November 30, 2021

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The Back Road to Mostar: Off the Beaten Path in Bosnia-Herzegovina

5 min read

As we’ve experienced to postpone our travels simply because of the pandemic, I believe that a weekly dose of journey dreaming can be very good drugs. This is a reminder of the fun that awaits us in Europe at the other conclude of this disaster.

On the lookout for a change of pace from Croatia’s touristic Dalmatian Coastline, I’m driving east from Dubrovnik to the city of Mostar, in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Virtually everyone producing this excursion will take the scenic coastal route. But with a spirit of journey, I consider the back again highway as an alternative: inland very first, then looping north by means of the Serbian component of Herzegovina.

Bosnia-Herzegovina’s 3 key ethnic teams — Serbs, Croats, and Bosniaks — are descended from the exact same ancestors and talk carefully linked languages. The crucial difference is that they apply diverse religions: Orthodox Christianity (Serbs), Roman Catholicism (Croats), and Islam (Bosniaks). For the most portion, you will find no way that a casual visitor could ascertain the religion or loyalties of the people today just by wanting at them. Learning the advanced demographics of the previous Yugoslavia, I attain a grudging respect for the communist-period dictator Tito — the one male who was ready to hold this “union of the South Slavs” collectively peacefully.

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Bosnia-Herzegovina is just one country, historically divided into two areas: Bosnia and Herzegovina. But the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords gerrymandered the state together sectarian lines, providing a degree of autonomy to the region exactly where Orthodox Serbs predominate. This “Republika Srpska” rings the main of Bosnia on 3 sides. When requested for driving suggestions, Croats — who, simply because of ongoing tensions with the Serbs, keep away from this territory — insist that the highway I want to just take as a result of their nation doesn’t even exist. From the primary Croatian coastal road just south of Dubrovnik, directional signs would send me to a small Croatian border city — but dismiss the significant Serbian town of Trebinje just over and above.

And nevertheless, Trebinje much more than exists…it is bustling and affluent. As I enter the town, police with ping-pong-paddle halt signs pull me above. I learn that you need to push with your headlights on at all several hours. My “dumb vacationer” schedule receives me off the hook. Parking the car or truck, I head to an outside marketplace to get income at an ATM to get some generate.

Bosnia-Herzegovina’s money is referred to as the “convertible mark.” Some bills have Cyrillic lettering and Serbian historic figures, though other people use the English alphabet and demonstrate Muslims or Croats. Like every little thing else in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the currency is a cautious balancing act.

Later on, immediately after a two-hour travel on deserted roadways by a rugged landscape, I arrive at the humble crossroads village of Nevesinje. Cities in this area all have a “café row,” and Nevesinje is no exception. It truly is lunchtime, but as I stroll by means of city, I never see a soul with any foodstuff on their plate — just beverages. Apparently, locals try to eat economically at dwelling, then delight in an very affordable espresso or drink at a café.

A cluttered minimal grocery is my answer for a fast meal. The aged male powering the counter looks content to make me a sandwich. Salami, which appears like Spam, is the only alternative. I acquire my sandwich to an adjacent café and fork out the equivalent of a US quarter for a cup of potent Turkish (or “Bosnian”) coffee, with hugely caffeinated mud at the base. Then I munch, consume, and observe the road scene. It is like observing a perform.

Significant males drive by in little beater cars and trucks. Higher-school young children crowd all over the window of the photography shop, which has just posted their class graduation pics. The flirtatious girls and boys on this cruising drag establish you you should not will need money to have design. As a result of a store window, I see a young couple choosing out a very simple engagement ring. 1 instant I think that Nevesinje is extremely various from my hometown…but the following, it would seem just the same.

Searching at the curiously overgrown ruined setting up across the street, I detect its bricked-up, pointed Islamic arches and comprehend it was at the time a mosque. Its yard is a no-man’s-land of bombed-out concrete and glass, exactly where a single, turban-topped tombstone nonetheless manages to stand. The prayer niche inside, where no a single prays any longer, faces east…to a further empty cafe.

Immediately after an hour’s drive above a twisty mountain road, I depart the Republika Srpska and get there at the city of Mostar. Pulling into town, I’m fatigued nevertheless exhilarated with the practical experience I obtained by using the road considerably much less traveled.

This article was adapted from Rick’s new guide, For the Enjoy of Europe.

Rick Steves (www.ricksteves.com) writes European guidebooks, hosts journey reveals on community Television set and radio, and organizes European tours. You can email Rick at [email protected] and follow his website on Facebook.

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