Day 11: Eye Opening Bosnia Herzegovina
We were rested after our free day and awoke early to catch a ferry tothePeljesac peninsula and dive along coast and inland to Croat-Bosnian border.We stopped briefly for lunch in Počitelj where we had some of my favorite beer from the trip,Saravjesko. The town of Počitelj felt distinctly different from Croatia. It is a14th-century Ottoman village that blends Slavic, Ottoman Turkish, and Mediterranean cultures.After our tasty lunch, we drove to Mostar while learning more about the history of conflict in the former Yugoslavia, which led up to war in the 1990s. That afternoon, we took a walking tour with a local guide who lived in Mostar throughout the war. She described how difficult it was to live there during the war. Her husband fought and only had two bullets, one for an assailant and one for himself.
The Yugoslav Wars
The Yugoslav wars involve a number of conflicts in the region, including separate but related conflicts in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Kosovo.Part of the difficulty in understanding the wars in Yugoslavia is that there were many parties immersed in conflict, the main three being Croatians, Bosnians, and Serbs. During the war, Croatians were exclusively Catholic, Bosnians were exclusively Muslim (Bosniaks), and Serbs were exclusively Serbian Orthodox. Families had intermarried by the time conflict broke out and choosing sides was difficult. In Mostar, the majority of the fighting was between Croats on one side of the river, and Bosniaks on the other.
To overly simplify the conflict, the republics of Yugoslavia (Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Vojvodina, Macedonia, Kosovo, and Montenegro) wanted independence. Serbia also wanted a more territory for a greater Serbia.The war ended in Bosnia-Herzegovina when NATO bombed key Serb territories. A NATO bombing campaign began against the Serbs. In December 1995, the Dayton Agreementwas signed in Dayton, Ohio byAlijaIzetbegović, president of Bosnia and Herzegovina,FranjoTudman, president of Croatia, andSlobodanMilošević, president of Serbia. Fightingwas brought to a halt and negotiations structured things roughly to their present-day state.The number of identified dead people (including civilians and military) for all conflicts numbers of 97,000 people. However, recent research estimates the unidentified dead could include up to another 13,000 with another 1.8 million people displaced.
We saw many shelled out buildings in the city that are still in need of repair. Our guide explained that there is still need for funds to rebuild the city, but things are slowly improving. Our guide explained that during the war, the city was dangerous so the civilians would hold short funerals at night to bury those who had been lost during the day. Later an official cemetery was constructed.
The bridge in Mostar, which is what you’ll see on most postcards from the city, was destroyed during the war. It was rebuilt using the original stones, which were fished out of the river.