Step Back in Time: Bosnia & Herzegovina

Often the best adventures are those that aren’t pre-planned and this particular trip was a bit like that. I’d longed to visit Croatia, but there was no initial plan to make an excursion into Bosnia and Herzegovina, yet it proved a true highlight of the holiday. Before visiting I knew little to nothing about the country, but figured it wasn’t far and I had seen a few other bloggers rate it, so off we set along the heighted cliffs above the Adriatic, making distance through the vast rural plains and forested valleys of a country unknown.

Having passed through customs we rode on along the empty highways that crossed the sparse landscape, raindrops streaming across the glass. Our first stop was to the quaint village of Počitelj, built within a natural karst amphitheatre along the Neretva river. The area is UNESCO-protected and despite it’s size it was easy to see why, as I instantly longed to wander up the cobbled steps from the historic courtyard gate. Alas, the rain came down heavy and we didn’t have long, so I only roamed so far, instead taking shelter in a souvenir shop where we browsed the beautiful shelves crammed with various handicrafts and gifts.

As much as I wanted to explore the historical remnants of medieval and Ottoman influence, I settled for admiring them from afar as we delved inside a quirky little café complete with cosy conservatory and lots of cats. As a self-confessed cat-lover the combination of savouring a strong coffee with feline company was a most comfortable one. As for the coffee, I expected it to have strength, but boy was it bitter, even as a shot accompanied by the cream and sugar! An acquired taste I think it’s fair to say, perhaps I’ll stick to a milky tea, but I’m still glad I got to taste-test.

      

Then it was time to travel on to the country’s capital Mostar, an enchanting development steeped in a chequered history. A meeting place where East and West overlap against the Ottoman influence, many structures still baring the visible scars of the unsettling civil war of the 1990s. On arrival, we met with a local guide of similar age, who gave an insightful background to the his native country, it’s past, present and future hopes.

It was surprising to think that their troubles only ended a short while ago and I could resonate on levels as I thought to my own home-country of Northern Ireland and it’s relatively recent anguish as well. Thankfully both also share the similarity in that they are gradually regenerating into a brighter place without so many connotations and not only welcome tourists, but are utilising this new infrastructure to help boost low-employment and generate income.

I instantly fell under the charm of the medieval cobbles and fairytale-esque streets, lined with open market vendors selling their wares, but was equally enchanted with the riverside view of the colourful houses from below the iconic ‘old bridge’. It’s like Charles Dickens wrote, a tale of two cities, two facades that are learning to live as one. Stari Most is the official title given to the Ottoman bridge and has been felled but since restored to its former glory. It is undoubtedly the main draw for many visitors, who gather to watch young daredevils jump from its height.

We dined in a restaurant that came recommended from our guide after watching one of the fore-mentioned dives and took time to savour spaghetti and a glass of local wine in the rustic cabin, also full of friendly moggies. From there we wiled away some time wandering through the various stalls, filled with ceramics, glassware, copper and clothes and I walked away with a beautiful shrug. It was soon time to say farewell to Mostar and its medieval marvel, making off toward the remarkable waterfalls at Kravica.

The enduring rain eased briefly, long enough for us to take a couple of snaps by the falls, which provided the most beautiful sight endorsed by the surrounding autumnal foliage. It was a lovely way to finish the day, as we sought out the neighbouring roof terrace and enjoyed a hot beverage despite the seasonal weather. All-in-all it was proved both an insightful and inspiring day-trip and was well worth the early start + journey-time there and back.

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