Trench Trash and Art in Artillery Bosnian Style
Mostar Bosnia and Herzegovina
Today was a big lesson in ‘Border Crossings with a vehicle from Great Britain’.
We have Insurance from Down Under, but the policy does not include countries outside the EU.
I had forgotten totally about this. If you have a policy, check your Green piece of paper.
So we drive through Croatia to the border, and strike a traffic jam.
We talk to a local. He says he knows a nearby border crossing within 15 minutes, and we go in convoy with him and some other tourist cars. We are flying around the back streets, and I am trying not to lose him, and others are trying not to lose me.
We then drive at the border of Croatia and our passports are stamped “out”.
Then we get to the border go Bosnia and Herzegovina and he refuses to stamp us “in”.
He holds my passports. He indicates to me to park on the side. He has no English. I am pulling out my Australian Drivers Licence, My International Drivers Licence. My Registration Papers for the Vehicle. And, my Insurance Cover.
“Nema, Nema, Nema, Nema” is all I get – or “No, No, No, No”
“zeleni carton” ???
I start stopping drivers and asking them if they speak English.
Finally one says “No Green Card”. I have not heard of a GreenCard, apart from USA.
The Bosnian Border Crossing Officer gives me the flick with his hand to turn around and go back to Croatia.
I then pull over (back at the Croatian side) but he won’t stamp me back in.
I try to explain the problem, and he draws me a map. I have no idea what the words are.
Is that the name of a place? An office? A person? I try the GPS and no luck. What are these words?????
I drive back into town and find a police officer. He stops all the traffic and it is banked up behind me. About twenty cars wait whilst he assists. Nice man! He calls over another car and I am to follow him over the 2nd iron bridge.
I am then waved in the direction of left.
I pass another border crossing and drive back …. to the long queue I was first in. Incredible !!
So I do a U-turn, and go to the border crossing I jut passed. He speaks a little English. He tells me to go wait in the line and I will pass a Green Card office and I can “buy a Green Card”.
So back in the line up for an hour we wait. Three cars up are some New Zealanders who also have bought a UK vehicle. They haven’t even got the transfer papers for the registration. The line is so slow we pass a petrol station, and I leave the car in the line and run to the bathroom.
I then find another officer walking the line, and he issues me the ‘wave’ to go to a tin office. Here I am told by a man blowing smoke that it is Ten Euro for minimum seven days. Then he changes it to Twenty Euro. I am not sure if it was a mixup with language, and he just said the wrong number, or some went in his pocket?
We get waved back into the line of cars waiting for the border.
We get through.
By now I’m shaking. I hate border crossings. I stop at the side of the road, and pick some figs and wash and eat one. I calm down. I had visions of not getting through this country. All is good. So Explorason and I talk about irrational fears.
We get to Mostar and the GPS tries to take us into the ‘walking only’ streets. So I am a bit like a wildly thrown bowling ball in a street of bowling pins – them being tourists.
It is a small town and the GPS has no maps. This is the latest TomTom download? TomTom – you need to work on your Eastern and Souther European Maps – big time. We head past a very Arab inspired building. It looks in great condition. Many others are ruins.
We go on a wild goose chase as some streets are not marked One Way. We pass this building two times. I have no idea what it is, or why it is decorated in such a way.
We pass so many buildings ruined by the war years.
So we find an apartment a little out of the town centre, but we can walk in.
We check in and discover we are right by two towers to Muslim Mosques. Visions of Ramadan and Morocco flood back to us.
It is getting late and we decide to make some dinner – it is a roomy apartment with a kitchen and a balcony and it is only Twenty-Five Euro a night, so we booked for two nights. We have internet, and a balcony – and rain !!
We wake – and there has been very little mosque noise – which makes us pretty happy.
It is raining hard, so we head to the city shopping centre. Here we have MacDonald’s. A travelling child’s delight.
We then spend a few hours in here. Half the stores are on sale or seem to be closing down – so we get some new clothes for Explorason.
We take the car back to park at the apartment, and as it has stopped raining we head off on foot to the famous bridge.
As we do, we see buildings and homes shot to pieces. So we talk about the Bosnian War. I don’t know a lot, and so we always try to learn about the country where we are. I need to learn more so I can help Explorason learn. We see a home and we talk about what it would have been like to have sniper shooting when you were inside. How these people suffered.
We get to the street where we can walk to Stari Most – the famous bridge. This was destroyed as part of the Bosnian War.
As we walk on, we notice most of the souvenirs, and the lamps are of Turkish style.
There are so many restaurants, and so many tourist stores. I start to talk to the locals and learn there is very little that is from Bosnia. The rugs are and the weaving. The next street is famous for copper and brass work. The lamps and pottery are Turkish. The rest, we are told is from China.
And then we meet a man working in his father’s workshop.
He sees Explorason is hot, tired and bored being a tourist. And so he puts him to work. They start to hammer out a moon together. It is lovely. I sit and listen to this man teach us all about the Bosnian War.
All about how this is NOT just called Bosnia. This region is Herzegovina. We practice saying it. He asks for no money. He doesn’t try to sell me a thing. He is just lovely. We see books as his father is an expert in his work, and we learn about this famous street for metal work. We learn this workshop will next year be a UNESCO shop too.
Then we learn about “Trench Trash”.
You can read more about it here.
It is also known as “Art in Artillery”.
And so we see artillery shells that are decorated, and he turns one into a Christmas Decoration for us.
Some of you might know that we collect something from each country (often a key ring) that we can convert and make into a Christmas Decoration for our World Christmas Tree when we finish this trip.
It is an inexpensive option to Souvenir collecting. They take little space.
So here we have our own “Mostar” shell. How cool is that. It means a lot, as there was an educational lesson in this item too.
We then wander along to koski mehmed pasha mosque.
There is a water fountain there, and we sit and rest.
You can pay to go into the mosque, but we don’t want to, so we just look from the outside.
But do not pass this area by if you come – even if like us you have no interest to see inside the Mosque or Museum. Next to the mosque is possibly the hidden jewel of Mostar. Here outside you can enjoy a coffee and the most incredible view of Stari Most.
I love this photo I took of the two ladies sharing and talking. The fruit and drink shared, with happy conversation.
We finish here and wander back along the pebbled streets. These are not cobblestone streets. These are torturous pebbled streets. By the end of an hour or two, you will feel pain; and a lot of it.
But this must be endured for the eye of the tourist to see all around this area.
I can’t stop admiring these lamps. I feel like they are warming more than a room with their glow. They are warming my heat. They are inspiring and drawing me to Turkey.
It is getting late, and we are still yet to get to the Sari most. We tried earlier, but group photos were being taken of students and flags, so we had to wait.
This bridge is also famous for people jumping off. It is over 20 metres high.
‘Hamish and Andy’ from Australia jumped free fall from this bridge last year. Last week an Australian hurt himself jumping off this same bridge. And right before our eyes, a local man jumps off. His off-sider collects money, and I believe he does this often. He seems wired. Or stoned. Or high – well yes he is high – way high – and then he is low – he comes out quite red. He runs into a shop on the bridge, and emerges dressed, and he then ‘downs’ a coffee already poured at a cafe.
It is about now we decide to leave. We walk down to the bottom. Here are pieces of the original bridge below where it was bombed. The war really wrecked it. War wrecks so much. We are back to talking about the Bosnian War.
On the other side is the crooked bridge and some more lanes and alley ways to walk through. It has been a wonderful afternoon. We pass a building that is completely ruined.
Explorason feels the holes in what is left of the wall.
So today – now we know how the war started. We know the damage it did. And we know it was between 1992 and 1995. We know how it ended. And we know some of the suffering of these people. But now, we also see some of the nicest and friendliest people I have ever met, putting their lives and country back together again.
If you have not lived through this kind of war, please take a moment, thank God, and be grateful.
There were times through today I actually had tears in my eyes. I wanted to weep when I saw such terrible destruction.
Man destroys. Religion destroys. War destroys.
I pray as a mother I never have to live through a war, and see my son go off to fight.
Bosnia and Herzegovina – my heart goes out to you. As I type this, I want you to know I admire your strength as a country after all you have endured. I, along with so many, hope you rise to become a nation in your own entity that never endures such hardship again.
Thank you specially to the un-named man in the workshop who took time from his day. For you were our teacher. Because of you, we are richer in knowledge, and are really grateful for all you shared with us. We leave with Trench Trash, and true wisdom.