10/4/13 - I could have spent more time in Croatia - but I was RIGHT THERE by Bosnia & Herzegovina - and history won out over more beach time. I remembered the 1993 war from the Clinton years but honestly I didn't remember it as well as I should have. From 1992 - 1995 Bosnia was at war. I was finishing college and just trying to afford to live on my own. I was waitressing, interning, working in a coffee shop and scraping money together to get out of Lansing, Michigan. World news was buzzing in the background but I wasn't paying more than passing attention. I had been to Europe once and it would be 10 years before I'd be able to afford to go back. Travel has been an obsession since then. Eastern European history amazes me now.
I hung around Split, waiting for my bus to Mostar.
I people-watched and sat in view of the pretty Italian architecture:
My bus turned out to be a 1980s van that fit about 8 people. I really regret not taking a photo of it. But it wasn't until after we started moving that I was even convinced that I was on the right bus. The 3.5 hour trip took 4.5 hours. In the last hour of the trip I met the older man behind me and a teenager I assumed was his grandson. The old man moved to England just before the war. The younger guy was a college student who went to school in Croatia. They didn't know each other but were both going home to visit their families and joking around like old family members, themselves.
As we were getting closer to Mostar, we went through a small town and they both started laughing. They explained that the town was full of "how you say.. the people are funny. The people they are strange in that town!" haha.
They both told me about Mostar and the student didn't understand why I wanted to visit because it was SO BORING. I didn't want to come out and tell them that I'm some sort of creepy war tourist. I think the older man understood why I was there and he was happy that I wanted to see it. They told me about the famous bridge that was destroyed in 1993 during the war, and how a few people on each side of the river still carry a tiny bit of resentment for each other. One side is Croat, one side Bosnian.
I stayed in the historic Muslibegovic house, a hotel-museum. Right outside my room were these fun characters! The woman is so disgusted with the man. She's holding a drink and looking away.
My room was furnished with traditional decor. I loved the canopy.
I went out for dinner and I saw the famous bridge that was reconstructed in 2004. I'm glad I arrived at night, it was so beautiful! Mostar was like a cozy little fairytale. It was much colder to be away from the ocean, up in the hills.
I had Bosnian sausage with some sort of pita bread and plavic wine. It was nice after a long day in a van!
There really were people out and I wasn't just wandering around in the dark as it looks in this picture.
The next morning I saw bullet holes in some of the buildings.
Here is a sign that shows the bridge blown apart:
I went to the cemetery on the main street and I saw grave after grave after grave of young men who were born the year I was born and all died in 1993. It made me feel stunned and sad. These guys should have been starting their adult lives like I was that year. I was in a strange funk for the rest of the day. My generation supplied all the soldiers for this war.
This is also why the Berlin wall is so interesting to me - This was my generation's history.
I went to the Stari Most (Mostar bridge) museum and watched the historical film with real footage of the bridge being blown to bits and all the bombings and bullets that tore up the streets I had just walked on. The bridge was constructed of a red clay, and when it crumbled into the river people said it was like "blood of an old friend".
After the serious sadness of the cemetery and bridge museum, I stopped at a Burek stand - Burek is this delicious spiral meat pie that I also ate at the hotel breakfast. (I actually ate so much of it at the breakfast that they had to put more out so that the other guests could have some, ha) The seating was communal and I sat with some older, laughing couples who made me try their tea. Their laughing and friendly questions lifted me out of my mood.
I went to the top of the minaret in the mosque and saw this.
I love how shiny the cobblestones are in Mostar.
When I got back to the hotel, I got a surprise from AT&T. They called me to tell me that I'd racked up over $400 in roaming while in Bosnia, because it was not covered in my international plan. It took me over an hour to straighten this out. I DID tell them I was going there, they just didn't happen to cover it or tell me. They eventually waived all the fees after I got home. $400 for one day? WOW! I was lucky and grateful that this was waived.
After one full day and two nights, I moved on to Zagreb, Croatia to head north eventually to Ljubljana. The bus ride took over 10 hours. I really didn't think this trip through - I saw some great things but I spent so long on buses rushing around. The Muslibegovic house packed me a lunch for the journey which I thought was really sweet. Like I was a kid going off to school! Complete with a little juice box and an apple.
On the way to Zagreb (after safely out of Bosnia and its horrible roaming fees) I tried to pull up maps to see how we were progressing. We crept along at a snail's pace all day. I got bus sick and couldn't read. I couldn't eavesdrop on any conversations because everybody spoke Croatian or Bosnian.