OK, Mine

After our morning climb out of touristy Dubrovnik, we crossed into Bosnia and Hercegovina (BiH). Just after the border, we turned onto a quiet country road. Really quiet.

For a couple of hours we biked without seeing more than ten people (and that included the three people driving cars). We passed through several small villages but only saw 0-3 people in each one. Most of the houses were pockmarked with bullet holes, and many were completely bombed out. In fact, we saw more cows living in the houses than people. In many of the towns, the houses were spray painted with either “OK” or “Mine.” The roads were also lined with signs that warned of mines. The country seemed abandoned. It was eerie but fascinating. The biking was wonderful.

Welcome to Bosnia!

Welcome to Bosnia!

OK

OK

Mine!

Mine!

There were more cows living in the houses than people.

There were more cows living in the houses than people.

The only problem was that we hadn’t been prepared for such a contrast. Dubrovnik (only 20km away) had been the most touristy place we’d visited. Bosnia was empty. We couldn’t find even a tiny store to stock up on food and water, which was a first for our trip.

Therefore, we were relieved when we came to a river. We pulled out our water filter and filled our bottles. In the meantime, an old man (human #11 in BiH) came by with his flock of sheep. We could hear him yelling at them from a mile away — a constant barrage of insults was our guess. When he finally reached and spoke to (yelled at) us, his volume and intonation didn’t change. Despite this, he seemed friendly. Of course, he also seemed batshit crazy. Mike is sure that he doesn’t have much contact with other humans.

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Filtering water

Filtering water

A short while later we finally came upon some signs of civilization. We found a larger road with a little bit of traffic, and after a couple more hours we even found a little store.

Our digs for the night were some old man’s house in a town we reached around dark. Nothing special, but we were happy to not have to search for a camping spot amidst the minefields.

The next morning we aimed our bikes toward Mostar, which involved some fairly significant climbing. Unfortunately, it also started to rain just as we set off. With a steady, soaking rain chilling us all morning, I was pretty glum at our lunch stop. Fortunately, the rain ceased shortly thereafter. We wheeled into Mostar around 16:00.

Mostar is named for its old bridge, Stari Most, which literally means “old bridge.” At one point, it was in fact quite old. It stood for 427 years (since 1566) until it was blown up in 1993 during the Yugoslav civil war. It was reconstructed using 16th-century techniques with help from UNESCO, and it reopened in 2005. The bridge is also famous for its divers who jump from its pinnacle into a chilly blue-green river 21m below. They have a clubhouse on the side of the bridge and will only jump after gathering enough donations.

Stari Most

Stari Most

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View of Mostar from Stari Most

View of Mostar from Stari Most

We went to dinner at a favorably reviewed restaurant and ordered the “national plate for two.” This consisted of meat, meat wrapped in meat, meat-stuffed veggies, and rice. Ha! I exaggerate a little. It was good, but by this point in our trip I was getting a little tired of our food options (meat or pizza). I’m no vegetarian, but I don’t eat much red meat at home. It wouldn’t be that awful, except most of the meat was rather flavorless and didn’t come with many sides. One of the most ubiquitous dishes in Bosnia (and Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, and Macedonia) is called cevapi. Cevapi are little sausages commonly served with a pita. Sometimes they come with sour cream or another sauce or a couple of onions, but they’re pretty plain. We ate a lot of doner kebabs too. Normally I’m a fan of doner kebabs, and I was thrilled to come upon them in Hungary, but a month later they had lost their charm. It wasn’t just that I was tired of them either; the veggies and sides that normally come with them (cabbage, onions, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, yogurt sauce, a little bit of spicy oil) became scarcer and scarcer. One day in Bosnia we ordered doner kebabs that consisted of a pita, meat, french fries, sour cream, and ketchup. So yeah, I was getting tired of our meaty, veggie-deficient options. I don’t even think we ever even had chicken anywhere. I can’t recall a single time that was an option besides when we visited the Milan Expo at the end of our trip. We started keeping an eye out for Chinese, Mexican, Thai, Indian, or any cuisine other than local fare. The range of options available in a metro area like Phoenix is a beautiful thing, my friends.

Cevapis, pita, rice, potatoes, onions stuffed with meat, meat patties, meat rolled in grape leaves, more meat, etc.

Cevapis, pita, rice, potatoes, onions stuffed with meat, meat patties, meat rolled in grape leaves, more meat, etc.

After dinner, we saw the bridge and walked around the old town for a bit, planning more explorations the following day. Unfortunately, Mike was sick the next day. Maybe he overdid it with the meat. Maybe it was from the water we filtered from the river, since he drank it, and I didn’t. The filter is supposed to be pretty good, but who knows. I ventured out a few times on my own, and bought myself a cute souvenir leather purse, but we had a rather uneventful Sunday.

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The streets of Mostar

The streets of Mostar

Luckily, Mike was feeling well enough for our side trip to Sarajevo the next morning. We left our bikes with our Mostar AirBnB hosts and took a train to Sarajevo. I’m going to save Sarajevo for another post, though, because I’ve already written an essay on it. It’s just too much info to try to cram into this post. Sarajevo was one of the most interesting places we went, I don’t want to give it short shrift. I’m glad Mike was feeling well enough for us to visit.

Comments
3 Responses to “OK, Mine”
  1. JM Simpson says:

    Enough for a book? I find your travels so amazing. Much more worthwhile than warching Trump implode on TV news.

  2. Bold adventures and beautiful photos. Thanks for sharing

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