Heading to SARAJEVO
After a hearty breakfast we said our farewells to Dubrovnik.
We live in a part of the world where crossing the border isn’t a big deal. Here in the former Yugoslavia crossing borders Is a way of life.
I was fortunate to visit Yugoslavia when it was still Yugoslavia – not long after my visit troubles started and eventually a number of new countries formed and borders were created.
This morning we crossed borders 4 times. Although the process is easy (officials don’t even board the coach and we didn’t get off) it is very time consuming. The wait to clear the Bosnia border was long – we then only traveled a short distance and were back in Croatia and experienced border control once again. A coach filled with Americans snuck in ahead of us at the Croatia border and that almost caused a new war between the local tour guides and drivers. As we exited Croatia we needed to go through the entire process again, We then re-entered Bosnia and our passports were scanned and stamped again. A coach driver from Bosnia was able to walk to the front of the line ahead of everyone else. Obviously there is some corruption here. It wasn’t long ago that a couple bills in your passport would also put you at the front of the line. We certainly collected a record number of passports stamps in one morning! Travel is all about experiences and this border story is one that we are bound to tell our family and friends when we get home.
The Chinese have been hired to build a mega bridge that will connect two portions of Croatia which should make the border situation a seamless one but its going to take a few years to finish that construction. Bosnia (which is land locked) is not part of the European Union so I believe that makes the border crossing between the two countries a bit more challenging.
Bosnia is one of Europes poorest countries with an unemployment rate of over 40 percent. As we traveled through this stunningly beautiful country we really didn’t notice signs of poverty. In fact I saw more luxury cars on the road than we have at home.
We made a stop in Medjugorje a special place especially for Catholic pilgrimages. Years ago all that was here was a very tiny town with a small Catholic parish – this sleepy place has since turned into a major tourist trap with more souvenir stores than you can imagine. Thousands upon thousands of tourists visit here yearly. Homeowners make a living by renting out rooms to tourists.
Lunch was held in a beautiful “Wedding Hall” – the grounds were impressive – a pond with waterfall and even a large wedding chapel. My passengers tried to get their soup recipe with no luck as the chef wasn’t sharing his secrets! We saw the first decorated signs of Easter in this restaurant.
We continued our journey to Sarajevo – our break stop allowed us to take in this incredible view.
The adjacent restaurant staff were roasting lambs on spits – smelled delicious.
Our hotel in Sarajevo is located in the old town where the streets are extremely narrow – I didn’t think our driver would be able to get us close to the hotel but he managed the narrow roads like a pro.
After check in we went for a stroll. I was told by friends that Sarajevo is an incredible city to visit and after taking in some of the old town during my stroll I have to agree…. more about this “exotic” destination in tomorrows blog post!