Monday, June 23, 2014

The Bosniak Kingdom

When it came time to depart Split and head down to Dubrovnik, we decided to take the detour into Bosnia-Herzegovina and see the famous Mostar bridge.  (Another World Heritage site)

I will admit to being slightly apprehensive - not because I thought we would be targets or anything; but because I simply do not understand their recent war, nor how they can live with themselves after all that went on here in the 1990's.  I did not (and still don't) understand how they can still live side by side when just a short time ago they were being so viscous to each other.  How do you be civil to someone who was trying to kill you?  How do you refrain from smashing in the skull of the man who sent your daughter to a rape camp?  And lives next door?  And you have to see every day?  I would reckon that there is still heaps of pent up rage in these people just below the surface.
The only discernible difference between these people is what church they go to - Croats are Catholic, Serbs are Orthodox, (and I even have a hard time telling the difference between Catholic and Orthodox beliefs to be honest) and Bosniaks are Muslims.  They look the same.  The speak the same language.  They eat the same foods.  They grew up in the same villages.  As an American; it is inconceivable to me to even give a shit what church someone else goes to; never mind kill them for it.

The Croatian freeway A1A terminates at the Bosnian border - and is home to 1 of only 2 free toilets in Croatia (every other one costs 2-5kn to use).  Once across, we expected to see heaps of wreckage from the wars in the '90's - but the whole way to Mostar we couldn't tell if  a building missing a roof was missing it because it was hundreds of years old, or because it got bombed out by one group of assholes or another.  Bosnia appeared as modern and up to date as Croatia.

View from the Mostar bridge
In Mostar itself we still saw no signs of the war - all the buildings were in good repair and everyone seemed cheerful.  And it was gorgeous!  It is in a scenic gorge with medieval buildings lining the river, with a very east-meets-west feel to it.  Ottoman minarets, Venetian campanile,  Byzantine onion domes, Roman walls.  Excellent.  One thing we did notice is that one side of the river is predominately Bosniak - And they did not want to take Croatian Kuna's in payment; preferring Euros (even though the country's official currency ir the Bosnian Convertible Mark).  The other side of the river (the Croat side) had no problems taking Kunas - but did not want Serbian Dinars.

After Mostar, we drove to Blagaj - the home of the Whirling Dervishes (and yet another World Heritage site).  It was an Imram (kind of an Islamic monastery) where the Dervishes studied in nature.  The kids were bummed that they did not get to see any "Whirling" as they were fascinated that there are people who pray by spinning around.  Here we met the friendliest guy in Bosnia - He liked my Boy Scout hat because of the Fluer de Leis - it is also a symbol of the Bosniaks.

After Blagaj, we took a route to Dubrovnik through "Republika Sprska".  This is the portion of Bosnia that has an ethnic Serbian majority.  Both Bosnia and Serbia recognize it's sovereignty, but absolutely no one else does.   IT is a scary place.  Here were all the bullet hole ridden buildings and burnt out husks from the war.  Here were where the bitter losers were residing (loser is a relative term here).   While I said it was scary - we in no time felt in danger - but the tension was omnipresent.


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