ZigZagging Our Way Across Europe
We departed Split, Croatia for a trip to neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina. Originally a part of Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Herzegovina declared its independence in 1992 following the Bosnian War. While it remains a developing country even to this day, it has nevertheless become a popular tourist destination. With its Ottoman history, Bosnia and Herzegovina is a blend of Middle East meets the West.
Although we rarely take part in group tours, preferring instead to explore and experience destinations and cultures on our own, we highly recommend joining a tour group when traveling to – and within – Bosnia and Herzegovina. The political environment remains somewhat unstable and minefields still exist in rural areas and open fields if you plan on hiking. We chose to book through Viator which operates tours from Croatia. Our group consisted of only six people, and the tour guide was very wells knowledgable in passing us through numerous border entry points without problems.
Our first stop in Bosnia and Herzegovina was in the 15th medieval village of Počitelj. Located about 30km south of Mostar, Počitelj is situated in a deep river valley along the Neretva River and surrounded by rugged rocky mountains. We were immediately transported back in time.
With an early morning chill in the air, we couldn’t wait to try a cup of Bosnian coffee. Unlike Turkish coffee, Bosnian coffee is bitter, potent and about as thick as mud – yet surprisingly good!
It is traditionally served on a round metal tray (Bosnians are renowned for their copper metalwork), along with a džezva, a ceramic cup, sugar cubes and rahat lokum (a Bosnian candy).
Although the total population of Počitelj is just over 100 people, everyone was extremely friendly, offering fresh squeezed juices and locally grown figs.
Looming over the village is the Citadel Počitelj, an imposing structure that seems to rise majestically from rocky cliffs below. Built by King Tvrrko I of Bosnia in 1383, the fortress is now recognized as a UNESCO Heritage Monument.
Fully awake from the effects of the Bosnian coffee, we rejoined our group and began the journey to Mostar.
Established in the 15th century along the banks of the Neretva River, the cobblestone streets of Mostar are lined with bazaars offering beautiful metalworks, handblown glass and textiles.
Mostar is perhaps best known for the Stari Most, a bridge that spans the Neretva River.
Originally constructed in 1566, the bridge stood 29m long, 24m high and 4m wide, and was considered an engineering marvel. Unfortunately, after 427 years, it was destroyed during the Bosnian War. Under the supervision of UNESCO, the Stari Most was reconstructed in 2004 using the same materials and technology that were originally used in 1566.
Mostar is also known internationally for its annual diving competition. From atop the Stari Most, divers jump to the Neretva River that flows 24m below. The tradition dates back to 1664 and is not for the faint of heart! Not only is the water very cold, but only the most trained and skilled will try the jump and, yes, deaths have occurred.
Rafting On The Neretva River
Walking down the path from the Stari Most Bridge to the river bank, we found several local vendors offering short raft trips for only a few euros. We decided to take a leisurely 15-minute ride on the Neretva River to experience Mostar and its Ottoman architecture from a different perspective.
After enjoying a relaxing lunch of traditional Bosnian cuisine in Mostar, we rejoined our tour group for the 40km drive to the Kravice Waterfalls.
Plunging from cliffs as high as 25m along the Trebižat River, this watery amphitheater is popular among locals and tourists alike.
A few sets of stairs connect the parking lot to a winding path that lead to the Falls below. A tram is also available. Once at the Falls, we explored the beauty and hidden crevices before relaxing in the afternoon shade of the surrounding forest. A number of small restaurants border the water where you can enjoy a great view while dining on local Bosninan/Croatian cuisine, or relaxing with an iced cream cone or cold Staropramen beer.
Exploring Mostar’s Bosnian War Siege
Mostar was devastated during the Bosnian War of 1992-1995. While much of the Old Town has been rebuilt to reflect a storybook image, bunkers, ruins and buildings scarred from the shelling still remain 27 years later. Neglected bombed out buildings line the streets, reminders that tell the tragic story of the destruction that took place. Even today, tension exists among the differing religions and cultures.
Our return trip to Split was was the ideal time to reflect on the day in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The friendly people we met in Počitelj, the remnants of the Bosnian War that remind us of the destructive power of war on buildings and people’s lives, the sheer beauty of the Kravice Falls. As we pass a sign pointing opposite directions to Split and Saravjeo, we couldn’t help but wish our driver turned right so we could experience more of this conflicted, yet amazing, country.
Have you been to Bosnia and Herzegovina? Tell us about it!
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