Day 22. Periods of heavy rain followed by constant torrential rain. We arrived into Sarajevo at 7PM and were met by our pre arranged cab driver. The city is huge, around 400,000 and a mixture of old and new. Our hotel is located on the top of a very steep hill on the outskirts of the old town and is very quaint and full of charm. Apparently Michael Moore and Richard Gere have stayed here in the past (not together).
We went down for a wonderful breakfast and the back to our room to procrastinate going outside. At 11 AM it was apparent that it would not let up we ventured out.
We walked around and we were soaked to the skin even with raincoats and umbrellas. Are we having fun yet? No.
The old town was a series of shops, many coffee houses and restaurants on a cobblestone pedestrian walkway. We ducked into one for some Lebanese food. There is such a strong Turkish influence here. I would swear we were still in Turkey and not Sarajevo.
Fed up and still soaked we started to walk back and came upon a photo gallery museum about the war in 1993 so we went inside. A young man gave us and 6 others a history of what happened. He spoke very quickly with a heavy accent so we only caught around every second word, but we got the idea.
I realize just how ignorant I am about politics and history when I travel, which is one reason I love to do it so much. I have always had a hard time figuring out exactly what happened in Yugoslavia in the early 1990s and now I am a little bit clearer.
We started in a room with hundreds of photos of men and boys between the ages of 12 and 70. There were a couple of women too, but mostly men. These were just some of the people who were killed during the war here in 1993. Ethnic cleansing. Once again.
A 27 minute video was shown at the end as well as interviews with some of the survivors, mostly women. Heartbreaking. Like Poland the men and women were separated and the men were taken away and shot. Some escaped into the hills.
The Dutch arrived to staff a UN base and it was a safe zone for the refugees. Thousands of women and children arrived. Eventually the Serbs told the Dutch that they had to send them all away , and as the Dutch did not have a clear mandate of what they were supposed to do, they did and most of the refugees where then killed. The Serbs also took some of the UN uniforms and tricked a lot of the people who were hiding into thinking they were saved, only to be shot.
There are still many who are considered missing as their remains have never been found.
The Serbs would be up in the hills with sniper rifles and fire into the city. You can still see so many bombed out and shot buildings. They have done a great deal of rebuilding but there is still much evidence today.
Outside there were a couple of women about my age, or older, with their hand out for money. One was quietly sobbing. I couldn't help but wonder what her story was. Did all of her men get killed in the war? Was she now alone. I keep thinking about her.
We walked back to our hotel and just hung out in our room for the rest of the night.
Day 23. Church bells ring at 6AM to wake us. Two sets. They are followed by the call to prayer. One is right beside our hotel and very loud but the fellow has a lovely voice and we don't mind starting our day this way.
A drier day greeted us today which we were thankful for. We had booked and paid for four nights here but have decided to leave one day early and head to Mostar. Sarajevo is a big city and the weather is not great so we will try something else. But for today we are here, so we walk the city.
The woman at our hotel told us that the transit strike was still on today. The trams run on electricity and the company did not pay their electric bill so they were cut off. Half way to our destination we see the bus' and trams running again so I guess they paid their bill.
A very small museum was near the bridge. This is a famous spot where the Arch Duke Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated which started World War One. Yugoslavia was part of Austria at that time and he was here on an official visit. Five men were involved with the plot to assassinate him, the first attempt of a bomb failed but the second attempt of shooting them was successful.
Once again we wandered the old town, had lunch and went to an open market to buy some fruit and bread for breakfast tomorrow as we leave to early to eat at the hotel.
Day 24. 7AM train to Mostar Herzegovina. The train must have been luxurious in it's day, but falling apart now. We choose the non smoking cabin but it did not seem to matter as everyone smoked in their anyhow. I am under the impression that pretty much everyone here smokes and there are not any no smoking areas.
The train passes through beautiful rolling hills , craggy mountains and farmland as it goes through the mountains on the many switchbacks and through tunnels. At 10 AM we arrived and walked blindly to find our hostel. A lovely woman asked if she could help us, we looked lost. I said that I could not find any street signs and she said ' Yes, since the war they have not been replaced'. She pointed us in the right direction and we dragged our suitcases down the broken sidewalks for about 20 minutes. Just before we found it she came around the corner again to make sure we were still on track which was so nice of her.
We have booked a tiny room in a hostel that is very clean and in good repair. Run by a lovely German couple it cost only $27 per night. After dropping off our bags we make the short walk to the old town and the famous Stare Most bridge. As soon as we rounded the corner I was so happy that we left Sarajevo for Mostar. It is just beautiful. Another old walled city with narrow cobblestone streets with vendors on each side selling the many scarves, copper ware, jewelry, and souvenirs. Years gone by there were vendors here selling silks, copper and goods for the people in the area. It was a very important area of trade from Turkey to the Far East.
Mostar is a very popular destination for day-trippers from Croatia and Sarajevo. Large tour groups speaking Italian, German, Japanese and French congregate on the bridge.
Warm and sunny it is a breathtaking sight to see the green fast flowing river and the white bridge and towers beside it. A small museum was in one of the towers which we explored and learned more about this Unesco site.
The bridge was blown up in 1993. The rebuilding was symbolic as a sign that the war was over. It did not get finished until 2004 however. One of the pastimes of the local boys is to jump off the bridge and we saw footage from the 1950s of the original bridge as well as recently the boys do somersaults, backflips and swan dives into the river below. Judges hold up numbers from 1 -10 after they jump to say how they have done. We only saw one young man jump while we were there.
Once again there are many bombed out buildings and damaged homes. I have never been anywhere with such recent evidence of war.
Another small museum was toured and then back to our hotel for a few hours before venturing out for dinner and poking around the shops. We both just loved Mostar and were very glad we spent a night here.
Day 25. 6:30AM we are driven to the bus station by the owner of the hostel. Our bus is modern, clean and the no smoking signs are obeyed. Doug and I each sit on opposite sides of the bus as it is not crowded. The drive to the Croatian boarder takes us through many switchbacks and mountain tunnels. The small towns in the mountains look prosperous with newer homes and huge vineyards. Rolling hills and grapes as far as you can see.
Three hours later we see the water. Oh how I have missed the ocean. We are high up on the mountain highway and the dark blue Adriatic Sea is below fringed by turquoise blue and white sand at the edges. It looks so lovely, although I don't see anyone swimming in it. It is October after all, but none the less it looks magnificent. Our drive takes us along the Dalmatian coast for around an hour before arriving in Split. Our bus for Trogir is leaving right away so we are fortunate to transfer to another 30 minute bus ride.
Upon arrival we drag our suitcases across the bridge and through the tunnel in search of our home on this small connected island for the next few days. The instructions were vague so we need to ask a number of people. We are in a walled medieval village and head down narrow cobblestone roads with high walls on either side. It is like a labyrinth. Finally we find it (well someone else found it for us). We are staying in a heritage site, a former palace, and make our way up the small, narrow circular staircase to our lovely small room. The sun is warm and the sky blue, water surrounds us. I am very happy to be here in Croatia.