Friday, April 18, 2014

Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina

On March 22nd, we left Timișoara, Romania and made our way to Belgrade, Serbia. It was a beautiful spring-like day and we made the trip in about 4 hours.
Driving along we could see the leaves bursting open on the trees. It's my favorite time of year with spring and summer still ahead.
Our apartment in Belgrade was located on Gavrila Principa 10 and was well situated to see many of the highlights of the city on foot. The free parking however turned out to be a special interpretation. We could park on the street and would get parking tickets; the "free" part was that we could just ignore the tickets. Huh? (I could see that system working well until our car gets impounded somewhere down the line for outstanding fees.)

Once we were settled, we set out to see a bit of the city and find some dinner. Walking around, it was pretty clear Belgrade has been through a lot. With so much history, there should have been more evidence of its various stages of history, but communism and 20th century wars took care of wiping out many historical landmarks. Many of the buildings were pretty run down. Settlements around Belgrade date back to the Vinča culture (circa 5000 BC); Belgrade was later inhabited by the Celts, Romans, Slavs, Byzantine Empire, Bulgarian Empire, Kingdom of Hungary, Ottoman Empire, Habsburg rule and it was the capital of Yugoslavia from 1918 to its final dissolution in 2006. Most of the times that power changed hands, war and destruction took its toll.

The nicest areas are around the pedestrian streets at the center of the old town. This is Knez Mihailova (Prince Mihailo Street) where lots of people were out enjoying the spring weather.
We walked to the Belgrade Fortress and Kalemegdan Park which are the core historical sights in the city.
Belgrade fortress originates from the first century AD, when a Roman military fort was located in this place. The fortress is located where the Sava and Danube rivers meet and it was frequently the objective of permanent occupation and wars throughout the years.
This was the best modern-day use of an old moat that I'd seen yet: Tennis courts.
The Inner Stambol Gate of the Fortress.
Belgrade Fortress is at the center of the oldest section of the urban area of Belgrade and for centuries the city population was concentrated only within the walls of the fortress. Interestingly, "Belgrade" means a "white town" or a "white fortress".
Looking down, from the fortress high ground, at the Danube and Sava rivers.
After walking around the grounds of the fortress, we walked back along Knez Mihailova to find dinner.
Every city has its share of performance artists.
Statue of Prince Mihailo (Michael) Obrenović III in the Trg Republike: Prince Mihailo was the Prince of Serbia from 1839 to 1842 and again from 1860 to 1868. His first reign ended when he was deposed in 1842 and his second when he was assassinated in 1868. Prince Mihailo's greatest achievement was in persuading the Turkish garrisons to leave Serbia in 1862 (when the Ottoman Army left the fortresses of Užice and Soko Grad) and in 1867 (when the Turks left their fortifications in Belgrade, Šabac, Smederevo and Kladovo). This was done with major diplomatic support from Russia and Austria.
 This building, located near the Trg Republike, was at one time the Jugoeksport building; Jugoeksport was a Serbian fashion house that went bankrupt and the building was auctioned off in 2007. I included the photo because I liked the details on the building.
On March 23rd, we had plans to see a couple museums as the next day would be Monday, and all museums are closed that day in Belgrade. We first headed to the Nikola Tesla Museum and arrived just in time for the English tour. That was a real win because it was one of the best tours we had taken in a long time. It was very educational and engaging for both kids and adults.

Nikola Tesla was one of the world's most brilliant scientists in the fields of physics and electrical and radio engineering. If one could identify the largest of Tesla's discoveries that has affected our lives the most, then it would probably be the three-phase electricity induction engine and polyphase (the distribution of alternating-current electrical power) system in general. Before the invention of polyphase, electrical energy was produced near consumers, just a few hundred meters away. After the construction of the Niagara Falls power plant, energy was produced in one place and could be distributed to consumers as needed. Capturing the power of Niagara Falls with his alternating current system, made it possible to transmit electricity all over America (and through the construction of similar plants, the rest of the world).

Tesla's legacy can be seen in everything from remote controls to neon and fluorescent lighting, to xrays, to guided missiles. He also patented the technology for wireless communication that is used in radio and television broadcasting. He was a technological visionary whose contributions often get overlooked in history. Thomas Edison and Guglielmo Marconi get credited for inventing the electric light bulb and the radio, respectively, but their work was actually based on the discoveries of Nikola Tesla. George Westinghouse is well-known for creating the Westinghouse Electric Company but the products produced were based on Tesla's patents. Nicholas Tesla is overlooked because he didn't invent to earn wealth; he invented to make the world a better place and make people's lives a little easier. Those who capitalized on Tesla's research, and made millions, are the people that tend to get remembered. Tesla didn't protect his commercial interests and, in the end, he wound up more or less penniless and forgotten.
The Nikola Tesla museum is housed in a beautiful building in Vračar, in the center of Belgrade. It is a small museum with only one floor but it's definitely worth a visit. The museum shows a film about Tesla's life and contains models of some of Tesla's inventions, some of which are demonstrated if you are fortunate enough to be on a tour.
A copy of the induction motor (two phase), with short circuit rotor, from 1887.
A small-scale model of the hydro-energetic system. During the demonstration, water was pumped into the polyphase system generator, the current travels across the wires and a light was lit at the end. The faster water was pumped into the generator, the brighter the light. This model demonstrated Tesla's contributions to the hydroelectric dam at Niagara Falls (1895). (We had learned about that when we visited the Krka Hydro Dam in Croatia which was opened just two days after the hydroelectric plant at Niagara Falls).
Paul and James had the chance to participate in an experiment with the Tesla coil. Tesla invented the coil around 1891. It is used to produce high-voltage, low-current, high frequency alternating-current electricity. It generates high voltage sparks into the air and creates a powerful electrical field that will wirelessly light up fluorescent lights, as seen by the volunteers holding the now lit bulbs.
Sarah then got to participate in a similar experiment with electricity conducted through air. This was followed by volunteers holding hands and the person at the end holding a fluorescent bulb that was lit up, showing how voltage travels across our bodies. It was an experiment not to be repeated at home. The key here was that the experiment involved low voltage. Messing with 120V or 220V would not result in the same safe, painless result.
After leaving the museum we scouted for lunch. We buckled again and succumbed to the lure of fast-food, rationalizing that we were hitting a historical landmark however.
We visited the first McDonalds to open in Belgrade. Kind of stretching it in terms of historical interest.
After lunch we continued on to the St Sava Temple (Hram Svetog Save), located on the Vračar plateau. It is a Serbian Orthodox church and claims to be the largest Orthodox church in the world, ranking amongst the ten largest church buildings in the world. (Not for long if Bucharest continues with its plans.)
The St Sava Temple has taken a long time in the making. It was built where the relics of St Sava were publicly incinerated by the Ottomans on a pyre, and the ashes scattered, on April 27, 1595. The idea to build the church at this location came 300 years later in 1895. The breakout of the first Balkan war in 1912 stopped construction of the church. Construction then resumed in 1935 and work lasted until the Second World War Axis invasion of Yugoslavia in 1941. It wasn't until 1985 when construction once again got underway.
While the shell of the church was mostly completed by 2009, much of the interior is still incomplete. The building of the church is being financed exclusively by donations so it may take several years yet to complete. With so many other buildings needing attention in Belgrade, I would think it would be hard to find the money to keep the project moving forward.
After leaving St Sava Temple, we then started walking back towards the fortress where the Military Museum was housed. Here are a sample of photos I took as we walked across the city.
We stopped at a city playground to let the kids run around for a bit. This was a playground whose planners had the parents in mind; it's equipped with mobile device chargers.
Walking along Kralja Milana which is a main shopping street with international and local brands.
Stari Dvor (Old Palace): Built in 1884, it was the royal residence of the Obrenović dynasty. Today it houses the City Assembly of Belgrade.
A peek at the Narodna Skupstina (National Assembly building) across Pironirski Park.
While many buildings are still in disrepair, there are some gems remaining in the city.
After about a 2 kilometer walk, we finally reached the Military Museum. The museum starts with information about the prehistoric Balkans and takes the visitor to the NATO bombing of 1999, passing through Roman and Slavic times, medieval Serbia, the Turkish and Austrian era, modern Serbian history and Yugoslavia. Displays include captured Kosovo Liberation Army weapons, bombs and missiles (courtesy of NATO), rare guns, clothes and equipment, models of boats and fortresses, photos and illustrations, maps, info-graphics and texts about the military and bits of the American stealth fighter that was shot down in 1999. For the English tourist, there are some pieces of information translated into English but more is needed. Also it is very "old school" with most items behind glass cases with small placards providing descriptions.
The Military Museum was founded in 1878 and has been in this location at the fortress since 1956.
In the fore-ground is a muzzle-loading Austrian regimental gun, made in 1655 in Vienna. As the photo shows, the museum did little to capture the attention of Paul or James; they chatted with each other through most of it. It was a non-starter with Sarah. With such a turbulent past, this could/should be a gripping museum. The curator(s) need to visit the War/Military museums in London and Paris to get some ideas on how to better convey the information across to visitors.
There were several cannons, tanks and armed vehicles on display outside of the museum. This is a close-up of rifling inside an 8cm breech-loading Leichte Feldkanone M 76 Krupp cannon. Rifling imparts a spin to a projectile around its long axis and the spin serves to gyroscopically stabilize the projectile, improving its aerodynamic stability and accuracy. As rifling became commonplace, the accuracy and destructive power of the cannon improved significantly.
Before we left the fortress grounds, we stopped in at Crno Bello (Black and White), the gallery of the Natural History Museum showing the history and importance of chocolate.
Now this should be a no-brainer, money-maker; outline the history of chocolate with a few multi-media displays in a few key languages and SELL chocolate products. Do they do this? No. Information was only presented in Serbian and they didn't sell anything. Man, major lost opportunity. If they sold chocolate products, 50% of the tired tourists would certainly buy something.
With "military" on the brain while strolling through Kalemegdan Park, the kids all got these crocheted medieval-styled helmets/hats. Hilarious. I can't wait to see them wear these on a snow day.
After leaving the fortress grounds, we walked down the Knez Milailova to find some dinner.
Sarah standing by the pyramid on Knez Mihailova that shows coordinates of Belgrade. It sits in front of the Serbian Academy of Science and Art.
Hotel Moskva (Moscow) located on the Terazije Square: It is a 4-star hotel and is one of the oldest hotels currently operating in Serbia. Sadly, we didn't stay here.
On March 24th, our streak of good weather ran out and we woke up to rain. Rain in an already gray Belgrade is a depressing thing. We were all running out of steam to continue on and see more museums, monasteries and other historical sights. But this would be our last full day in Serbia and so we had to get out and see something. The tourist agent we spoke to the previous day suggested we go to Novi Sad, about 80 km away. Novi Sad is the second most populous city in Serbia (~342,000) and has a beautiful old town with multiple monasteries surrounding it. To come up with a plan I did what I usually do; I went to the internet and typed in "top attractions Novi Sad". The top attraction out of 35 was "Fruska Gora Monasteries". The second ranked attraction was "Room Escape". What was that? I clicked to their web site and read the tag lines: "Are you ready to push The Red Button? Will you be the one holding the faith of the World in your hand? If you aren’t scared of being locked up in a vault - maybe forever - then this is the right place for you!" They were offering a “get-out-in-time” live team game experience. Man, that sounded so much more fun than going to a monastery. So with more enthusiasm than I'd seen in a long time, the family quickly got ready and we were out of the apartment and into the car.
The parking ticket used in Novi Sad: Go to a Tabac and buy one or more of these, each for 55 dinar (about $0.65). Each ticket is worth one hour of parking. Scratch the date and time that your car is parked.
A view of Zmaj Jovina Street: Saborni hram Svetog velikomučenika Georgija (St George's Cathedral) is to the left in the background; it is the seat of the Serbian Orthodox territory of Backa. In the foreground is a statue of Jovan Jovanović Zmaj (1833-1904) who was a physician and one of the best known Serbian poets.
Another view of Zmaj Jovina Street, part of the pedestrian zone.
We had a difficult time finding Room Escape. We had the address but there was no signage, short of a tiny postage stamp-sized "Room Escape" label next to a door bell. That was the first part of the experience; team work in order to find the place. We went up to the second level to what was, at one time, an old apartment. We were met by Boban and his wife who own and run the business. Since we were their only customers at that time, we had the choice of whether to stop a nuclear bomb from exploding or to rob a bank vault. We had initially signed up for the bank job but Boban advised us to start with the nuclear bunker since it was slightly easier to solve (ie. one solves the problems in more of a linear pattern). The games are recommended for people 16 years and older but working as a family, with younger members, will often work out. Sarah was their youngest participant to date at 8 years old.
Before we began, Boban went over the rules and the tips for a accomplishing our mission.
We took Boban's advice and decided to try to solve dismantling the bomb. We had one hour to do so. We were placed in a room that was once the office of "Mr Pig" who was a spy during the Cold War. The cruel world of espionage was too much for Mr Pig so he had committed suicide and wanted to take the rest of the world with him; in doing so, he initiated a nuclear bomb which would detonate in just under one hour. We had to comb the room for clues to solve some puzzles, find keys that would unlock cabinets to find more puzzles and keys to unlock other cabinets, all which were needed to dismantle the bomb. Everyone contributed, including Sarah. With just a few minutes to spare before our hour was up, we dismantled the bomb. It was fun. Everyone loved the activity and really wanted to move on to the bank.
After the game, our Game Master allowed me to take a couple photos. Here, Paul and Sarah are listening to clues on the rotary phones provided, while James reads Mr Pig's suicide note.
Pressing the red button to dismantle the bomb. Success!
Hey it's Mr Pig!
After a 20 minute refreshment break, we went ahead and played the second game, successfully robbing the bank. We all had a blast at Room Escape. It's a great activity for families, friends and of course a corporate team-building exercise.
Holy Mary Cathedral on Trg Slobode (Liberty Square).
City Hall on Liberty Square built in 1895: It is one of the most magnificent buildings, built in a neo-renaissance style, in Novi Sad. Both the City Hall and the Holy Mary Cathedral, at the opposite end of the square, were planned by Georg Molnar.
On March 25th, we left our apartment in Belgrade (with our second parking ticket) and drove to Sarajevo which is the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The countryside along the way was somewhat mountainous and mostly rural farmland.
As we got closer to the Serbia/Bosnia-Herzegovina border our elevation got higher and we once again saw snow. There was so much snow at the border that we actually got stuck trying to drive by border control. In the end, Vincent had to reverse and drive through the truck lane in order to successfully reach Bosnia-Herzegovina.
After a slow drive taking about 5 hours, we arrived in Sarajevo and found our apartment. The apartment was quite nice, central and rather homey as it actually was the host's mother's apartment so it felt a bit different than the standard apartment rental. At this point in the trip, any sense of home (even if it wasn't our own) was appreciated.

On March 26th, we arranged to have a walking tour with the daughter of our apartment host. We thought this would be a good way to see the highlights of the city and know to where we'd want to return over the next 36 hours.

Sarajevo is one of the most historically interesting and varied cities in Europe. It is a place where the western & eastern Roman empires split and where the people of the Roman Catholic (west), Eastern Orthodox (east) and the Ottoman (south), met, lived and warred. The city is historically known for its traditional religious diversity, with adherents of Islam, Orthodoxy, Catholicism and Judaism coexisting here for centuries.

Mary met us at 10:30 and we first stopped off at Svrzo's House, which was built by the wealthy Glođo family in the 18th century. It is viewed as a traditional muslim, Bosnian house; this was the best example of a dwelling built during the Ottoman rule that we had seen on our trip. It helped to illustrate the lifestyle of a muslim family from the late 18th century throughout the 19th century. It was built by the upper-class Glodo family but when the family failed to produce a male heir, it was passed through by marriage to another old Sarajevo family, the Svrzos, who were merchants. The house consists of the selamluk or public areas, commonly known as the men's quarters, and the haremluk, or private family areas, also known as the women's quarters. Normal family life took place in the haremluk while the selamluk was used by the male family members to receive guests and conduct business.
The main courtyard: River rocks, a material that the wealthy used, line the courtyard. The home was fortified with iron doors on the lower levels and heavy floor doors which could block access to the second level.
The large halvat: The Glodo and Svrzo families, both of high social standing in Sarajevo in their time, needed a separate room where they could entertain family and friends during the Eid festivals (festival of the sacrifice and festival of breaking the fast) and for iftar (breaking of the fast during Ramadan), weddings and mevluds (religious ceremonies celebrating the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad), or simply to get together for a chat.
Vince pointing out the iron shutters on the windows to the large halvat on the second floor.
Many of the doors and cabinets had fine wooden inlay detail.
A bedroom: People slept on the floor on a woolen mattress known as a dusek with hand-embroidered bed linen and quilts, as was the custom in those days. The windows are fitted with wooden latticework known as musebak, to prevent people from looking in from outside.
Fireplace: This fireplace was located in the bedroom but most rooms had one like it. It was built for radiating heat. The fireplace had a small opening in which to place wood and start the fire. The warm air would rise and heat the ceramic discs.
Many of the rooms had an en suite privy like this one. (Too) many washrooms that we'd seen during our travels haven't progressed from this hole in the floor concept.
The house had a shower. This is the first shower we'd seen in an Ottoman house. A fire would be set in the fireplace seen on the right. The tubular feature on the left side of the fireplace would be filled with water, which would heat up. The hanging ladle then would be used to scoop out the water for washing.
The dining room contained a sofra (table) consisting of a large round tray known as a demirlija, around which people sat to eat. Beside the sofra are an ewer and basin for washing one's hands before and after eating
After leaving the Svrzo House, we walked further down the hill towards the old part of town.
The Sebilj (fountain) located in the center of Baščaršija square (frequently called “the pigeon square”). It was built by Mehmed-pasha Kukavica in 1753. The Baščaršija (Sarajevo's old bazaar) was the historical and cultural center of the city and was built in the 15th century when Isa-Beg Isakovic founded the town.
The Town Hall (Gradska Vijeænica): The original (which opened in 1896) was destroyed during the 90s war and has just been restored. It is the most beautiful and the most representative building from the Austro-Hungarian period, built in a pseudo-Moorish style.
Inat Kuca (The Spite House): In order to build the Town Hall (previous photo), it was necessary to destroy two Turkish baths and one privately-owned house. The Turkish baths were destroyed, while the house owner requested, as reimbursement, a purse of ducats plus that the house be moved, one by one brick, to the other bank of the Miljacka river, opposite to the Town Hall. The demands were met and because of the perceived spite of the owner, the house was named the "Spite House". Today, the Inat Kuca serves as a restaurant.
The Sarajevska Pivara brewery: It opened in 1864 as the first local industry and shortly became one of leading producers in Bosnia, with considerable exports to Montenegro, Dalmatia and Albania. The brewery played an important role during the siege of Sarajevo, as it was one of the few reliable sources for citizens to get drinking water when all resources were cut off from the city. People were killed by snipers just trying to access drinking water here.
Franciscan Monastery and Church of Saint Anthony of Padua: Located across the street from the Sarajevska Pivara brewery, the Church of Saint Anthony of Padua is a Roman Catholic church that was consecrated in 1914. 
Interior of the Church of Saint Anthony of Padua: The monastery and church were seriously damaged in the 1992/95 war but have since been reconstructed.
The Miljacka river flows through the city westwardly where it eventually meets up with the Bosna river.
The Latin Bridge where Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sofia were assassinated by Gavrilo Princip on June 28, 1914.
Remains of a Taslihan built between 1540-1543: Its purpose was to provide accommodation for merchants, their wares and their horses.
Cathedral Church of the Nativity of the Theotokos: It was erected between 1863 and 1868.
Interior of the Cathedral Church of the Nativity of the Theotokos: It is constructed as a three-section basilica with a cross-shaped plan and five domes.
Cathedral of the Sacred Heart (1889).
Gazi Husrev-bey Mosque: Completed in 1531, it is considered the most important Islamic structure in Bosnia-Herzegovina and one of the world's finest examples of Ottoman architecture.
After our tour through the highlights of Sarajevo, we had lunch and then set out to circle back and see a couple of museums.

We first visited a tiny photo gallery outlining the siege of Sarajevo. It was on the second floor of the Insider travel agency located next to the Latin Bridge.
The Insider's 1992-96 War Gallery showed a video consisting of a montage of photos covering the siege and consisted of two rooms with photographs and news clippings.
The siege of Sarajevo began on April 6th, 1992 and lasted almost four years (1,425 days). It brought enormous suffering and misery to some 400,000 inhabitants of the Bosnian capital who were more or less trapped in a concentration camp-like setting. Locals were constantly shelled and sniped and people were cut off from food, medicine, water and electricity. There were stories of people killed just trying to obtain drinking water at the local brewery, which had the only reliable source of water. Thousands of civilians were killed and wounded and were witness to every conceivable human rights violation or abuse ranging from ethnic cleansing and rape to mass executions and starvation. The UN was literally referred to as "United for Nothing", viewed as doing practically nothing during the siege. The length of and casualties of the siege pointed to the really lousy location of Sarajevo. It had been settled by the neolithic Butmir culture, the Illyrians, the Romans, the Slavs, the Ottomans, the Austro-Hungarian empire and then the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. Somewhere along the way one of these dominant powers should have wisened up to the extremely weak strategic location of the city; it is essentially in a valley surrounded by mountains which, during the siege, were held by the Serbs who relentlessly kept the Bosnians under fire.

One of the things that saved the trapped inhabitants is that they built a tunnel from the city to the Bosnian-held territory on the other side of the Sarajevo airport, an area controlled by the UN. The tunnel allowed food, war supplies, and humanitarian aid to come into the city, and people to get out. The tunnel was one of the major ways of bypassing the international arms embargo and provided the city defenders with weaponry.

Passing through Croatia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, we'd been exposed to a number of accounts of the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. Of course it was interesting to to read the local views of events from each country. The turbulent demise of Yugoslavia left an estimated 200,000 people killed and some 2.7 million refugees displaced the largest displacement in Europe since the Second World War.

After leaving the 1992-96 Siege Gallery, we then walked across the street and visited the Muzej Sarajevo, or one branch of the museum. (We visited a second branch of the museum in another part of the old town the next day.) The museum, located next to the Latin Bridge, told a bit about Sarajevo during the period of 1878-1918. The chronological exhibition began with an outline of events preceding the Berlin Congress, when Austria-Hungary was given a mandate to administer Bosnia and Herzegovina, and concluded with WWI and the part played in it by the First Bosnian Regiment. The museum also covered the assassination of the heir assumptive, Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sofia.
The best part about the Musej Sarajevo was this map and the man who was running the museum who spent over 10 minutes explaining to Vincent and me what was going on in Europe at the time of Franz Ferdinand's assassination. The museum manager outlined the tensions over territory in the Balkans, how Austria-Hungary competed with Serbia and Russia for territory and influence in the region and how other powers were pulled into the conflict through various alliances and treaties. It was a great history lesson and made visiting the museum worthwhile.
The Sarajevo Museum, next to the Latin Bridge, showed a short film re-enacting the assassination and included these mannequins depicting the Archduke and his wife. The Archduke and his wife were killed during the second assassination attempt. The first attempt was a bomb thrown at their car when they were en route to the city hall; the bomb was deflected and while several people were injured, no one was killed. The Archduke attended a meeting at the city hall and then proceeded in a motorcade afterwards. (He really should have clued in that someone wanted to kill him.) The second trip, he wasn't so lucky when Gavrilo Princip shot him and Sofia (who was pregnant at the time).
On March 27th, we set out to see a couple more museums that we had walked by on our walking tour the previous day. We visited the second Sarajevo Museum building, Brusa Bezistan, which covers archeological material dating back to prehistoric times through to the middle ages.
Displays were static and not very engaging and therefore not very interesting for the kids nor me. Vincent spent more time working his way around and therefore may have gotten more out of it.
James and Sarah undertaking the impossible task of chasing the pigeons away in Baščaršija square. Definitely more fun than Sarajevo museums.
We later went to the old Jewish Synagogue Museum.
The Jewish Synagogue Museum is housed in the oldest synagogue in Bosnia-Herzegovina, built in 1851. As the picture illustrates, it contains very little; there are some documents about notable Jewish intellectuals in Sarajevo, with biographical notes, and a small photo exhibition of the Holocaust.
After leaving the Jewish museum, we wandered a bit more around the city before returning to our apartment.
Sarajevo's tram system looks particularly retro. Most of Sarajevo's trams are donations from the Czech Republic (delivered in the 1970s & 80s) and in 2008, Amsterdam donated 16 old trams.
Many buildings still show the signs of war and are in need of some TLC.
In several locations across Sarajevo, one can find these splotches of red paint. They are referred to as Sarajevo roses which mark the location where people were killed during 1992-96 by mortar explosions. This rose is found just in front of the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart.
On March 28th, we left Sarajevo for Mostar which is one of the must-sees in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Molly has finally won. Through dogged persistence over the past several weeks, she's managed to move herself from the floor of the front passenger seat and has landed herself the primo spot on Paul's pillow on Paul's lap.
The view from our lunch-stop restaurant.
Paul and James ordered a tuna pizza with ketchup. So often the English translations are off and we correctly interpreted ketchup to mean tomato-based pizza sauce. In this case, they really did mean "ketchup". Probably the worst pizza of the trip.
Driving along, what I believe to be, the Neretva River towards Mostar.
Mostar is a small city of about 115,000 people and is the cultural capital of the Herzegovina region.  It also has heavy stakes in the aluminum and metal industries and the banking and telecommunications sectors. In the middle ages, Mostar began to develop because it was on the trade route between the Adriatic and the mineral-rich regions of what is now central Bosnia-Herzegovina. In 1468, Mostar came under Ottoman rule and one can see architectural influences reflected from that period. The Austro-Hungarian empire absorbed Mostar in 1878 and it ruled there until the aftermath of WWI in 1918. Between 1992 and 1993, after Bosnia-Herzegovina declared independence from Yugoslavia, the town was subjected to an 18 month siege, during which time several important historical landmarks were destroyed. Much of what is seen in the old town today has been reconstructed after the greater war ended in 1995.

We arrived in Mostar about 15:30 and got settled into our accommodations, Pansion Anja (which was great by the way). We then walked to the old town to explore a bit and find something for dinner.
Stari Most (Old Bridge).
Standing on the Stari Most looking down stream towards Lucki Most (Port Bridge).
Standing on the Stari Most looking up stream with the old town on the right.
While eating dinner, we watched this metalsmith working away. Looks like he needs to slow down his production a bit until his rate of sales catches up.
This stone sat at one end of Stari Most. The bridge stood for 427 years, until it was destroyed on 9 November 1993 during the war. Newspapers reported that more than 60 shells hit the bridge before it collapsed and a spokesman for the Croats admitted that they deliberately destroyed it.
On March 29th, I was awoken a little after 5:00am with the neighboring mosque's call to morning prayer (adhan). I wasn't able to go back to sleep so got up around 7am to get on with the day. We had a relaxing pace wandering around Mostar. We spent most of our time either shopping or eating. Other than Istanbul, this was the only place we actually bought anything. We bought a hand-made glass plate where the woman was so glad to make the sale that she threw in a necklace for Sarah and a couple pair of woolen slippers. (Guess we should have negotiated the price on the plate.) Sarah also got a new pair of sneakers and socks. Yes, a major spree for us. We didn't go into any mosques or museums; we just walked by a number of places and enjoyed the gorgeous day. Here are a few snap shots of our day.
The old town is small and quaint. I imagine in the peak tourist season it would be packed and not the same pleasant experience as it was for us in March.
The Neretva River runs through Mostar. While not readily apparent here, the river is usually a striking shade of green, like so many rivers in the Dinaric Alps.
Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque: Completed in 1618, this mosque is the second biggest in Mostar. The Karadjoz-bey Mosque is the largest.
Entrance to the Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque.
Lovely river rock-lined streets in which to stroll and shop.
On March 30th, I was woken again a little after 5:00am by the neighboring mosque and, like the previous day, was unable to go back to sleep. I was beginning to feel pretty exhausted. The upside was that we'd be checking out and moving back to Camping Split so hopefully there would be the likelihood of a good night's rest at the end of the day.
See that loud speaker posted on the minaret? That was pointed directly at our bedroom window.
After checking out of Pansion Anja, Vincent had a couple of detours planned. The first was to drive to Medjugorje which has become a huge tourist draw in the region, following reports of apparitions of Mary, mother of Jesus, back in 1981. Apparently, even today, one of the visionaries continues to receive a message from Mary on the 25th of every month where a second visionary receives a message from Mary on the 2nd of every month. Sounded kind of hokey to me. (Even the Catholic church doesn't support the claims.) When word got out about the Marian apparitions in late 1981, the Yugoslav state authorities began to get involved to block the pilgrimage. (The communists ruled and generally did not tolerate any religious practices.) Pilgrims' donations were seized by the police and access to what was called the "Apparition Hill" was largely blocked. At the time of the break up of Yugoslavia (early 1990s), people were no longer blocked from pursuing their quest for their own Mary visions. Since then, the town of Medjugorje has built a thriving tourist trade out of this apparition business. Today, Medjugorje is Europe's third most important apparition site, where each year more than 1 million people visit.
No shortage of rosary beads here, or anything else to do with the image of Mary or Medjugorje written on it, including those airline neck pillows.
Would Mary really support "no dogs" on the grounds? Paul sat with Molly while the rest of us walked around. In the background, is the St James Church.
On the grounds of St James Church is a huge outdoor theatre; this is the site of enormous congregations.
We saw that there's a 1.5 km path to Crnica hill, aka "Apparition Hill" as well as a 2.5 km path up to a cross on a nearby hill that overlooks Medjugorje. We opted not to take these hikes but to move on to our next destination instead. Since we didn't go to Crnica hill, we didn't actually take the opportunity to receive a message from Mary. Perhaps we really missed something. We'll never know.
Drinking the water, so to speak.
We then drove to Kravice Falls which was ranked #3 of things to do in the Mostar area. It's located about 40 kilometers south of Mostar on the Trebižat River.
The falls are about 25 meters high.
Top of the falls.
The diameter of the lake at the base of the waterfalls is about 120 metres.
After getting our fill of sunshine, waterfall mist and fresh air, we climbed back in the car and headed towards Split. Crossing the border went smoothly. We had been on the road for 53 days and had visited parts of 8 countries that were all new to us. It was a pretty intensive tourism marathon. (And we thought we were on one prior to this Prius road trip!) It would be good to be back at Camping Split for two whole days with no agenda or sights to visit. It would be a couple days of much needed rest and catching up, plus some serious planning for our return to the Schengen zone in a couple weeks.
Vince and his best girl, happy to be back at our home away from home.

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