Dance of Wolves
Being on a holiday in Dubrovnik and not seeing another Balkan’s jewel that has been becoming more and more popular thanks to Instagram would be a sin. While my family prefers another day spent at the beach, partly because Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is not the part of European Schengen area, requires a passport and not all family members carry it, I get up early in the morning ready to go for a little trip with local travel agency. Another option how to get to Bosnia is by local transport or by car on you own, but the trip thru travel agency seems easier. In the minibus, there are nine of us (two Indian couples, two Philippine girls and one mixed couple of Swiss and Mexican) plus our guide who is on the way to the borders telling us about the former Yugoslavia country, the Balkan War and the President Slobodan Miloševič. Yugoslavia used to be one large and very powerful country with rich agriculture, industry and tourism, but in the 90s after the Balkan War it was divided into several small states. The owner of the travel agency told me before the trip that the Balkans in Latin means “Dance of Wolves” and the Balkan people are really like wolves – strong, passionate, wild and strongly bound to their clamps, families and traditions. Keeping so many different wolf clamps together is probably not an easy task for one president…
Our first stop after the border are magnificent Kravice Waterfalls with emerald green crystal clear water. And imagine, in this piece of paradise one can also swim! Not everyone, however, is willing to jump in, the water is too icy, even though the weather is so hot. Our guide give us 40 minutes to enjoy this beauty, but it’s not enough. Unfortunately it takes 25 minutes just to climb the stairs. I’d rather skip our next stop in the (for me boring) village of Medjugorje, famous for series of apparitions of the Virgin Mary to six local children in 1981, and would spend more time swimming in the waterfalls…
After 25 km from the holy village we finally arrive to Mostar, where we get another, beautiful and incredibly tall Bosnian guide. From her, we learn plenty of other interesting information while we are walking towards the bridge. Nowadays in Bosnia & Herzegovina live three big communities of Catholics, Muslims and Orthodox in peace and harmony. Maybe thanks to three presidents, each of them representing one major community. Bosnians are very proud of their unique election system. Country seems to be stable ad their currency is stronger than Emirate Dirham (2:1 approx. compared to Euro). The climate is typical for the Inland with big temperature differences in the summer and winter. While the 40-degree heat is nothing unusual in summer, temperatures fall long below zero in winter.
“Most” in Bosnian language means “Bridge”. So it is quite clear that the city got its name after its famous bridge. The old stone bridge over the River Neretva has been the center of life since its construction in the 16th century (but initially it was made of wood). It divides the city into the Muslim and Christian part and often it is cited as one of the most beautiful bridges in the world. Almost as legendary as the bridge itself are the Bosnian jumpers jumping from a 27-meter-high bridge into the icy river below. It is a stage at which Mostarian young men prove their courage and it is a kind of a maturity exam. The tradition of jumping is 450 years old! Jumpers need to train really hard before they jump. The difference between the temperature outside and the temperature in water is too big. They run-up prior to jumping, they fall down into the river and fly in the air like birds. Some jump steeply, another sitting in the Turkish way or fly with arms wide open like birds. And after the jump they all happily go out on the shore and collect money from visitors for the champion. Respectively, nowadays, this is done in the opposite way: first, one of the jumping guys collects the money from the tourists gathered under the bridge, and if he finally got enough, the jumper at the top of the bridge gets a signal that he can jump his show.
When the jumpers are safely out of the water on the shore and the tourists are scattered, our guide give us free time. I’m staying under the bridge for an another while, looking for the best spot for the pictures. In one place, there is not the other way, than to dive my feet into the icy water and cross on the other side. In that moment I find out how the water really icy is! It’s almost hard to believe when outside is so hot. But now the sun is hiding behind heavy grey clouds and it looks like a storm is coming soon. Mostar is often cited as the Istanbul of Balkan and indeed! Neretva River divides the city into the Christian and Muslim part, national food was inspired by Turkish specialties, and along the bridge there is an old bazaar with handmade carpets, colorful lamps and lights, colorful stones tiled boxes and jewelry.
But most surprising for me is a local food. On the recommendation of our guide I visit the local restaurant, where I’m traditionally welcomed with the strong shot of “Rakija”. Then, from a part of the menu with traditional specialties, I choose a special mixed plate – CEVABI (minced meat), JAPRAK (with minced beef, spicy and rice filled wine leaves) and DOLMA (with minced beef, spicy and rice filled bell pepper). And everything is served with mashed potatoes and sour cream! And there is also syrup water in the drink menu. What does that remind you? To our Slovaks it all sounds like old grandma’s food. Yummy!