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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina Day 2

On Thursday morning we met Mr. Begovic (who owned our hostel) outside his house and he drove us to the bus stop where a van would be picking us up for our excursion to Bosnia-Herzegovina. I think we waited longer than he expected and a couple vans came that were full and left and he seemed to be very anxious (it was a little funny to watch, but you would have had to have been there to laugh). Eventually a vacant van drove up and Ryan and I along with quite a few others got in, buckled up, and hit the road for a new country.

The drive was BEAU-TI-FUL! The road curved right along the coastline. I realized how far away some of the islands were that we had thought about going to. The time it took to ferry to these islands made a lot more sense to me now. BH (I'll abbreviate) is an interesting country because there is one part that juts out to the Adriatic Sea, so to reach Mostar we had to cross three borders. First we crossed into BH from Croatia and came to a little town called Neum where we got out for a coffee/potty break. That is where the picture below is from.

After 20 minutes we piled back in the van and kept on trucking up the road. Not to far along we crossed another border back into Croatia. At this point we started heading inland away from the beautiful coastal view. Then we eventually crossed our third border, which put us back into BH.

Not to far before we reached Mostar, our final destination, we came to a tiny little town on a hill side with ruins of an old Mosque I think and a currently in tact Mosque. It was definitely a tourist spotting point because as soon as we exited the van women were coming up trying to sell us things and hte whole base of the hill had little shops with very touristy items for sale. We only had about 15 minutes to explore and probably didn't need much more, but it was cool to see. The picture below shows you the view up the hill.

This picture is of the in tact Mosque. There was a Muslim woman outside selling a variety of items including wine, which I find interesting because most practicing Muslims do not drink. What people won't do to take advantage of the tourists.

As soon as we reach Mostar the van let us out with all the other vans from the same tour company at the Franciscan Church because it has a very tall bell tower so it woudl be easy to find our way back to. The interesting thing about this church is that it was built in 1997 after the war ended. This is very unique compared to so much of Europe where the churches date back hundreds or even thousands of years. From this starting place a local guide took us on a walking tour of the town for what was supposed to be 30 minutes. But turned into much longer.

The picture below is of a former Turkish Bath house, but today it is so sort of museum I think the guide said. There are no windows because, well, it was a bath house and people need their privacy.

From that area we walked through a street crowded with numerous shops and some restaurants, which led us to THE symbol of Mostar. What apparently is the city's distinguishing mark is a large bridge running from one side of the rive to the other. I took the picture below while we were standing on the bridge. You have to be very careful walking over the bridge because it is very slippery from so much foot traffic that all the stones are polished. This is a problem in other areas too because many of the pedestrian roads have very old cobblestones. To help the slippery bridge problem when it was built they put raised parts sort of like stairs except it is just flat then a raised part then flat again, not gradual stairs.

This picture was of the ground that the rocks were on their sides, which I suppose helps it not be as slippery after people walk over it countless times (or at least that is my only guess as to why), but it seemed interesting because I'd never seen anything like this before.

Now on the opposite side of the river from where we started we twisted and turned through many other tourists stopping to look at many more shops. We were headed to a Mosque that was supposed to have a great view down the river to the bridge we just crossed. You tell me what you think of the view in the picture below. I think it is worth walking to see.

If we wanted we could pay 2 euro (even though BH does not use the euro as their primary currency everywhere in Mostar excepts it) to go inside the Mosque and Ryan and I did. I am glad we did so. It was very beautiful and it is the oldest Mosque in Mostar and is still in use today. The picture below is of the Mosque. But it is a view of it from standing on the Bridge.

After the Mosque we had the option of leaving the tour for lunch, shopping, and exploring, or continuing with our guide to a "Turkish House." Ryan and I thought we'd like to experience as much as we could while there so we following the guide. The Turkish House is in Turkish style (due) from when the Turks ruled BH which wasn't even BH back when, it was park of Yugoslavia. These homes have been traditionally passed on through the generations, but the previous owners of this Turkish House had no children so they left the House to this tour agency or something and now it is a museum or site of attraction or whatever you want to call it. The picture below is of our tour guide modeling the underwear they wore. Their outfits are similar to what the characters wore in the movie Aladdin.

Another interesting fact we learned about life in a Turkish House has to do with the picture below. The main item you can see is a coffee maker or holder or something for hot coffee. The item in the corner is the same coffee maker or holder thing except it is for cold coffee. If a guest were to stop by the host would never turn them away even if it was not a good time, but they would offer either hot or cold coffee. Hot indicated they were welcome and could stay for awhile, but if you received cold coffee from your host it was an indication that they did not have time for this visit and you were to drink your coffee and leave.

Once we left the Turkish House we all walked back to more of a central part of town where the tour guide recommended some lunch spots and then departed. I think the majority of us ended up at the same restaurant which had a great view right along the river. Because there was a lack of open table a couple of sisters from Russia asked to Join Ryan and I who were already seated. They were very nice and it was fun to spend time talking to them over lunch. Ryan and I shared a seafood platter for two and it was so delicious. It had two whole fish skin, bones, heads, and tails, along with some grilled squid. Our accompanying side was boiled potatoes and kale. It was all delicious. I had a glass of BH red wine and Ryan had a BH white wine. I preferred the red. I think for this entire are Croatia, BH, and Montenegro I just prefer red wine and don't care for the white.

It took a long time to get the bill, which is not unusual for European restaurants by any means. The problem was that it was three o'clock and we were supposed to be back at the van so we just got up and left the restaurant without paying..... just kidding... we wouldn't do that. We finally paid and then hustled back to the Franciscan Church where everyone else was waiting in the van. But we were only 10-15 minutes late so the guide didn't seem upset with us, but was relieved to see us I think.

It was about 3 hours back to Dubrovnik with one stop in Neum again for a coffee/potty break or just to stretch our legs. Back in Dubrovnik Ryan and I were tired and didn't feel up to anymore exploring so we just headed up the million stairs to our hostel. We had bought a box of Minestrone soup at the grocery the night before for dinner tonight. We each showered and then I went to the kitchen to get our food and start the soup. When I opened the box all that was in it was white rice. The picture on the front was of Minestrone soup (but with rice instead of noodles as I'm used to) and in large letters it said "Minestrone" on the front of the box. But apparently if I where able to read Croat I would have known that it was a box of rice to use in the making of your own Minestrone soup. So all we had for dinner was rice and we were too tired to walk back down and did not want to spend more money on dinner. I started boiling the rice and then began to think of any way I could spice up the rice. The only think in the cupboards was salt and pepper, but then I realized we had fresh lemons, limes, and oranges right outside. At this point it had started pouring rain, so I asked Ryan to go pick me a couple of lemons. Once the rice was done I squeezed in lemon juice. My idea was to make lemon pepper rice. But when I went to add the pepper I discovered there was barely a dash left. So it was more just lemon rice. It wasn't bad by any means. I think it would have been really delicious with a fillet of salmon on top of it, but all by itself it was a bit much for the quantity we both ate for dinner. Oh well it was only one night and I did the best I could with what was available.

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