Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro

in Eastern Europe

Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina. One day we were driven 10-hours to and from Dubrovnik to reach Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina. This small historic town is mostly fascinating for its unfortunate and still-evolving history.  Originally it was developed in the 15th and 16th centuries as an Ottoman frontier town and further, during the Austro-Hungarian period in the 19th and 20th centuries. To say that the people have become even more “tribal” than they were prior to the 1990s’ war, is an understatement. As we entered the country, we drove through the Republic of Srbska, with road signs in Cyrillic and lots of Serbian Orthodox churches. As we were touring Mostar, we learned that Bosnia has remained Muslim and Herzegovina, Catholic…with even more cultural separation.

Mostar’s famous Stari Most Bridge over the Neretva River–designed by the renowned architect Sinan–is now re-built after the war’s destruction. We viewed this bridge from above, and from the riverbank below, where there were a couple of large stone blocks from the prior bridge–as well as we walked across it. The reconstructed Old Bridge of Mostar is meant to symbolize reconciliation, international co-operation, and coexistence of diverse cultural, ethnic and religious communities. It is too bad that now Christians live on one side of the Neretva River, Muslims on the other, where there were once mixed neighborhoods. Our guide said that the young people do not feel the hatred and conflict but the previous generations are stuck in the past, unwilling to

accept their former neighbors and friends anymore. So still there are many un-healed war wounds.

Old Town Mostar’s decades-old battle scars were supposedly very obvious, but during our visit  we saw little of the war’s ruins. Mostly destroyed during the war, Old Town has been restored or rebuilt with the contribution of an international scientific committee established by UNESCO. Its pre-Ottoman, eastern Ottoman, Mediterranean and western European architectural features, are outstanding examples of a multicultural urban settlement, today they are mostly symbolic.

The mostly tourist-y Old Bazaar Kujunkziluk occupies a long street that is lined with stalls that are generally filled with trinkets, jewelry, housewares, etc. that are poor relatives of what can be found in Turkey.  We bought carefully where our local guide recommended from the few stalls with locally-created products (e.g., made of copper), but it is mainly a series of souvenir shops.  And the stalls with hijab-covered, young women are mainly for show, not based on religious beliefs according to our young local guide.

 

Bay of Kotor, Montenegro. On another day, we were driven for 8-hours to and from Dubrovnik to Montenegro to see the lengthy Bay of Kotor, with its stunning blue- and green-colored water. It has many miles of coastline with lovely views. The town of Kotor is small, with not much “to do” except relax, go to beaches, play at water-sports, and enjoy nice hotels and restaurants.

Apparently, the local government was corrupt enough to give permits to or just ignore a bad housing development. On one side of the Bay that was supposed to remain forested, somehow a rich group of Russians literally scooped out the forest and the lower part of the mountainside to build these ugly cookie-cutter mansions. They are an eyesore and while we hope that the city officials who turned a blind eye were fired—but probably not.

On our way home, we stopped at Skoljke Boke Mussel Farm for lunch. The owner and his wife showed us how they “grow” mussels and oysters, then prepared/cooked our lunch of both while we waited. They were literally pulled fresh from near where we sat on their deck. Though their English was limited, the owner and wife were clearly delighted to teach us about their work and serve us delicious seafood.

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