Croatia is divided into 2 parts separated by 20 miles of coastline that belongs to Bosnia-Herzegovina. This means that we drove north from Dubrovnik, following the coast line and enjoying the views of the many islands off the coast. We then passed through immigration at the border with Bosnia-Herzegovina where we presented our passports to an officer to leave Croatia and then drove 50 feet and presented them again to enter Bosnia-Herzegovina. After traveling 20 miles, we again presented passports to both countries to reenter Croatia. We were fortunate that there were only a couple of tour buses ahead of us. Our guide informed us that at times, it can take up to three hours to get through these check points. But then, because we were headed for Sarajevo, by way of a certain highway, and Saravejo is in Bosina –Herzegovina, we had to go through still another checkpoint where we presented our passports to officials from both countries.
Because of the delays and problems this routine creates, Croatia will be linking both parts of its country by building a bridge from the west portion of its country to the east part by joining a highway via a peninsula located parallel to the coast. This way the road will by-pass the 20 miles belonging to Bosnia – Herzegovina. Funding is coming from the European Union since Croatia is a member and the Union wants all of its territories linked. This solution is controversial because Bosnia – Herzegovina claims that the bridge will block their access to the sea, even though the water is too shallow along their 20 miles of coast for a port. Construction of the bridge begins this November.
(Orange was our route and blue were the immigration check points. Red is the new bridge.)
Today Bosnia is actually two federations that were combined after WWII as “Bosnia and Herzegovina” in the consolidation of the federations of Yugoslavia. The two federations chose to remain together after Yugoslavia dissolved.
Our first stop in Bosnia and Herzegovina was Mostar, known for its magnificent arched bridge. The 16th century bridge has been restored after its destruction in 1993 during their most recent war. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Young men jump from the bridge into the emerald water below for the pleasure of tourists and the tips they earn from them.
Here is a Youtube video of a jump!
As we continued on to Sarajevo, we passed through spectacular mountain-scapes!
As we approached Sarajevo, our guide reviewed with us the long history of the Balkans and the 20th century events and circumstances that led up to the 1990’s war in the area. We learned how complex the long history of the area is and how territories were juggled around from one rule to another. We also learned how Tito wanted to unify the area because he felt a united country offered a better life for all but we also learned how ruthless he was. Today there are still problems in the area that the Dayton Agreement, which ended the recent war, did not address. The aftermath of the war was still visible in Sarajevo even though it has been largely rebuilt.
Over the centuries, Sarajevo has been a meeting of the east and the west. First settled in the 15th century by the Ottoman Turks, it was taken over by the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the late 19th century. Evidence of the Austro-Hungarian rule of country from 1878 – 1918 can be observed in the grand style of the architecture of much of Sarajevo. Neo-Baroque, Art Nouveau, and other turn-of-the-century decorative details adorned a lot of the buildings. On the other hand, many of the buildings, although restored after the war, appear grungy. A good coat of paint would do wonders throughout the city!
Unfortunately, graffiti is rampant in Sarajevo. Many of the exquisite buildings are marked up.
We also saw lots of bullet marks and patched surfaces.
During the Communist area under Tito, lots of plain blocky buildings were erected that look pretty shabby today.
Perhaps the most impressive building in Sarajevo is the City Hall. It was built in the late 19th century in a Neo-Morrish style and became a library that housed 1.5 million volumes and over 155,000 rare books, manuscripts and documents related to Balkan history. In 1992 during the Siege of Sarajevo, the building was bombed and almost all of the holdings were lost. The magnificent building has since been restored and is used for events, meetings, and concerts.
When it was destroyed.
The atrium restored.
During some free time, Charlotte and I sought out the Academy of Fine Arts where we were graciously given a tour of the print studios ( where they still use toxic supplies and processes.) The building dates from Tito’s era, but the new bridge was designed by art students.
There is more of Sarajevo to come….