Most people skip the mouthful of words that is Bosnia & Herzegovina, instead going for the shortened form of Bosnia. The two territories have had an on again/off again relationship over the past thousand years, sometimes grouped together sometimes not. Since gaining their independence from the former Yugoslavia the two have forged a permanent bond as a country.
The difference between Bosnia and Herzegovina is evident in their geography. As you head south the rich green hills of Bosnia give way to rockier, more arid crags. The people are just as charming though, and the small region is full of interesting sights:
Mostar, a gorgeous medieval city, was on the front lines of the Bozniak-Croat conflict. The city was completely devastated. Many residents consider the low point of the war to be when the great 16th century ottoman bridge; symbol of the city, was blown up. As I wrote about previously, the bridge has since been rebuilt as a symbol of peace.
About an hour from Mostar is the former artist colony of Počitelj. Built by the ottomans in the 16th century Počitelj was an artist’s colony and retreat until a bloody bombing and ethnic cleansing campaign by Croat forces in 1992. There are still some beautiful stone buildings and mosques left from the oldest artist’s colony in Southern Europe. At the top of the hill is a decaying stone fortress that you can climb right up inside- safety be damned.
Horses grazing in overgrown roman ruins from the first century AD.
Kravice Falls, “the Bosnian Niagara falls.” Although nowhere near as epic as Niagara, the falls were impressive, stunning and completely deserted. With no one to stop us we plunged into the freezing water and swam right up, and underneath the crashing falls.
Surprisingly, the number one tourist attraction in BiH is not Sarajevo, or even Mostar, but a small town called Međugorje, near the Croatian border. In 1981 the Virgin Mary appeared to six Croatian teenagers in the hills by the town. Now thousands of Catholics every year, mainly Irish from the look of the tour buses, make pilgrimages to visit Our Lady of Međugorje. There is a large modern cathedral, plenty of tour bus parking and gift shops that sell just about any religious paraphernalia imaginable. A few days before our visit a statue of the Virgin was said to have cried real tears.
The dervish monastery at Blagaj was of the most beautiful and peaceful places I have visited in my life. The 15th century tekija sits at the base of an absolutely enormous rock face. Next to the little white building is the source of the Buna River. We were encouraged to drink straight from the holy stream and I’ve never tasted water that clear and delicious before or since. I’m not a religious person but this was truly a holy place.