When a sudden sharp rain shower woke me shortly before my 7am alarm, I thought we were in for a wet day; slippery roads, damp socks, and short sprints from car to cover. However, by the time we left the house an hour later, the skies were clearing and the sun was even making an appearance.
Thank goodness, because I didn’t want my first day in Bosnia and Herzegovina to be a wet one. We were joining six others on a day tour from Dubrovnik with Amico Tours, and though I’m sure the sights would have been just as nice under grey skies, I needed a break from the rain.
Our guide, Gabriel, had his work cut out for him for the first hour or so; he explained a little about the area we were driving through as well as telling us a little bit about Croatian and Bosnian and Herzegovinian history, but none of us were completely awake yet. A coffee stop on Herzegovinia’s tiny stretch of coast helped, as did a walk around the ruins of a Roman villa in Mogorjelo. By the time we reached our next stop, in Medugorje, we were all a lot more alive — though, surprisingly, none of us wanted to buy any religious souvenirs at the dozens of shops selling all sizes of Mary statues and a full range of rosaries. Medugorje has been an important pilgrimage destination since the Virgin Mary appeared to six children in the early eighties. While we were there, the church was packed with devotees listening to a sermon in Italian that was broadcast to the rest of the town on loudspeakers. We had another coffee.
As we approached Mostar, Gabriel outlined the history of the city; its wars and factions, its architecture, its iconic bridge. We were lucky enough to see someone jump off the bridge as we crossed it; someone had obviously handed over enough cash to make the dangerous jump worth his while. After delivering us to a local restaurant with a great view of the river and the bridge, and running through our options for our free time, Gabriel bid us farewell and left us to eat our cevapi alone. And by alone, I mean all eight of us together.
The meal was delicious and amazingly cheap compared to Dubrovnik prices, and the view couldn’t have been better. Although the view from the Turkish House, where Craig and I headed next, was pretty good too. We spent our two hours’ free time wandering the city, checking out the mosque and the markets, and found ourselves eating figs by the river waiting for our friend the jumper to throw himself off the bridge again. The sun was shining, the water was sparkling… All was well with the world.
Soon it was time to head back to the bus and on to our last stop of the day, Pocitelj. This ancient fortress has some impressive architecture to admire; some of us did so from the top of the tallest tower (at our own risk, as Gabriel pointed out — it was worth it). Exhausted from the climb, and with sticky fingers from the pomegranate we’d been given by some residents as we descended, we boarded the van for the last time.
We still had 100km or so and three passport checks to get home, and as we drove away from the last one, the heavens opened. It’d held out all day so that we could enjoy Bosnia and Herzegovina, but just couldn’t wait a minute longer. Seems like angels (and not just Gabriel) had been looking after us!