Bosnia and Hezergovina People & Culture

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Road trippin

Written by Renato Matiolli

While the boat is not ready yet to set sail, we decided to take a road trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina (to be kindly shortened to B&H throughout the post), which is not too far from where the boat is.

BiH fanUntil today, to be fair, we knew very little about B&H. We were aware that it was one of the countries from the former Yugoslavia and that it had been on war during the early 90’s, we were also familiar with that famous and beautiful song U2 and Pavarotti made together, “Miss Sarajevo”. Besides that, we also knew that the country’s national football team’s colour were blue and yellow with stars, so entering into a soccer store felt like entering Boca Juniors’ headquarters.

Shoots on the wallHowever before going, we read a lot about the country and we actually felt bad about not knowing more, mainly about the recent history. Yugoslavia “spin off” was quite bloody, especially in B&H. Though it seems a long time ago, it was in fact only twenty years ago and the scars of the war can still be seen around the country, for example there is a series of places where you can still see plenty of bullet marks across the building walls.

We did not visit Sarajevo, which is the main city from B&H, instead we made a road trip that took us to Mostar, the main city from the Herzegovina region.

Mostar is a very interesting city of many ethnic groups and in fact during the peaceful Yugoslavia years, it used to proud itself by showing ethnicity did not matter. The beautiful old bridge was a symbol to unity the different believes, ethnicity and religions.

Old brigeUnfortunately during its independence these same differences divided the people and the crumble of the bridge was a emblem of it and it was also a way to get into the Mostar residents morale.

Luckily the landmark bridge, which had been totally brought down during the war, now has been completely restored, and the positive note is that the city is recovering, the young generations get together in cafes and is rebuilding the mindset that these differences do not matter and that people can leave together in harmony.

So for us, it certainly got us thinking of how lucky most of us are for not having gone through war like this. We also tried to see everything on the positive side and hope for the best and that they continue to find this balance.

City on the roadGoing back to our visit, to begin with, the road trip itself was amazing, we took through a beautiful windy road that followed the river up all the way to Mostar. The drive through the valley took us to a series of charming little towns and amazing landscape.

LandscapeThe quality of the highway in Croatian part is incredible. There is not such a thing in Brazil. It is even kind of dangerous for us since there is no crazy turns or wacko drivers crossing in front of you, so it is sort of hard to keep attention on the road and you are always getting sleepy behind the wheels.

LojinhaThe city center of Mostar is in fact quite touristy, there are a people asking you for money on the streets and a series of little tourist shops selling all sorts of souvenirs. I kept asking myself, “Who buys these things?!” And not to my surprise, when I look to my side, Sarah was delighted in a Turkish lamp shop and had the brilliant comment: “Why don’t we buy a souvenir of every place we go to?” I already pictured our lovely minimalist boat practically turned into a floating antique shop, like those floating markets in Bangkok… I just had to quickly drag her away from it all.

Bugigangas  Cacarecos  Luminarias

The river that cuts through the city is incredible, the water is amazingly green and super transparent, the bridge and Stari Grad (the old town) has a personality of its own and they also have quite charming restaurants with terraces if you want to have a meal or coffee overlooking the landmark bridge.

Margem direita  Margem esquerda

As soon as we got there Sarah went mental and got really crazy and wild using her new toy, a selfie stick. Tough we felt like late adopters of this gadget, it was a fun toy to play around with. Looking at the phone screen and trying to align yourself to the view, monument, etc, it is not an easy task. Well, at least not for us “late adopters”.

Sarah's selfie 2  Sarah's selfiesSelfie casal

Well, going back to the bridge, a cool fact about it is that there is a 400 year old tradition Bosnia Mostarwhere man dive from it into that freezing cold river, wearing some tiny looking speedos. Luckily that is for locals only, known as the “guardians of the bridge”.

By the way, I don’t really see how those tiny speedos fit in with a mostly Mulsin city. However it certainly it is part of one ethnicity accepting the other and living in harmony. This is another thing we learnt about B&H, it is a predominant Muslin country and the Mosques around Mostar make the city yet more interesting.

HostesesThe Ottoman Empire ruled the region for four centuries and in addition to religion they have also influenced cuisine (we found a restaurant with nice Arabic food and hostesses), architecture (as on the bridge arch) and assortment of stuff on souvenir shop (knifes, lamps, etc.).

Mel e laranjaOn our way back, to finish the day, we found some cute little roadside stands selling home made jams, olive oil, honey and fruits. My mom would love this place and so did Sarah, she could not keep herself from grabbing a few pots.

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Renato Matiolli

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