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Friday, 2 September 2011

August 20-23 :: Bosnia and Herzegovina


From Balkans 2011
Border crossing
For much of the journey we follow the River Tara (Drina) as it wends its way through the spectacular Tara River Gorge, the second longest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon. At the border crossing between Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina there is no official road. On maps you will see that the road stops short of the border in both countries. Nevertheless, our vehicle crosses the bridge which forms part of the non-existent road. We continue to follow the river for a while and then take highway 18 all the way to Sarajevo, the capital city.



From Balkans 2011
Bašcaršija square
We stay at Hotel Lion, a small hotel with small rooms but very conveniently located close to Bašcaršija square, the historic, cultural center of Sarajevo. We arrive early afternoon so spend some time exploring the locality and sampling the local food and drink.
From Balkans 2011
Sarajevo Rose
On we take a couple of tours. In the morning we take a walking tour of the Old Town with a local guide. She was a native of Sarajevo and had been a child living in the city during the almost four year period of the Siege of Sarajevo (1992-04-05 to 1996-02-29). The tour covered the entire historical period of the Old Town but every part was also touched in some way by the siege. We visited Jewish, Christian and Muslim places of worship which were all in sight of each other. We saw lingering signs of the siege and also saw the site of an earlier episode for which Sarajevo is famous, the location where the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria took place in 1914. The tour cost 20KM and was well worth the price.
From Balkans 2011
Part of the tunnel
In the afternoon we take another tour, this time we visit some outlying points of interest which are mostly related to the Siege of Sarajevo. Our first point of interest is the Sarajevo Tunnel Museum, located on the south side of the airport. During the siege Sarajevo was completely encircled and supplies were hard to come by. During the second year of the siege a tunnel was built starting at the site of what is now the museum and ran for the best part of a kilometer under the airport. Only a short stretch of the tunnel remains but there is more to the museum than just the tunnel, it is well worth a visit.
We move on to Sniper Alley and the Jewish Cemetery on a hillside south of the city. From here we could look down on the city from the vantage point utilised by Serb snipers. The beseiged must have shot back since many of the tombstones in the cemetary were damaged by bullets. Our final port of call on this trip is the Sarajevo Citadel, one of the few high points held by Sarajevo. From this vantage point you can look down on the old town and the cemeteries full of white headstones. The tour cost 30KM, and once again is well worth the price considering that included transport.
We spent the late afternoon and evening revisiting some of the sites in the old town that we had seen on the morning tour and then ended the day with a very pleasant meal at Restoran Pod Lipom.
Next stop Mostar, we head southwest from Sarajevo along the E73 for about 50km until we reach Konjic and here we cross the Neretva River which we then follow to Mostar. We stayed at the very pleasant and well situated Hotel Kriva cuprija, just a short walk north, on either side of the river, to the old town and the Old Bridge (Stari Most). We cross the river via the nearby Lucki bridge and walk to the beach near the Old Bridge and take the opportunity to cool down with a paddle in the river. We recross the river via the Old Bridge and explore the area north of the bridge. We make time for a beer and a snack and partake in a little "people watching". There are a lot of tourists and plenty of shops aimed at separating them from their money.
From Balkans 2011
The Old Bridge (Stari Most)
Like Sarajevo, Mostar was subjected to a siege, this time of 18 months during 1992-1993. During the seige all the bridges were destroyed though they have now all been restored. The Old Bridge (Stari Most) is a UNESCO World Heritage site and was the subject of a careful reconstruction using the original technology and materials. Reconstruction took 3 years and was inaugurated on 23rd July 2004, eleven years after its destruction.
That's it for Bosnia and Herzegovina, now we head for Croatia.

Map of the route.