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Mostar-a little bundle of Joy

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

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On our way south to Croatia, we decided to make a two night stop at a little town in Bosnia called Mostar. The actual town itself is small, but makes up for it with its shear beauty. The streets were made of cobblestones, similar to the old town streets of Sarajevo, but the staple/landmark of Mostar is the beautiful arch marble bridge that connects on side of the town to the other. In the summer, very brave (or stupid) men and boys will jump from the bridge to the water below for some $$ from the tourists. We got lucky, a huge tour came through and prepaid a guy to jump off the bridge right as we were walking across it! Check out our pics of the bridge and the crazy guy in his wetsuit. Mostar was a nice break from the bigger cities we had been visiting. We also met some fellow backpackers (Jeremy and Megan) so we spent the day exploring with them in neighboring town.

The Hills of Sarajevo Echo With A Muslim “Call To Prayer”

Monday, October 22nd, 2007

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War torn country, Sniper fire, Sarajevo under siege, Serbs and the Croats. Probably the first thing that comes to mind when we think of Bosnia and definitely not a place you think of vacationing to. Christy and I had no intentions of visiting Bosnia until a fellow traveler told us that it is one place NOT to be missed. So, from Budapest, instead of going to our original destination-Slovenia, we decided to head for Bosnia. We first had to endure a 13 hour train ride from Budapest, which was not fun especially since it was only suppose to take us 11 hours. We assumed that the train would have a food car (which typically there is) so we didnt pack a lunch…big mistake. Thirteen hours with only a Twix bar split between the 2 of us. Of course, our first question to our host when we arrived at our guesthouse in Sarajevo was, where can we get some food at this hour? Since we arrived at 11pm, we figured we were out of luck. The owner of the guesthouse told us that just down the street was a local bar and it would still be serving food. Since we had gone all day without food, we were willing to settle for a stale bar food, that is if the place was still serving food. You can imagine our suprise when we arrived at this “bare”, which was not only a bar but a full fledge restaraunt. When we opened the door, we felt like we had stepped onto an old western movie set-here was a restaurant packed with young hip Sarajevans with smoke so thick you could cut it with a knife. The place was packed and everyone was smoking-it was so strange! We said to one another that this is what the U.S. probably looked like in the 50s. I think our table was the only one where smoke wasnt billowing up from in the entire place!

Sarajevo has an old historic town as well as the newer, more modern city. Our guesthouse was only a three minute walk to the Old Town, so the following day we took a walk down and were amazed by how beautiful and bustling it was. Sarajevo was ruled by the Ottomans and Austro-Hungarians at different times so you get an amazing mix of architeture and religons. It’s one of the only cities in Europe that has a Mosque, Catholic church, Jewish temple and a Orthodox church all in one square. In old town, you walk through numerous little alleyways where people are sitting on outside terraces and patios, drinking coffee. Pretty Muslim girls are walking about, covered up in their colorful headresses and there’s smoke coming out of all the bar-b-que restaurants that align the alley ways. Christy had some interesting thoughts about the headscarfs that Muslim girls wear-girls wear the headscarfs mostly to keep men from looking at them in a sexual way. They think by covering up their hair with a scarf (leaving their faces exposed) and their arms and legs with long dresses, that they appear as more than just an “sexual” object. But, what Christy noticed was that with such beautiful, colorful headscarf, they draw more attention to their faces and most of them were beautiful women with beautiful skin…so the headscarf kind of defeats the purpose because you end up starring at them more than you would if they wore western style clothes.

Our evenings in Sarajevo were spent sitting up on our little patio of our guesthouse that overlooked the city. We would sip on a bottle of Hungarian wine we brought with us from Budapest while listening to the catholic church bells ringing along with the muslim “call to prayer” being played from all the mosques-all at the same time. We really felt like we were somewhere special, a secret spot that most tourists don’t yet know about.

One of our goals with coming to Bosnia was to learn about its history and exactly what happened here in the mid 90’s. Immediately after you get off the train, signs of the war are everywhere. Serbia wanted to “reclaim” the land they thought was theirs and they were willing to destroy the entire Bosnian country to get it. Other than the touristy Old Town, most buildings are riddled with gun shots/bullet holes and some buildings are left completely destroyed from the bombs. For 4 years this city was under siege with bombs and sniper fire from the hills surrounding the city. Since Sarajevo is in a valley, the Serbian army was able to surround them completely, aiming their tanks and guns downhill directly on the city and its residences. Christy and I got chills talking to a local as he described daily life here. He summed it up by saying “for 4 years I lived like I had a gun to my head. Whenever I was outside, I could get shot by a sniper or hit by a bomb.” Imagine having to sprint to the store for supplies…that is before all power was lost and all entrances blocked so supplies could no longer reach the city. Another very sad sight was seeing the numerous graveyards throughout the city. When you look at the date of death, they are all the same…