One final escape part one

DUBROVNIK, MOSTAR, & WAY TOO MANY PASSPORT CONTROLS

It was our last weekend in Split, and we decided to go out with a bang. Of course in this case, "bang" meant leaving town to Bosnia and braving 5 passport controls in one day. Let's just say it was an ambitious weekend trip. Disclaimer: I did not do much on this trip. Sadly, I got sick the first day and was fighting a fever the rest of the journey. Needless to say, I opted out of several excursions. Not to mention I lived on granola "breakfast cookies" from Kaufland and didn't get to appreciate nearly enough of the Bosnian cuisine I was so looking forward to!
5 days, 3 cities, 5 long bus rides, 2 Airbnbs

DAY ONE, PART ONE: DUBROVNIK

dsc_0006 We started bright and early Friday morning, taking a bus to Dubrovnik. It was a bumpy and windy road through often desolate landscapes down to the southern town. The thing is, in order to get there, you have to pass by a short strip of the coast that is technically Bosnia. So for the record, let's count. We began in Croatia, entered Bosnia for about 20 minutes, then re-entered Croatia on the other side. That's two. Passport controls, that is. Eventually, we made it to King's Landing. Of course, I have never watched a single episode of Game of Thrones, so it meant little to me (sorry GoT fans!). Also, it was drizzling and we were only staying for a few hours so we had to carry all of our stuff as we trekked around the town.
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dsc_0040dsc_0026dsc_0032dsc_0042 Needless to say, we kept our tour short and ended up (you guessed it!) sitting down for a coffee. The verdict? Dubrovnik had the same Dalmatian atmosphere as the other towns, but felt a little more majestic and medieval, probably because of the fortress of it all. I can see why they decided to shoot here. Maybe also due to its newfound popularity, it feels claustrophobic. Too many tourists wandering around the same few streets, surrounded by a wall. The shops and restaurants were the same as Split, but more expensive. Everything felt catered to them, almost as if we were on a live set (which is not really a good thing, especially for a girl coming from Hollywood!). dsc_0051dsc_0052dsc_0053
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Would I come back? In a heartbeat. I was coming down with a flu by the time we got there, so I hardly appreciated it. Plus given the time frame and the weather, we didn't get to see much. Next time, I will definitely pay to walk the city walls.
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DAY ONE, PART TWO: BACK TO BOSNIA

Then it was back on a bus, back into Bosnia, and then 20 minutes later into Croatia, and then shortly after, into Bosnia again. In case you're wondering, they announce passport controls by shouting it at full volume over the intercom. Yes, I did seriously consider recording it and making it my ringtone (it's very effective). It was getting dark and we were stranded at a random bus station in what seemed like rural Herzegovina, waiting to switch buses. I was deliriously rambling to myself. An American backpacker a few rows up was laughing at me. When we finally made it to Mostar, our amazing Airbnb hosts were there to pick us up because it was raining. I've had great Airbnb hosts before, but Maja and her husband went out of their way to help us out. Our bus ended up arriving an hour late, but they were already waiting for us. The car only fit 4 at a time so they took two trips to drive us back to the house. Huge shout out to them for being the warmest welcome to Mostar! dsc_0122 Mostar is the "capital" of the Herzegovina region of the country. Demographically and geographically, it is distinctive in that about half of the population is Catholic (Croat ethnicity) while the rest is Muslim (Bosniak ethnicity). The city is physically divided and there are so many visible reminders of the war. But from a visitor's perspective, there seems to be ethnic harmony and blended culture in the historic cobblestone streets. An aromatic Turkish coffee, glass and copper shops, mosques and minarets silhouetted in the landscape. The language may be the same, but this is a whole new world from Croatia.

DAY TWO: MOSTAR

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We started off the next morning with a breakfast of burek at a quiet café. Burek is basically spiraled rolls of pastry filled with cheese, meat, spinach or potatoes and then pan fried. Pretty rich for breakfast, but so good. Food is cheap here, just a few markas for a meal. And a much easier currency conversion rate to calculate of 2 markas to 1 euro.
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The icon of Mostar is the old bridge, Stari Most, over the brilliantly blue Neretva River. Originally build in the 16th century by the Ottomans, the bridge was destroyed in 1993 during the war and then rebuilt in 2004. Today, the bridge and surrounding historic streets are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. During warmer seasons, young men rally up a crowd and jump off the bridge into the cold river below. The streets on either side of the bridge are filled with shops selling local goods and souvenirs. You know it's touristy when all the prices are also marked in euro. dsc_0137dsc_0139dsc_0171dsc_0206
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Between shopping and taking a billion shots of the very photogenic bridge and river, it was a perfect day of leisure, soaking up that laid back Balkan culture. My favorite thing about Mostar is the colors. The warm pastel buildings, the rich jewel hues in the ceramics and copper sets and glass lamps and pashmina scarves. The grey stone paths and bridge, worn smooth over the years (note to self: next time, don't wear traction-less flip flops!). And of course the river, which flows in a gradient from deep blue green to a bright aqua by the shore. dsc_0154dsc_0183dsc_0182
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Eventually, we took our coffee with a rooftop view and befriended a stray cat while we were there.
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We had an evening bus to catch to Sarajevo, so we grabbed dinner by the river. I got ćevapi (a national dish in Bosnia) - basically minced meat sausages served in a flatbread with onions and ajvar, a red bell pepper spread. It's almost like a weird burger, but more savory and spicy. Definitely something I wish was more common in the US. dsc_0232 After grabbing our things from the Airbnb, we headed over to the bus station. Good thing we got there early, because apparently the windy two and a half hour ride was overbooked, so a lot of people were crammed in the aisle. It was one thing to be squished and standing on a bumpy ride from Hvar town to Stari Grad, I was thankful we snagged seats for this ride.
To be continued...