Our bus meandered up the coast of Croatia and over the mountains into Bosnia. Or more correctly, I should say Bosnia and Herzegovina – the official name. The locals abbreviate it BiH, and I like that – or maybe just Bosnia. We were heading to Mostar to begin our exploration of this fascinating country.
The road over the mountains was scenic, but slow going. Twists, turns, and switchbacks kept us swaying in our seats. And stops for passport checks seemed endless. Since the border between Croatia and Bosnia worms its way through the area, our passports were checked 6 times – no exaggeration. Nobody was pulled off the bus, including us, so we were pleased.
With origins in the 15th century, Mostar has a long and tumultuous history. Ethnic and religious rivalries have been ever-present. As our bus rambled into town, we could see that today it is truly a place where East meets West.
Mosques stand next to churches and synagogues, and western music blares from cafes while the Islamic call to prayers is echoing through the streets. Muslim women in hijabs walk side by side with teenagers in skinny jeans and Converse sneakers.
And then we noticed all the bombed-out, shrapnel-scared buildings left over from the Bosnian War. What an incredible city of contrasts.