Beautiful Bosnia & Herzegovina

Thursday 9 May 2013
A complex country comprising 2 states, 3 main ethnic groups and 4 million inhabitants and a name that doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. What surprised us was how beautiful and calm the country is despite having suffered hugely during the 1990's war. On the surface many towns have been rebuilt following the destruction inflicted upon them - but you can't help but wonder how deep the personal scars still are.

We entered through Zvornik a border post with Serbia which sits either side of the River Drina. From the relative calm of 'Little' Zvornik on the Serbian side we crossed to the chaotic and lively Bosnian side trying to find Tourist Information, an ATM, a road map and some food. All proved difficult and we wondered how we were going to manage here. We heard the familiar sounds of the muezzin calling the Muslims to pray, in a town where mosques stand almost alongside Orthodox churches.
Grave in mosque in Mostar

Many of the towns we visited still bear the scars of the war and you do not have to look too hard to see walls peppered with holes in the plaster from gunfire or damaged roofs from mortar shells. Guidebooks warn visitors not to stray off known paths due to the risk of unexploded mines.

Trebinje has gone to great lengths to rebuild and repair whilst Mostar concentrated on rebuilding its iconic bridge and seems to be tackling widespread damage to its other buildings very slowly. The bus loads of tourists passing through on their whistle stop tour of the country perhaps never stop long enough to look past the shiny new bridge and the cobbled streets lined with tourist tat.The pretty town of Pocitelj whose history dates to 1444 was extensively damaged in 1993 with art and architecture destroyed and the population displaced. 

View from Pocitelj city walls
Avoiding the crowds on Mostar bridge
In contrast the natural beauty of the country is staggering - clean fast flowing rivers ranging from crystal clear to deep turquoise, wild waterfalls, mirror like lakes, densely wooded valleys, vast green plateaus and snow capped mountains. It has it all.
Green valleys and long rivers
Lakeside mini-mills in Jajce

Kravice waterfalls

Snow on distant mountains

Lush colourful forests

It is a little quirky and quite comical passing through some of the towns, villages and border posts.The police are out in force on the roads stopping nearly every passing motorist for a range of infringements - in one day we counted 8 road-side check points as we passed sedately by. We checked in and out through a few border posts - the smallest was in Spirska where the Bosnian and Croatian passport police sat in adjoining portacabins and shared a small manually lifted barrier.There was no 'no-mans land' and they seemed to be great buddies sharing our passports and a joke. Litter in the rivers and on roadsides is still evident but less of a problem than other countries we have passed through.
Sea off plastic bottles being collected in a vast river net
Homely inside, unfinished outside

In common with many other countries out here there are a staggering number of unfinished houses out in the country which makes us wonder whether there is some tax incentive to never actually getting it completed. The towns are lively with chain smoking drinkers in the bars from early morning and the 'pekara' (bakery) shops are full of wonderful tasty borecs, bread and sweet things - we loaded up with a bag-full which set us back £2.26. We loved it....
A very small selection of the pastries on offer in the pekara!

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