– Are you going to Medjugorje?
– Have you been to Medjugorje?
These are the questions to which every conversation inevitably leads here in Herzegovina because it seems unthinkable to be here and not to go there. As if you were in Paris and didn’t climb the Eiffel tower or didn’t see the Coliseum in Rome. Well, we didn’t go there. Somehow it wasn’t our priority.
Facts first: the country that appeared after crossing the border with Croatia is called Bosnia and Herzegovina. The region through which our route took us is Herzegovina. And you’d better not say that you’re in Bosnia while in Mostar. Locals are sensitive about it. So we cycled through Herzegovina, a land inhabited predominantly by Christians, where the religious issue is a significant point of division between us and them. Like in all the ex-Yugoslavia countries. Luckily it’s not so important when you’re a foreigner. Hospitality is greater, more South you go.
It all started with getting cold Coca-cola at the border. Nice. Then it resulted that Herzegovina is a land of betting. You’ll find betting operators everywhere. The dream of golden rain must be rooted deep down inside the souls of men of all ages sitting in bars without purpose. Even if we found Herzegovina to be more developed than deserted Croatia. There are many more shops, companies, places of work. Even the question of payment by credit card didn’t meet such emptiness in people’s eyes as in Croatia. And then we felt really tired by repeating endlessly: What a beautiful view! But what else could we do? When you cycle downhill for half of the day to see breathtaking panorama of Mostar guarded by high and rugged mountains, you simply can’t stop being in awe.
In Mostar, where the Muslim and Christian worlds are well mixed, our lullabies where muezzins’ chants calling to mosques for the evening prayer and bell ringing of Catholic churches. You’ll meet lots of tourists walking lazily along narrow streets of the old town. And you don’t need to look far for machine-gunned and ruined buildings, victims of post Yugoslav division. Thumbs up for delicious, local food. If I had been more expert blogger, I would have taken some photos and posted them in social media. Evidently I’m just a beginner because first I devour whatever lands on my plate, then that thought comes to me.
Then bura appeared. Bura is a cold, northern wind. Too strong to cycle on narrow and packed roads. But because of bura we met Dragan, the watermelon seller, who forbade us to leave the place without visiting the dervish house in Blagaj. It’s a small place of gathering for Muslim community stack to the rock wall at the source of the Buna. You can feel oriental here as it’s necessary to be all covered in colourful scarfs.
At the end of our route we cycle through beautiful gorge of the Bregava river and enter Serbian Republic, an autonomous region within Bosnia and Herzegovina. So that we can remember well how complicated is the fate of this land and more importantly, of its people. But when we cycle some hills over the lake Bilecko toward the border with Montenegro, equipped in listki, homemade cakes fried for us by our generous hosts, we feel that it would be a great pity not to make a detour through Herzegovina.