VI - The Drive continues into Bosnia & Herzegovina, then back into Croatia.
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V - The road journey into Croatia continues.
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VII - The drive though Serbia and Bulgaria.
Log Entry Tuesday 22nd May - We drive back north, back into Croatia allowing an easier crossing into Serbia.(128)
Our plan is to drive northeast back up to the Croatian border, from there we will continue east into Serbia. This will give us an easier crossing as we "talked our way through, short on documentation" to cross from Bosnia into Serbia would be more difficult without the required documentation. Moving from Croatia into Serbia would be easier we felt from this direction - just politics?
We left from the south suburbs of Sarajevo, after some time in the congestion, the scenery quickly change for the better.
Our routing took us again high into the mountains, there are no motorways as we know them heading in this direction, so our average speed would be no more than 30-40 mph.
As we crossed into the woodlands it was clear every thing was based on it, the industry, housing was now a greater percentage of wood rather than masonry? We passed many stacks of furniture made in some what of a coarse fashion, but attractive in a fashion, especially for the garden?
We climbed higher and higher, rain was forecast so we were not surprised by the low cloud we entered, as we started our decent we pullover at one of the many roadside cafes, the building almost completely of wood. Where we stopped, the heating was on, a large cast iron wood burner almost glowing red from the burning wood inside. We drank traditional "Bosna coffee" then left to make our way down through the dense cloud.
We continued down the mountains, through the greenery, the housing and life changed.
We were now once again in amongst masonry building, many now beginning to look in need of completion, or maintenance - a different type of surroundings now? We were now only ten or twelve miles from the boarder and we had been going for a considerable time, almost five hours to cover one hundred miles? It was now getting late, we enquired about campsites, we had not been able to find any ourselves, even on the internet? We pulled over at a restaurant advertising B&B and enquired? It was €12 more per night than we had been paying at Sarajevo, seemed good enough to us, so we checked in.
The people, although initially distant, once they got over the language issue, friendly enough, they clearly were not used to "foreigners?" We ate in, almost "ate our selves to death" including a couple of beers each for £17, or the equivalent of? The building was full of the furniture we had seen on the mountains, better finished but even our bed was cut and dressed from logs of wood. We had an excellant, different nights sleep, the car sat outside safely, still packed up with our gear. In the morning we leave for Serbia.
Log Entry Tuesday 21st May - We visit the nearby "Bosnia Springs" and make a new friend.
We take a short drive down to sign posted area "Bosnia Springs", we turn down a lane and eventually come to a small car park, we park up with some minor assistance from the attendant who clearly loves his work and walk into what could best be described as a "park" to us?
The park, some 300 square metres is literally a series of water ways resulting from numerous springs pouring out of the ground, the springs form ponds, all converted to living areas for the wild life.
The ponds vary in size depending on the spring, we are told the waters healing qualities are documented back to the Roman times.
It is a very pleasant relaxing setting, free to roam around the wildlife.
Around one of the larger springs a cafe exists, we drink coffee in the sunshine.
We watch a family of swans, the elders disturbing the mud on the bottom, all feeding on what comes to the surface with it?
The ponds turn to streams and they all meet and exit the park area as a fast flowing river, we see many of the locals drinking from it.
When we return to the site, our area is a mass of noise, crows seem to be fighting each other. A closer inspection finds one of their young had fallen from a nest, a little dazed but still alive. It will not take food from Ann but we know if left, the roaming cats and dogs will soon get it. We pick it up and carefully place it on the highest branch we can and leave it for the night. The crying from the crows quiets down as we leave it?
At about 0530 we are woken by the same crow row, fighting again we assume, the noise intensives we wonder if the young bird had fallen out of the tree, I look out, it had. The noise however was behind us, about five of the adults were chasing off a cat, diving on it, pinning it to the ground. The cat ran off and the noise dropped, we walked over and again the bird was on the ground, this time far more alert, I place it back in the tree and this time it will take moist bread from my fingers! How long it will last, who knows?
Log Entry Monday 20th May - We drive further north, up to Sarajevo.
We say goodbye to the family that own the site and a few German neighbours we shared polite conversation with. It is always interesting to gain other nationalities point of view - on Bosnia, one could discuss the history all day. We then begin the drive north, it was only about 85 miles, but by now we expected to maintain no more than 25-30 mile per hour due to the type of road, it's quality and of coarse the congestion?
The drive had no time limits so we just settle into the road and it's restrictions - enjoying the view.
The road followed the Neratva river bed for most of the way, we drove through the deep canyons.
The railway also follows the same routing, both rail and road crossing the river numerous times.
The river is lined with numerous fish farms along it's banks, selling their products from either wooden building or sometimes even a converted freight container. We passed through numerous small towns filled with bars and cafe's, their equivalent to a "service area". We did stop at one small town, had a coffee, no English was spoke at all but we managed. As usual our car registration created much interest, it was clear from this town at least we were now in a very strong Muslim territory, compared to further south.
Log Entry Sunday 19th May - Settled in on our site, jobs to do then into Mostar.
We wake about 0600, the plan is to get some washing done, we need to put up a line to dry it, then head off into the old town of Mostar. The proprietor is also up early wandering around he seems to enjoy socialising with his guests, all part of the service. He keeps his site very well, lives with his wife, son and daughter in an enormous house in the grounds. These people are very family orientated, generations quite often living together under the same roof. He is very proud of his numerous cherry trees around the site, we have seen many people selling them by the roadside. Ann and him taste the cherries, as I put up the washing line - some thing moving through the grass catches my eye? It is a snake, I call to him, "you have snakes here?" I had read that are were quite common in this country, a number of them poisonous - this one was brown and about one metre long? The owner, came over and I show him where it had disappeared into - "We have no snakes here because we cats, do not worry!" Clearly I knew what I had seen but he was only trying to put our minds at rest, I explained that I was not worried as I had Ann to protect me!
The site is in a nice setting with all around what is needed, they have two tennis courts and a five-a-side football pitch, the owner explains he adds to it yearly.
I catch up on the internet, looking at the route and options ahead of us, then we walk for the 1100 hours bus, clearly there are no bus stops out here it just stops!
The 10km journey costs us pennies, I get some what lost on the way in, I seek assistance from a young Muslim lady sitting behind us, she is very helpful, her English very good. Before we know it she has us off the bus and directing us down a road way. The information she provided was excellant, before we knew it we were at the Central Mosque with it's First World War grave yard.
Within a couple of hundred yards every thing changed, we knew we were not far now from the old town as every thing became targeted at tourists, and we could see the two towers of the 14th Century bridge ahead of us! It is this bridge for which Mostar is most famous, it's existence first documented in 1492. It is said that Mostar derived it's name from the word "mostari", meaning "bridge keepers". Mostar has had an ancient religious history as from 1592 it was head of "muftija", the head of the Muslim community, then in 1767 becoming the seat of the Orthodox and Catholic heads.
The adjoining streets to the bridge had been turned into a bazaar type area, typically most of the stalls/shops selling the same items, € is clearly preferred over their own "KM = marks". We stopped for a coffee, we received a bill in €Euro's, the pricing was silly for what we received, I questioned that the pricing was in Marks not € "as symbol" - it was a question not graciously received but it explained that it was in Marks? If I had paid in €'s we are confident they would have accepted it, as we saw other do! When talking on the camp site later, the same had happened to others - not nice!
The setting of the bridge was very nice, and worth a visit, we did discover that the bridge had been completely smashed during the war from a lady trying to sell ariel photographs of the damaged bridge as "postcards"?
The bazaar just went on and on as far as the eye could see, we had no real interest in that so we made our way back towards the bus stop.
There was a couple of things we did not fully go along with, we appreciate every one has to make a living but, properties had been left damaged from the fighting, bullet holes etc - we saw many guided tours talking to them.
The second item was the items being sold, old military memorabilia, helmets etc, even pens made from bullet cartridges, a lot of capitalising from the conflict, but little debate about it, almost as if "ashamed, but do not mind making cash from it?"
There was even guided tours of the military grave yards, it does not seem the same level of respect to see tourists sitting on them eating ices in the sunshine? We had passed many of these such buried grounds on many outside roads, all derelict, some completely over grown, still here where they are a source of revenue - perfectly kept?
These people live in a beautiful country, people are very friendly, even when struggling with language, it must be so difficult living in such a mixed culture only 18 years after the savage conflict?
Log Entry Saturday 18th May - We arrive in Bosnia & Herzegovina, just north of Mostar.
We were a little apprehensive of arriving in Bosnia, clearance out of Croatia was straight forward but getting into Bosnia was interesting as we were a little light on documentation? We were asked to pull over at the Bosnian boarder, our car, packed to the top created some interest? The younger of the two officers took care of us as his English was the better of the two. He was extremely under standing and eventually wished us "a good holiday and drive very carefully!" I thanked him, shook his hand and we continued on into Bosnia.
The drive was absolutely astounding as we made our way towards Mostar on the narrow, heavily used roads. The satnav was, in Bosnia, pretty poor, few of the actual roads were even recorded on the system, on the screen the vehicle seemed to spend more time off road than one, but we managed.
Mostar eventually came into sight, located on a river on a large flat plane, surrounded on four sides by mountains, each one individually named, on top of one of the tallest peaks a large white crucifix. Perhaps a remembrance, or perhaps a statement of acceptance? It does bring a certain sensation over you when you consider the situation here less than twenty years ago?