I will start off by apologizing for not posing last week at all.. I was crammed with tests, quizzes, projects and essays, and then preparing for a weekend trip to the nearby country of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). What an amazing country it is! I am so excited to share it with you all…
RIT Croatia organized the trip for the Study Abroad students, so it was me, Michelle, and Kathryn, and then three other American RIT students (all boys) as well as two interpreters for a deaf student and an American professor from RIT. We had our own mini bus and our own driver for the weekend. His name was Greg!
We left Dubrovnik and drove for about two hours before Greg pulled off to a sort of rest stop area as soon as we entered Bosnia. It had a really beautiful view.
In order for me to explain what I experienced and loved about Bosnia and Herzegovina, I have to tell you a little bit about its history. BiH is a very unique area, as it has gone through hell and back throughout all of history. It has been settled by the Byzantine Empire, then the Ottoman Turks, then it was occupied by Austria-Hungary, and after WWI it was Yugoslavia, and from 1992-1995 they fought for their independence, forming Bosnia and Herzegovina. With all of this history, many religions were brought to the area. It is such a unique place because you have Islamics and Catholics, Jewish people and Orthodox Christians all practicing their religion in the country on a regular basis. There are spectacular churches next to stunning mosques throughout the entire country.
Okay, so back to our journey….
After about a half an hour at the rest stop we continued on our journey to the first city we would visit, Mostar. We met a city tour guide in Mostar and had a private walking tour with her, and then had lunch and free time in the city for a few hours. Mostar was absolutely amazing. The famous bridge was breathtaking. Tourists pay trained men at the top of the bridge to jump into the water because it stays at about 50 degrees the entire year. Walking around the cobbled streets in the old town was charming. Almost all the vendors and shops offered homemade products, and they were all so nice.
The highlight of Mostar, for me, was hearing the call of prayer just after noon in the city. The call of prayer is an Islamic practice. There is a prayer, that sounds like a song, that is projected from the top of the minaret (the tallest building in the mosque) in the city so that everyone can hear it. It was a very unique experience that I had never had before. I thought it was pretty amazing.
After our free time in Mostar we met our bus driver to continue our journey to Sarajevo, the capital of BiH. As we were leaving the city, the damages of the most recent war for independence in the 90’s were apparent. There were buildings that were completely wrecked, with holes from bombs and gunshots visible in their stone facades. They had focused on rebuilding the main parts of the city, and since these buildings were outliers, they had not been touched yet.
We continued on our journey, it was about a 3 hour drive from Mostar to Sarajevo. The country has huge mountain ranges and rivers winding through it, it is just amazing. I stayed up and took in the scenery when almost everyone else took a nap on the bus. I even saw a double rainbow at one point!
We got in to Sarajevo around 6pm and had free time until the next morning. Our hotel was outside of the city, so we couldn’t get to the city easily, and we were all tired from the day, so we decided to have dinner and go to bed.
The next morning, we were meeting a tour guide for a walking tour of Sarajevo before we had free time in the city. He took us through all of BiH history in a two hour tour, which was pretty amazing! He showed us many mosques, churches, bridges, and historic buildings. He joked that out of 93 historic buildings, only 4 are museums, and the rest are either restaurants or bars now, but it is true! We saw the infamous Latin Bridge, which is where the Archduke of Austria, Franz Ferdinand, and his wife Sophie were assassinated in 1914, which is said to be the reason why WWI started.
Our tour guide took us through the streets of the old town in Sarajevo, and each street has different specialty shops on it. There was one with copper makers, one with silver smiths, one with amazing lights, and so on. We did some shopping, had lunch, and got to explore on our own.
Bosnian coffee is a rich cultural tradition in BiH. Bosnian coffee is served hot if you are welcome to stay, and cold if you are to leave and never come back. It is served with Turkish delight and sugar cubes. It is really unique to BiH, so of course we had to try it!
After exploring and doing some shopping in Sarajevo, it was time to come back home (to Dubrovnik) on Sunday. On the way back, we stopped at Počitelj Fortress and got to climb what is leftover from the King’s fortress of the 1400’s. The site is not developed very much, so it looks almost untouched from today’s world. There are no guard rails, signage, our restrictions in where you can climb. Sitting on top of this great fortress was my favorite part of the entire trip!
Sorry for the really long post, but I hoped you enjoyed it as much as I loved BiH! I have attached a photo gallery of all of the amazing things I saw. Enjoy!