After our interesting trip to Montenegro, we decided to do the other day trip that is widely advertised at the Dubrovnik agencies. This is a trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina (which I will now refer to as B&H… because that is a tricky one to type… also the local guide was quite adamant that they not be called Bosnia for short!)
Steve was a little wary when I suggest a day trip to B&H, because all we really knew about it was the war. We figured if it is a widely offered day trip it must be okay, and it would be a good idea to go and find out more about this country.
The bus picked us up outside our apartment again at 7:30 in the morning. This time we were on a bigger vehicle with about 13 people altogether. We had a driver and a guide instead of one person doing both jobs.
Our first stop was the Dubrovnik Bridge for a photo opportunity. We did as we were told and took a photo 🙂
After this we got back on the bus and headed to our “coffee break” stop in Neum. Neum is in B&H, on a short stretch that fronts the ocean.
Here is Steve at the spot where we first stepped foot in B&H.
I’m not sure why they divided the country up this way, but I’m assuming it was to give B&H access to the Adriatic Sea.
Look at that little tiny part to the north of Dubrovnik that goes to the ocean, that is B&H’s access to the sea! (You might have to zoom in to see it properly, I haven’t figured out how to work the map application totally yet!)
We actually ended up crossing the border 3 times before we got to Medjugorje. First we crossed into B&H to get to Neum. At this border our bus driver stopped at the booth. One guard was talking to another guard and looked annoyed at us as he just waved us through.
Next we crossed back into Croatia. Then finally, we crossed back into B&H to visit Medjugorje. They took our passports at the final border crossing, but once again we didn’t get stamps!
To be honest with you I had never heard of Medjugorje before this trip. It is an “unapproved” destination of Catholic pilgrimmage due to six local children claiming to have seen visions of the Virgin Mary in 1981. There are also two local visionaries who claim to receive messages from the Virgin Mary on the 25th and the 2nd of each month. This is the third most visited apparition site in Europe with more than 1 million people visiting each year!
The site where the visions occured is at the top of a very steep hill… mountain really… but you can see it because it is marked with a large cross.
They have a very large Catholic Church in the town which was packed with parishioners (it was Sunday morning after all!)
There were so many people there for mass that people brought their own chairs to sit outside (or stand as you can see to the left in the photo.
There was also a large outdoor chapel in the back. It may look empty, but the shady spots at the back under the trees were filling up once the actual mass started!
They actually broadcast the mass on a large screen so the people outside could take part.
After looking around the church area, we looked at the shops, and then it was time to be on our way to Mostar.
When we arrived we met our local guide, Ivana. Although she was young, she had quite good insight into the historical and political turbulence of this small country. It was quite fascinating to listen to her information (and opinions) on B&H. I really recommend that you read about it (if you are interested in this kind of stuff… it has a complex political and ethnic make-up).
This is a region that traces human settlement back to the Neolithic age, and has a varied cultural heritage due to its six historical civilizations. There is a strong Turkish influence, which you can see when you come across the Minarets. There was one you can climb to the top of, but in true Lisa fashion I chose lunch over sightseeing 🙂
As we were walking into town we saw some buildings that had been destroyed in the most recent war. Ivana joked (or maybe she wasn’t joking?!?!) that the government chooses one building a year to reconstruct. This is a pretty sobering reminder of the devastation that went on less than 25 years ago.
If you google Mostar (which I did because I wondered why we were going there), you will come up with images of its iconic bridge. The bridge is called “Stari Most” which translates to “old bridge” and is a reconstructed medieval arched bridge.
As you enter the old town you come across the “little bridge”, which is a replicate of Stari Most.
I was quite taken aback by how beautiful Mostar was. It is certainly not how I visualized a war-torn country.
The streets were quite slippery. The cobblestones were very bumpy and smooth. Ivana said she likes to think of it as a “massage for your feet” 🙂
After a short walk, we finally arrived at the bridge. As you can see, countless other people also arrived at the bridge!
If you look closely, you can see that someone is jumping off the bridge. This is their chosen profession! They collect money from the tourists on the bridge, and when they deem they have enough they jump! Keep in mind, that the distance from the top down to the river is 25 meters. To put that in perspective it is about as tall as an eight storey building!
The bridge is four meters wide and 30 meters long. I would also like to add that it is VERY slippery. As well as being steep the stones are quite smooth, which makes it difficult walking in sandals. Ivana showed us a little trick for walking down the bridge so you don’t fall.
The stone bridge was first built during Ottoman rule in the 16th century to replace the original medieval bridge that was of “dubious stability” 🙂 The old bridge remained intact for 427 years until it was destroyed in the war in 1993.
Ivana showed us video of the bridge being destroyed, and I have to say it brought tears to my eyes. It really makes you think what life must have been like for people living through the horrific situation, when you see evidence of what happened to a bridge you just stood on. The bridge was reconstructed as an exact replicate, and was reopened in 2004.
After the tour Steve and I went for lunch with a few people from our tour, and Ivana our guide. I tried a local dish called cevapi, which was basically small grilled meet sausages with pita bread.
That’s Ivana in the bottom left of the photo 🙂
After lunch we went off on our own and took a look at the bridge from the bottom. It was such a gorgeous view that Steve took quite a few photos. I’ve picked my favourite to share with you 🙂
There was a bit of a flat area where you could reach the water, and this is where we splashed ourselves with water to cool off a bit. Todays blistering hot temperature topped out at 42 degrees celsius!
We waited for a bit because we could see the divers (actually they didn’t dive, they just jumped) collecting money and thought they might jump soon, but no such luck. Mostly we just watched them collecting money for 20 minutes…
After strolling through the town, we headed back to the bus.
Side note: Steve and I are always joking about funny things we see, and this one tickled my funny bone for some reason. Anyone want to park their car in here? It’s open 24 hours 🙂
Okay, as you may notice the parking is actually to the right… but it was funny 🙂
We headed to our final destination which was the small town of Pocitelj. This small village is a walled town thought to be built in the late 1300’s.
We only had a short time in this town, and the main purpose was to walk up through the city up to that fort to look at the view.
At this point I was basically melting into a puddle. At about half way I stopped in the shade, and told Steve I’d wait for him to come back down 🙂 He, of course, made it to the top and took some beautiful photos!
After our short stop in Pocitelj, we headed back to Dubrovnik for a cold shower and a rest in the air conditioning 🙂
We were both glad we had the opportunity to visit this complicated and beautiful country.