Mostar; see the bridge, and it is very tiny with a very tiny lane either side. Gosh is it crowded and we are out of prime season. Anyway, it is a tick in the box and if you want you can pay a local lad to dive off the bridge. We didn’t but we did watch.
Getting ready to dive
That night we stayed in a wonderful campsite just south of the town and were woken by our first major thunderstorm of the season.
This was our last port of call for Bosnia and in the main it was everything that Mostar wasn’t. It was uncrowded, it was cheap to park, it was a pleasure to walk around and the money was back to Marks.
This was another great drive through the beauty of Bosnia although the road surface did deteriorate when we left Herzegovina and entered the Serb Republic area.
Without being repetitive we wandered around the old-town, walked up to the old-bridge, had a coffee and left.
So, to sum up Bosnia. It is a very beautiful country that outside of Mostar is still a bargain. Generally apart from the odd in-bred Border Guard the people are friendly. It offers a different way down to Dubrovnik and the Adriatic if you don’t fancy the packed beaches of the Croatia and on the surface the peoples of distinct religions seem to be getting on just fine.
Love to All