Monday, 5 September 2016

The Caribbean of Europe - Day 6


Mostar Bridge


Trogir                                                                                     Croatia

Thursday 27th August 2015

I woke up quite early as I had to be up, ready and at the meeting point by 7:15am for my excursion today; so I wasted no time. I walked towards the northern bridge again in order to get to the bakery for breakfast and I grabbed a sloppy looking strudel and made my way straight to the meeting point at the information centre. It wasn’t long before I got there waiting for the van to show up. Yet again the designated time had passed and there was no van. I could see a couple of vans next to the harbour to the south so I was about to head over there. However, as I began to walk, a van pulled up behind me with the information centres logo on it. Feeling relieved once more, I headed over to it.

The driver greeted me and said we had to wait for a few more passengers. 10 – 15 minutes went by and still no one turned up. The driver made a couple of phone calls and then he returned to the van stating that nobody was turning up. So I sat in the front with him as we set off to Split to pick up a couple. The drive to Split seemed a lot quicker instead of the usual ferry ride which meant in a short amount of time we had arrived. At this point the driver had asked me if I had my documents with me. I was confused as to why he asked me that and then I realised; Mostar was in the next country along; Bosnia Herzegovina. I told him I didn’t bring it or wasn’t told to bring it. I didn’t know that between each country were border control either as I thought it would have been open borders. The driver was gobsmacked when he found out I didn’t have my passport. He asked if I had any other form of I.D and all I had was my driving license. He looked a bit worried but as we picked up the remaining passengers, we still set off heading south towards the border. I was a bit worried whether or not I would be able to get into Bosnia but at the moment I would focus on the marvellous areas along the way.

Croatian Roads

We drove for a very long time through the Croatian countryside passing vast mountainous areas and then the driver told us that he was pulling into a service station for 30 minutes. As we pulled in I could see at the far end the beautiful mountains beyond it so when we came to a stop, I headed straight towards it. It was a short walk as I arrived at a barrier area where I witnessed a spectacular 180 degree view of the huge mountains in front of me. It felt like I was in Austria again but a lot less green. As I was looking at the panoramic view, I looked to my right and had seen a small group looking on at the mountains and I recognised one of them strangely enough. It was the driver from my trip to Krka national park. He didn’t see me even though I was standing pretty close to him and then they all took their leave. I sat for a moment later on a seat in the shade as the heat was unbearable constantly looking on at the views until it was time to head back to the van.

Croatian Mountains

We set off again onto the open highway. It was tremendous when we were on the open stretch of highway speeding along gaining a lot of miles. We then turned off the highways and onto a smooth winding road up the hills which showed the most beautiful looking baron lands which looked as though it didn’t have much life. We continued on the winding roads for a long while making sharp left and right turns until the driver asked for all our documents. So I gave him my license and crossed my fingers in the hopes it would be valid. We arrived at a very small border crossing and we came to a stop at the first booth. He passed the security officer all the documents and then gave us them back and moved us along. The next booth was to get us in to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The driver gave the documents to the old looking officer and he looked at them all. The driver and the officer started talking about my license. I couldn’t make out what they were saying to each other but I could tell it wasn’t looking good for me as they began to raise their voices over one another. All of a sudden the officer let us pass and as we left, we were all laughing including the driver as we continued on into Bosnia and Herzegovina; it also felt great being in another country too. As we were driving along the winding roads, I noticed that the roads became more rugged than the Croatian roads. This meant we were slightly getting thrown around as we were driving towards our destination. I was constantly admiring the views within the whole journey and it seemed to take forever to get to Mostar and then we eventually arrived in the old town of Mostar.

Bosnia Roads

By this point, it was very hot and I noticed it was the hottest day that I had whilst being on this journey. This meant I was sweating and slightly burning like a crisp. We all stopped within the old town and as we got out of the van, we followed the driver towards the central part where all the attractions were or hot spots so to speak. A short walk had brought us to an information centre where to my surprise; we were waiting for a tour guide already paid for to show us around the town giving us the history of the place. About 10 minutes later, he showed up and shook all our hands. He also gave us all a fridge magnet of Mostar Bridge which was kind of him. He took us to one side and we all sat down talking about the history of Mostar of how the Muslims and Catholics co-existed with each other.

Mostar

He then took us on a walk around the town telling us about the Yugoslavian war between the Croatians and the Serbians and to how Bosnia was caught in the middle of the conflict. Along the way of the tour, the guide was pointing at a few buildings which had quite a few bullet holes set in the concrete of where the Bosnians were shooting at the Croatians. Then he pointed to another building which had 10 times more bullet holes which had showed that the Croatians had more firepower. We continued on the tour walking towards the centre of the old town and to where the infamous bridge was. We walked from tarmac onto smooth cobbles as though we had walked straight into the past. It was here when I caught my eye on a minaret standing above all the buildings. I could also see a mosque not far from where I was standing. Then we walked towards the market stalls and it brought back memories from my time in Istanbul. They sold mosaic designed plates, colourful light shades, water pipes and other Turkish Novelties. I really didn’t expect to see this during my time on this holiday but I didn’t know much history of the place before the tour guide explained the influence of the Ottoman Empire.

Mostar

We followed the guide up to the infamous bridge and once we arrived, I was won over by the marvellous view of a deep green river flowing down a winding route. I also found out that there were a lot of divers jumping off the large bridge into the river far below in order to make some money. There were no divers at the time we stood there so we continued on across the bridge and straight into a kind of a museum. We entered the building and we were led to a large TV around the corner of the museum. We were about to be shown a video clip of Mostar just before the war, during the war and after the war. Whilst I was watching the video I was speechless of how much pain and suffering happened in Mostar and I also watched a clip of the Croatians destroying the bridge and how the Bosnians built a new one after the war. It was very interesting to watch and I had definitely learned more about the war and how Mostar was involved. The guide had finished his tour and wished us all the best of luck and stated that we had only 2 hours left in the town before we had to meet back up with the driver. So we parted ways and I headed up the cobbled path along all the Turkish stalls admiring what they had to sell.

Mostar

By this point the heat was higher and I could feel it as my whole back was soaking with sweat. I had a look at some marvellous views of the bridge and river at a far distance which looked really picturesque with the surrounding buildings and trees. My stomach was rumbling as usual so I scanned the area for a decent restaurant and as luck would have it, there was an Italian type restaurant. So I took a seat and ordered a large tuna pizza and nice ice cold bottle of Pepsi. I watched on at people passing by trying to cool down by fanning themselves until my pizza turned up. It was completely massive and looked appetising. Without haste, I dug in enjoying the tastes until I realised I had finished it. I left and headed back over to the bridge but it was hard because the place was getting really busy.

Along the way I passed a middle aged woman who tried to take a seat to rest and of all places to sit she had to sit at an entrance to a small shop where she knocked over a few items. The old seller was angry and then he shot up and pushed the woman hard off and away from his shop. I couldn’t believe what I had seen but the woman shouldn’t have sat there to be honest. Anyway I eventually made my way onto the bridge bypassing a stray dog lying flat on the bridge asleep due to the heat. I could see a couple of divers standing on the other side of the barrier preparing to jump but they weren’t in a hurry. So I left the area trying to find a way down to the waters edge where a few people were standing to watch the divers jump. I headed back towards the information centre and down another route to which I heard a sound I didn’t ever think I would hear. It was the call to prayer coming from the minarets at the mosques. It brought back more memories from Istanbul but it was to be short lived as they had stopped. Now finding the right way down to the bottom, I took a stairway between 2 restaurants until I finally reached the bottom. 

Mostar
Mostar

I headed to the edge of the river and realised there were diving platforms adjacent to where I was standing with kids diving off each level. It was amazing to see them dive into the river even though it wasn’t as high as the bridge. I had to find shade as the temperature kept rising. Even in the shade it was hot as there was no wind to slightly cool me down. I spent a good long time watching the divers and looking at the picturesque views of the river almost tempted to get in the water. As for the bridge it looked monstrous when I was looking up at it yet no divers were present to jump off. I checked my phone for the time and I could see that it was nearing the time to head back to the van. So I took a slow stroll through the market area one last time and then headed towards the meeting area.

Mostar
Mostar Bridge

I had bumped into the driver though and he pointed at where the van was so I headed towards it. I still had a bit of time left as he was searching for the other passengers so I took a quick walk along to the monstrous Catholic Church nearby. As I got closer I noticed the main doors were shut so I spent the next 5 minutes sat in the shade in front of the church. I managed to pick myself up though and walk back to the van in the blistering heat. The driver returned after me but the passengers were no where to be seen; so we both sat in the van ready to go to where the driver originally dropped us off when I spotted them right in front of us. We drove towards them and they were shocked to see us pull up next to them. They soon got in and we were on our way to our next stop to a town called Medugorje. I had no idea what this place would be like even when the driver was trying to explain it with his broken English. It was only 30km down the road and as the driver was pretty much overtaking everyone, we were soon approaching the town.

Bosnia Roads
Bosnia Landscape

The driver said we only had an hour in the town so once we arrived and got out of the van, I headed for the main areas. I did have a bit of a talk with the passengers about the heat as we found out it clocked in at 38 degrees. We parted ways soon after as I headed to a lovely looking pink flower park. Nobody was about so it was definitely peaceful. I headed out and I seen all the market and shop stalls and from what I could see, everything was religious. They were selling Virgin Mary statues and figures as well as Catholic necklaces and beads. I took a walk up to the church and it was quite modern as well as pretty too. I decided to have a look inside and see what art and architecture they had on show. Yet again there wasn’t really much as it was a modern looking church. I thought that the mass was happening as everyone went quiet and doing the traditional routine of dipping their hand in the holy water and praying. I decided to leave them to it as I walked around the back area of the church. 

Medugorje

I was then surprised to find hundreds of park benches placed in a semi circle spread quite far and wide. It took me a while to pass them all and then I arrived at a long footpath with rows of trees along the way. To the side of the footpath were mosaic art pieces about Jesus and his life. I continued up the pathway until I arrived at a maze like courtyard with a metal sculpture of Jesus being crucified but without the cross which looked interesting. I could see a line forming to stand next to the sculpture and people placing their hands on his legs or feet. I didn’t understand the concept behind it and there was no one to talk to about it so I headed around the maze type pathway surrounding the sculpture and at each turn were pictures of Jesus before and after his crucifixion. The trouble was I walked the wrong way around so I started with him after is crucifixion and then finishing where it all started so it kind of messed the story up. I took my leave as it was close to getting picked up.

Medugorje

I headed back to the park benches and had sat for a moment in the shade enjoying the tranquillity of the place until I took my leave heading to the front of the church; I arrived and sat once more in the shade. At the opposite end of me were a lot of people in a circle holding hands around a statue of the Virgin Mary. They were swaying as well as singing whilst clapping hands. It looked pretty intriguing as I watched on. I had to leave for the van at this point just after filling my water bottle up with nice cold water from a fountain nearby. Along the way I bumped into the driver who escorted me to the van. We drove off and picked up the other passengers again ready to take the long journey back to Croatia providing we could get passed border control again.

Medugorje

We had eventually arrived there and I thought to myself ‘here we go’. The driver showed the first officer the documents and he moved us along to the next booth. It was the woman officer from before and she recognised us and after looking at the documents she nodded and moved us along. I had a big smile on my face as I knew it was over with and I was back in Croatia. We still had a long way to travel so I was watching on at the marvellous views of the valleys and mountains along the open stretched roads. The driver was yet again overtaking everyone which saved a hell of a lot of time. There was a moment when the highway was high up along a hill when I witnessed the first view of the sea. It was a marvellous view of Split far in the distance and as far as the eye could see, there was Trogir which was shining in the distance as though that was my beacon back to the town. It felt euphoric finally seeing it knowing I was close to my destination.

Croatian Roads
Croatian Roads

At that moment though we were finally nearing Split when all of a sudden the driver was cursing the radio and then the huge traffic right in front of us. He said to us that Split had a very big football match today and everyone was going to it. The traffic was terrible but the driver worked his magic and took to the back roads and doing some manoeuvres the police would deem as horrifying. There was an area he approached that said no entry but he went up it anyway and nearly ending up crashing into an oncoming car. Thank god he didn’t and we continued on with my heart thumping. It was quite an adrenaline rush to be honest and we all started laughing about the situation. All of a sudden the traffic was calm as we had passed the busy area and then we managed to arrive at the very centre of Split next to the small park area. I told the driver that I wanted to get out here as I wanted to get the ferry back. He was a bit confused at first but he understood and let me go. I gave him a 200 Kuna tip for the trouble of border control which he was happy about. I shook his hand and parted ways.

I kept thinking that I was quite lucky to be back in Split with the entire dilemma today so I was a lot calmer and happy. I headed towards the statue with the golden toe and rubbed it as it definitely brought good luck. I then headed straight for the harbour cutting through the large bell tower and palace. I could see the ferry back to Trogir so I walked straight for it. I arrived thinking that it felt good to finally show up to the ferry on time instead of the usual jumping on at the last minute. I paid for my ticket and sat at the front feeling the ferry sway side to side with the slight waves. I then moved to my usual spot at the starboard side when the ferry began to move. I was finally on my way back to Trogir and it felt fantastic. The sun was quite low in the sky so I had a feeling I would get to see a wonderful sunset on the way back. 

Split
  
After we left the drop off at Slatine, that was the moment I was mesmerised by the sky. The sun was setting behind one of the big hills given a warm golden glow behind the hill radiating into the light blue sky along with the vibrant colours bouncing off the water. It was amazing and it kind of symbolised an end to a long hard awkward day. As I looked behind the ferry, the night sky was fast approaching but it still had a violet blue colour to it with the full moon shining bright. The wind slightly picked up when we approached Trogir and what a lovely sight it was to see the town closing in as we moored up. I disembarked feeling happy as I crossed the southern bridge. All of a sudden my phone was ringing when I was on the bridge and I thought it was my parents again. I could see by the number that it wasn’t them. It was the travel agency I booked tomorrow’s excursion with. She stated that I would have to be at the fortress tomorrow morning at 6:50am instead of 8am. I was fine with that though so I ended the call reassuring her that it was fine. 
 
Sunset Towards Trogir
Moonlight Approaches

Food called to me yet again and I decided to head to La Dolce Vita again. The woman at the front recognised me and was quite friendly as she escorted me to my table. The waiter recognised me too so he already knew what drink I wanted. This time however I ordered octopus for starters and pork loin chunks for main. I waited for a while drinking my beer going over what had happened at border control thinking how surreal it was being back after such an ordeal until my starter arrived. As I had octopus on my trip before, I knew what it would taste like so I dug in. I thought I grew accustomed to it as it was absolutely fantastic. I loved every bite but then I ran out of octopus. So I replaced it with my pork loin chunks which came straight after. To be honest it was quite tough but who cared, it was good food.

I left the restaurant feeling fat and happy as I took another wander around the streets of Trogir. There wasn’t really much entertainment on in the evening so after a bit of a walk, I decided to head back to my room. My god what a great feeling it was to walk in and be back in one piece from today’s adventures. Rest assured it was a brilliant intriguing day in the beautiful country of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Mostar
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