We are now visiting the country with the most unusual, strange and confusing political system in the world. I wanted to discuss it here, but this has got too long so look for it to be posted very soon.
The first thing to know about our visit in Bosnia and Herzegovina is that we are in the middle of an extreme heat warning. Temperatures at the moment are often around 100F or 38C and I have discovered that I can’t take this heat anymore. It is influencing how much we travel around and visit places. Hiking up hills to see forts and monuments during the day is out of the question. I stay in the RV until the middle of the afternoon when we leave for a late lunch and then visit some of the towns later in the day. Even in the RV it is still very hot as we can only operate one of our two air conditioning units because even the best of campgrounds only have 16 amp service in Europe. It is still over 90C (32F) at 7pm (19:00) at night outside. I was getting concerned that my lack of energy was more than just the heat until last night. As the sun was setting, we visited some waterfalls that had a watery mist everywhere. I felt better than I had in days. I was interested walking around the area and felt great. It didn’t last. Mike went out for a walk this morning before it got too hot and was back really quickly. It was 9:00 AM and it was already too hot for walking. This area gets 260 sunny days a year. I could do with a few less at the moment.
We are still in the Dinaric Alps and it looks like we will be for quite a while. This is the mountain chain that runs throughout Montenegro, covers large parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as the mountains in Croatia. When we leave Bosnia and Herzegovina, we are heading back to Triglav National Park in Slovenia which is part of the Julian Alps and borders the Dinaric Alps. We then go into Austria which isn’t known for being flat! We were in the Carpathian Mountains when we were in Transylvania. Norway was 90% mountains and fjords. This isn’t the landscape that we had thought about visiting ahead of time, knowing that we would be driving an oversized vehicle on Europe’s roads while towing a car. On the other hand, we have seen more tremendous scenery than we ever expected to. Every day there are just beautiful views everywhere. There are water features: waterfalls, rapids, raging rivers and lakes all over. We visited Kravica and Kocusa Waterfalls and very much enjoyed them. Water levels are very high at the moment as you can see from the photo above. To the right in the photo is the patio eating area of a restaurant which is underwater. We are going to try and camp on a river for the next few days and then head to Sarajevo. The weather in Sarajevo is predicted to have some thunderstorms almost every day but the temperature will be back down into the 80s or 27/28C. Still higher than I like but better. I have decided that I like it cool enough to possibly need a light jacket. That is great weather for biking, hiking or just walking outside.
There is a definite Turkish feel to a lot of areas presumably left over from when the Ottomans (Turkish) ruled for 400 years from 1466-1878.
Bosnia and Herzegovina gained independence over 20 years ago in 1995 after three years of bitter war. We still see quite a few houses with bullet holes. The first buildings we saw with bullet holes were falling down, empty places and it made sense that the bullet holes had never been repaired. Since then we have seen some nice, well-kept and lived in homes with many bullet holes in the exterior walls. We assume that this is like a badge of honour or a memorial/reminder of the war.
The main and only road for us to continue north from our first campground near Trebinje had a bridge near it labelled 4 metres. Our RV air conditioners on the roof, top out at 3.9 metres high. Our antenna at the front of the RV is the highest spot, even higher than the air conditioners. If it clears then the rest of the RV will clear, if it doesn’t then it is time to be concerned. We came to the bridge very slowly, inched forward, and the antenna cleared, RELIEF! Once, in North America the antenna didn’t clear, and Mike wanted me to judge if the air conditioners would clear. Not my call. I had Mike park the vehicle just under the edge of the bridge and climb up the back ladder to investigate. We did make it, but it was the closest we have ever had. Actually, we did have one campground in Hungary that we couldn’t get into because the railway bridge just before the entrance was just inches too low. We had to back out from that bridge.
In our campground near Trebinje we met our first British campers on this trip that said they had voted for Brexit. Overall travellers are probably more interested in the outside world and a little less inward looking than other people. This leads to nearly all the campers we meet hating the thought of Brexit. This camper, another Mike, said that he had believed Boris Johnson’s pitch about the huge amount of money that Britain was paying weekly to the EU and which would now be completely available for things like the National Health Service. Mike (the Brit), now understands that the people were lied to, and the country is in a mess because of Brexit. Since it is my British EU passport that allows me to stay for indefinite periods in Europe, I am glad that we are on our trip now and that Brexit is delayed.
After we left Trebinje we moved to the village of Međugorje which turns out to be one of the largest Catholic pilgrimage sites in the world. According to the internet, in 1981 six teenagers were playing together in the hills when the Mother Mary appeared and spoke to them. When the children told their parents the first reaction was skepticism. The apparitions, however, did not cease. Mother Mary appeared again and again and soon made believers out of even the most vocal of critics. Since then it is estimated that over 15 million people have visited this tiny place. Mike walked past the main church in town one morning and said that the church was absolutely full for mass. Together we walked by the church that evening. They were holding an outside mass with many more people than would have fit inside the church. The village is now almost nothing but churches and tourist stores or kiosks lining the street.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has numerous official divisions, politically and ethnically. We will talk about those in the next article on the politics and a little history of the area. What is surprising is that Herzegovina itself isn’t one of those political divisions. It is a name left over from when this area was ruled by a duke or Herzog and this became known as Herzegovina or Herzog’s Lands. People do think of it as a separate region at times and the most important city in the region is Mostar which serves as Herzegovina’s cultural and economic capital.
The most well-known historical site in Mostar is actually a bridge. Stari Most (literally ‘Old Bridge’) was built in the 1500s under the Ottoman Empire. The builder was charged under pain of death to construct a bridge of unprecedented dimensions. He reportedly prepared for his own funeral on the day the scaffolding was finally removed from the completed structure. Prior to building this bridge a smaller replica was built nearby to test out some of the modern techniques that were being used. Upon Stari Most’s completion it was the widest man-made arch in the world. The bridge stood for over 400 years until it was destroyed during the wars in 1993. After the war it was decided to build a bridge as similar as possible to the original, using the same technology and materials. The bridge was re-built with local materials and Ottoman construction techniques. Divers even recovered some of the stones from the original bridge from the river below.
We told all sorts of people about how narrow the roads where in Norway, which is true, but it was also the first country that we travelled around that had roads that width. We have found that narrow main roads are not uncommon in Europe, even the ones the big trucks travel. We were appropriately warned in Norway that we might lose our side view mirrors as we passed other large trucks. We did see campers that this had happened to. Somehow Mike is able to navigate these narrow roads, and the mirrors and the RV only have a few scratches.. Narrow roads will continue to be somewhat nerve racking but less so now. Certainly, Mike seems more comfortable now, Jackie not so much.
Disappointing day today. We are heading towards Sarajevo but since it will be almost a four-hour drive from our campsite in Međugorje we had decided to find somewhere to stop in between. We had found two campgrounds near each other on a large river with lots of boating that looked great. Mike sent them both an email with a photo of our camper, but we didn’t hear back from either one. As we got into the area we were really pleased with the look of the river and the thought of spending part of the heat wave here. We would finally put our boat in the water, and it would be fresh, not saltwater. Well it didn’t work out. The road along the river is quite a bit higher than the water and both campgrounds had tiny, really steep driveways down to the river and camping area. I think it is the first time that we have actually not been able to stay in an area due to the size of our camper. As I write this we are heading straight through to Sarajevo and have left the river behind. Currently we are driving in the mountains in a thunderstorm with thunder, lightning and hail stones the size of dimes.
I will be posting an article very shortly on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s very unusual political system involving three concurrent presidents, multiple parliaments and more.