The day after our walking tour of Sarajevo at 8am we left by coach for Dubrovnik in Croatia stopping in Mostar, a city which had been almost completely destroyed in the 1990s war.

As we travelled south the weather gradually changed from a beautiful sunny day to non-stop rain by the time we stopped in Mostar.

In my article on our time in Sarajevo I did not mention a couple of things with regard to the buildings in the city. Many of them were still covered in bullet holes whereas others had been very well rehabilitated. When we enquired as to whether it was the council/government or the owners who carried out the work our guide, Nira, told us that owners in residential buildings are responsible for their own buildings. The problem is that only those who have sufficient money can get them renovated.

21A refurbished building

Although people owned their homes (flats), many of them are unemployed. When we were there in 2014 unemployment in Bosnia stood at around 50% so the next question was ‘How can the people afford to purchase their home?’ Nira explained that during the period of Socialism the government allocated a home to every family and after the fall of Socialism they were able to purchase their homes at a quarter of the market price. This has meant that the only homeless on the streets are dogs! Similar buildings were seen in other towns we visited in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia.

We arrived at Mostar at about 10am and the rain was coming down in sheets. We were to spend 2 hours there giving time to visit the rebuilt Old Bridge and the museum. The bus parked in the allocated area which was about a kilometre from the street to take us down into the old town. We all had our umbrellas and jackets on but the rain was so heavy that they were not entirely effective. In addition, being old streets, these were cobbled and slippery meaning we had to be very careful walking down the hill. I was extra cautious as I remembered that it was on a dry cobbled street in Ronda, Spain that I fell and broke my leg in 2002. Somehow I managed to walk on it for the next 3 weeks and when it was x-rayed after I arrived home doctors could not understand how I had done this. I was in plaster for the next 4 weeks!

29 A VERY rainy day in MostarA rainy welcome  to Mostar

31 Trevor in a very wet Mostartrevor very wet in Mostar

Mostar, which is the main city in Herzegovina, is also one of the oldest in the country dating back to pre-historic times based on relics discovered. In the Middle Ages it was part of the Ottoman Empire and it was at that time that the bridge over the Neretva River was built. It had stood undamaged until the 1990s when it was deliberately destroyed by the locals to prevent insurgents crossing the river. It has since been rebuilt exactly as it had originally been. We, Trevor and I, walked down to and over the bridge and took a quick peek at some of the buildings of the ancient part of the town and then headed back to the bus to eat lunch. The other 5 of our group did almost the same and within in an hour or so we were all ready to leave Mostar.

Steps on the new old bridge in MostarThe steps up to the ‘new/old’ bridge

An Ottoman empire era bridgeAnother bridge from the Orroman Empire Age

Just to the South of Mostar we passed the road to the Shrine of the Queen of Peace in Međjugorje. This is a Roman Catholic Retreat which became very popular from April 1981 when a number of sightings of apparitions of the Virgin Mary were acclaimed. Right from the start it became an important place for Roman Catholics to visit even though it was not approved by the Vatican. Interestingly, while we waited for our connecting flight from Istanbul to Sarajevo, there was a group of about 10 people from Port Shepstone, KZN SA, who were on their way to Međjugorje. Until then we had never heard of it and had no idea that we would be driving right past it a couple of days later. A gentleman in our group told us that he had visited Međjugorje twice, once soon after 1981 and then again about 10 years later and he had been so disappointed at how commercialised it had become.

Although we left Mostar about 30mins earlier than expected, we did not reach our lunch stop until just on 1pm as planned. We could not leave Mostar after an hour, even though we were all ready to do so, because the tour coaches in Europe have trackers fitted and they are checked after each tour. These trackers record all details of the journey and drivers have to stop at certain intervals and for a minimum time.

For lunch we stopped at a roadside service station rather like the Ultra City or One Stop roadside services. By now the rain had stopped and we were able to admire some really beautiful scenery in Southern Croatia. It was also very obvious that we were now in the Roman Catholic dominated south of Herzegovina and Croatia as on top of many hills were crosses. Most were not very prominent, but on the hill opposite where we had stopped for lunch and a ‘comfort’ stop was an extremely high and visible cross. 

32 Overlooking our Lunch stop on the way to DubrovnikView from our lunch stop

033 A cross on a hill near our lunch stop between Sarajevo DubrovnikA cross high on a hill

As we continued on the last leg our journey to Dubrovnik we learnt of 2 more interesting things on this road. First was that about 40kms from Dubrovnik we crossed the border into Croatia. A short while later we crossed back into Bosnia, there were no checkpoints though, and within a very short while we were back in Croatia.

The 2nd interesting bit of information is directly linked to this issue of crossing borders. It is the initial span of a bridge. Because many Croatians had complained that they were unhappy having to travel through any part of Bosnia to visit family and friends in Croatia but on the other side of this strip of Bosnia-Herzegovina. True to a politician’s efforts to get elected, the current local political representative promised to get a bridge built over a part of the sea inlet which would directly link Croatia on one bank to Croatia on the other. In the run up to the election in 2010 the first span was built. When we were there in 2014 there was still just a single completed span! Guess they are waiting for another election.

036 View from our lunch stop at NeumA view of Dubrovnik from the highway

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