Well to be honest, we weren’t quite sure what to expect.
We ended up in Bosnia and Herzegovina on a last-minute whim. We were making our way down the coast of Croatia, looked at a map and thought ‘Mostar doesn’t seem too far from here’. And it wasn’t. So we decided to cut out a Croatian Island tour and instead cut a path through the mountains.
So let’s start with the basics.
This is Bosnia and Herzegovina. But if you know even a little bit about it you’d probably recognise one of its most iconic sights (though to be honest I probably wouldn’t have done!).
What was unexpected though.
Was that this is also Bosnia….
As is this….
Parts look like they could either be on the savannah of Africa or the wilds of Mongolia with a bit of Scottish Highlands thrown in for good measure. As I said, I wasn’t sure really what to expect, but if I had any blurry images of Bosnia and Herzegovina lodged in the back of my brain they didn’t look anything like this. They probably involved snow, large forests and tower blocks. Nothing like this at all.
I often feel when travelling that the world is filling up. That there are too many people on this little spinning rock, and at some point we will reach critical mass. I’m sure this is a tad dramatic, and is probably more to do with the draw of tourists to specific places on earth, but the world can sometimes feel a bit claustrophobic.
If you feel the same as me, hire yourself a car and plot a route across Bosnia and Herzegovina. You will find space like never before.
I’m not going to lie to you, will got pretty damn lost on our way back from Mostar to Dubrovnik. A detour to see a UNESCO world heritage site took us off the main highway, and maps.me (ok we were never truly lost), then took us on some “interesting” roads.
These were, ahem, “main” roads. They had signposts to Dubrovnik and everything.
We were concerned when they became single track.
When they stopped having tarmac we looked back on the single track ones in envy.
When the gravel was replaced by rocks and red dirt, well, to be honest we panicked a little.
I present to you exhibit one.
That panic is genuine. Our little hire car had no recovery plan on it for Bosnia and Herzegovina, only Croatia.
Exhibit two is just as concerning. This was about 300 metres after a big yellow sign saying “Dubrovnik 60km”!
The scenery was absolutely spectacular. This is about as off-the-beaten-track as we’d ever been in a car outside one of the big game reserves in Africa. We drove for over an hour without seeing another vehicle at all.
Definitely not what we expected from this country.
And I mean that in an entirely positive way!
Other brief thoughts on Bosnia and Herzegovina
We were only in the country just over 24 hours, so I don’t really want to try and offer too much of an opinion on a country I don’t know nearly enough about.
I can tell you one thing though, we’ll be back.
We saw enough to wish we’d planned a bit more time here, and had a more practical vehicle to do so (just for clarity, the main roads from Mostar to Split and Dubrovnik were fantastic, it’s only as you get onto the smaller ‘b’ roads that they turn to gravel).
Here are a few things that made us feel this way.
Mostar is stunning. It probably has one of the most beautiful old towns we’d ever seen. The combination of both Muslim and Christian buildings, the steep cobbled streets, and (of course) the UNESCO heritage protected bridge. It’s almost unbelievable to think large parts of this place were in rubble in 1993.
The food is delicious. There is a real Turkish influence here, again something unexpected. Bosnian coffee is strong, thick and sweet. Alot of the dished are based around skewered meat and large hunks of bread or pitta. The baklava oozes with honey. Paradise.
The countryside is jaw-dropping. This is the side of Bosnia and Herzegovina I really want to see more of. To get away from the cities and spend some time travelling across this rural landscape, that looks like alot of other places, but feels very different.
And what about the other side?
I was seven when the Bosnian War started, so have cluttered recollections of this conflict happening in a place that seemed so far away back then. But we didn’t learn about it in school. The stories of Bosnian and Herzegovina rarely get told in any detail in the UK.
What happened in this county were the worst atrocities on European soil since the Second World War.
You can still see it around – there seem to be more graveyards here than in any other country I’ve visited, alot of the buildings outside the tourist areas are pitted with bullet holes – but this is a country that seems to have worked hard to put itself back together.
We visited the Museum of War and Genocide Victims in Mostar to try and start understanding exactly what happened.
I know more now than I did before.
Becca and I spent a long time in complete silence after leaving the museum. Whether it’s France, Cambodia, or here, I will never be able to quite get a handle on how human beings can do this to one another.
I know more now than I did before.
But not enough to have even scratched the surface, and certainly not enough to offer any comment about it on this little travel blog.
I travel in part for the stories, but also because I love to learn. Travel teaches by showing rather than reading.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has shown me an incredible amount in just 24 hours.
And I’d love to come back and learn a bit more about where it came from, and alot more about where it’s going.