Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina
We can't go through a country without a Garmin story. From Dubrovnik we headed for the country of Bosnia & Herzegovina, faithfully following the sat nav's directions. Garmin led us right to the border, but it was there that the road stopped. Or so Garmin said. Garmin only showed one road going through B&H and we weren't on it. Luckily we had a road atlas with us which informed us that the road definitely continued beyond the border (a win for old school technology!). Garmin was pretty useless to us from this point onwards.
On the Croatian side of the border crossing the officers asked to see our car papers. We really didn't have anything to give them and they ended up waving us through. On the Bosnian side they asked for our Green Card for the car. We didn't have a Green Card - we didn't even know what a Green Card was. They said we could buy one for €30 for three days. We had planned on staying for four days, but that obviously had to change. Funny that they charged us in euro when neither Croatia nor B&H use euro.
Thankfully, B&H did not have many roads, which was excellent when we couldn't rely on the sat nav. There were also numerous signs pointing the way to major towns and sights. Bosnia appeared to be very similar to Croatia: lots of rocky mountains and green hills, hardly any development, about 90% forest, almost nothing resembling a city and close to zero tourists. We drove along a river most of the time, flowing with the bluest of water.
Apparently there is a law that we must have our headlights on at all times while driving. We were not so great at remembering this.
Our first stop was Trebinje, where there was not much to see except a hilltop monastery in the distance. Next was Stolac, which apparently offered a hilltop castle but all we found were some remnants of a long disused stone wall. We didn't spend long in these towns.
Following Stolac was Pocitelj (pretend j's are y's when reading these town names), a compact town set on the side of a hill. We clambered up large cobblestones in thongs/flip flops to a fortress at the top for views over the town and the countryside. That's all there was to do in Pocitelj. I will literally stop anywhere that offers me a view.
We both noticed how run down the buildings were in each town we stopped in, and how many were covered with bullet holes.
After all our detours we finally made it to Mostar, one of the larger towns in B&H but small enough that we could still park close to the old town. Mostar is famous for its "Stari Most" (old bridge), which was blown up in 1993 but then rebuilt. The bridge itself wasn't that amazing. The town itself, however, was stunning. There was a street market either side of the bridge, mostly selling jewellery and metalwork (you could guess in which direction each of us headed), plus numerous cafes. We walked up a down a couple of times, buying a few pieces of jewellery (me), plus a pen made out of bullet casings and a mini pepper grinder (Danny).
On the food front we made a beeline for burek, a filo pastry dish famous around this part of the world. The cheese variety was fantastic, a perfect oily, doughy comfort food. We are now on the hunt for other types of burek. Danny also ordered a Turkish coffee, which I don't think he minded but probably won't do too often.
I went back to the van while Danny used the internet at a pub, where he quickly made friends with the locals. He was there for the next couple of hours, drinking B&H out of beer. He did eventually come back to the van to make dinner - I'm still not sure how he achieved that with his level of inebriation. After stuffing ourselves full of pizza, we took a quick walk through town to see it lit up at night but it was nothing special.
We were a little worried about how we would go sleeping in the van out on the streets. As we were fairly certain there were no caravan parks in Mostar, we didn't have much of a choice. As it turned out, it was just as safe as any other country we had visited.
Driving out of Mostar we stopped briefly at Blagaj, a town about 10 minutes away. We read about a wooden monastery built into the side of a mountain and thought it sounded interesting enough to make the side trip. When we arrived there was construction work everywhere and the path to the monastery was blocked, so that put a dent in that plan. However we discovered some nice enough cascades at the foot of the mountain, with several outdoor restaurants lining the edge. Some even had tables and chairs set up in the shallow parts of the water. We stopped at one of the cafes, grabbed a drink and enjoyed the peaceful surrounds with almost no one else around. From our vantage point we could see part of the monastery high above us. It looked pretty lame, so it seemed we didn't miss much.