2012 - Bosnia & Herzegovina  

Saturday 6th October

Bosnia – Herzegovina has been formed out of the break-up of the former communist country of Yugoslavia which we had visited in 1987.  On that occasion we were based in Pula to which we returned as part of our cruise on Discovery to the eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea taking in 10 countries: Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Bosnia Herzegovina, Italy, Albania, Greece, Turkey, Russia, and Ukraine.  This visit is to Mostar as a trip out of Croatia and therefore our trip is extremely short.

The population is 3.8m and pretty poor.

1908: B-H was annexed to Austro-Hungary.

1928: Following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire B-H became part of the new Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.

1941: Bosnia-Hercegovina annexed by pro-Hitler Croatian puppet state. Thousands of Serbs, Jews and Gypsies are sent to the death camps.

1945: Bosnia-Hercegovina liberated following campaign by partisans under Tito.

1945-1991: Bosnia is part of Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

1991: Following collapse of communism, nationalists win first multi-party elections and form coalition government despite having conflicting goals: Muslim nationalists want centralised independent Bosnia, Serb nationalists want to stay in Belgrade-dominated rump Yugoslavia, Croats want to join independent Croatian state.

War on many fronts

1992:  Croat and Muslim nationalists formed tactical alliance and outvoted Serbs at independence referendum. Serb nationalists were incensed as constitution stipulated that all major decisions must be reached through consensus.

War broke out and Serbs quickly assumed control of over half the republic. Ethnic cleansing was rampant in the newly proclaimed Serb Republic but also widespread in Muslim and Croat-controlled areas.

The Bosnian Serbs, under Radovan Karadzic, laid siege to Sarajevo. The city was controlled by Muslims but they were unable to break out through lines set up to defend surrounding Serb villages. There was bitter fighting as well as many atrocities.

1993: As tensions rose, conflict broke out between Muslims and Croats, culminating in the destruction of much of Mostar, including its Old Bridge. The bridge had graced the city since it was built by the Ottomans in the 16th century and was a symbol of Bosnia's cultural diversity.

1995: Dayton Peace accord signed in Paris.

Thereafter much political unrest until...

2011 December: Bosnia's Muslim, Croat and Serb political leaders reached agreement on formation of new central government, bringing to an end 14 months of deadlock since 2010 general election.

 B-H wants to join EU but agreement cannot yet be reached.

We visited Mostar as a trip out of Dubrovnik, Croatia, on Saturday 6th October.  Our diary entry is in Croatia but is repeated here:

Perhaps foolishly, we had booked an all day tour to Mostar, which was two and a half hours away.  With a short stop on the way and on the way back the journey was 6 hours for an hour walking around Mostar and nearly the same amount of time having a group meal in an attractive courtyard restaurant.  On our coach was Sonia an 80+ year old lady whom we had met on a previous cruise.

The journey was spectacular as we drove northwards along the coast.  It was a winding two way road beside the turquoise sea with its multitude of islands.  Apparently Croatia has 1246 islands of which only 50 are inhabited.  The limestone scenery was somewhat reminiscent of the Costa Blanca area which we had visited the previous February.  There was not a lot of development which left the beauty untouched. The country was largely used for vegetable growing and market gardening where the limestone permits any use at all. 

It appeared a poorer country than Croatia which had appeared quite prosperous.

At this point Croatia is a narrow coastal strip into which Bosnia Herzegovina intrudes for a single coastal town.  However, Mostar is in Bosnia Herzegovina and therefore the remainder of this diary entry appears also under that country’s entry.

As we approached Mostar we could see some derelict industrial buildings and then some bullet holed buildings.  Our guide told us that Mostar resembled Hiroshima after the war of the 1990s.  It has now been generally rebuilt but with some damaged buildings being left as a reminder.  Although the (rebuilt) old sector is attractive, it is small and the highlight is the (rebuilt) 1560’s bridge.  This became a symbol of the destruction and division but also of the restoration.  It was originally constructed to link the Christian side of the ravine with the Muslim.

We returned in time for our evening meal which was a formal dinner.

Being very tired still, we had an early night, although Adrian did go to the evening concert.