A Road Trip in the Western Balkans : Part 3, Bosnia & Herzegovina

This is the last leg of our three part road trip...check out Part I in Croatia and Part II in Montenegro!

For those of us who grew up (or were already grown up) in the 1990s, the mention of Bosnia conjures up images of a broken Yugoslavia, a burning Sarajevo, and the constant warfare that dominated our t.v. airwaves from '92 to '95.  Needless to say, the country is still trying to move past those years, while never forgetting the tragedies which took place there.  Sounds like a perfect place to continue a road tripping vacation!!

Of course, the obvious difference we saw as we crossed into B&H from Montenegro were the scars from that terrible time:  bombed out skeletons of homes and countless buildings still peppered with mortar shell wounds:

Despite all of the visual reminders of war, we quickly discovered that B&H is also an incredibly beautiful and charming country with a rich cultural heritage from six historical civilizations that at one time or another called this area home (among them:  Arabic influences from the Turkish Ottoman Empire and the Judeao-Christians from Austria-Hungary).  

Our main "home base" in B&H was in touristy, yet lovely, little Mostar.  We rented a room in the house of one of the shop owners downtown and were all set for exploration!

The big draw of Mostar is its bridge, which was built in 1588 by the Ottomans and considered the greatest architectural achievement in the Ottoman-controlled Balkans.  Standing strong for nearly 400 years, it was sadly destroyed in the 90s conflict.  Amazingly, it was painstakingly rebuilt stone for stone, and now stands just as strong as it ever did before (with brave divers taking the plunge off of it to earn a few extra bucks).  

The food of this region is so, so delicious; flatbread, sarma (grape leaves rolled around a meat and rice filling), and some heavenly-layered baklava was one meal of choice.  Wanna make the BEST decisions when it comes to food on your travels?  Ask what's fresh, popular, and/or local--you usually can't go wrong (and if you do, it'll probably make for a good story)!

One of my favorite moments and favorite shots from Mostar (copies of which are currently for sale in the print shop):

A beautiful morning in B&H...

The drive from Mostar up through the heart of the country to Banja Luca was one of the most beautiful (and precarious) drives I've ever been on in my life.  Seriously, my breath was taken away around the bend of more than one hairpin curve.  Since your main duty on this route is not taking photos, but instead staying alive, this is one drive I would love to make into its own road trip one day, with plenty of time for stop-and-shots as I like to call them:

Our little pink mobile, The Champagne Dame, nearing the end of the road tripping road (and my travel buddy's feet taking in the view):

After just getting a glimpse of what B&H had to offer, I was almost sorry that we had saved it for the very end when we were short on time (thanks in part to my Horrible Key Incident back in Croatia, which shaved off a few days for us here).  I have a feeling it won't be long before B&H makes it strongly onto the "hot" destinations to visit here in a few years--it's on the cusp of totally tossing off the image that the majority of the world holds of it, and I for one am so grateful that we got to see and know her a little for what she truly is:  a powerhouse of culture and beauty tucked neatly away in the middle of the Balkans!