If you had asked me during my stint studying abroad what my favorite thing about France was, I would have told you that it was being able to travel to other countries while I was there.  So of course, while we were in Croatia I made sure we took advantage of the opportunity to do a bit of traveling there too.  The first trip was to Mostar, Bosnia.

Our first stop in Bosnia was a Mosque near the border.  Our tour guide explained the history with a thick accent and broken English, and he seemed to know everyone we encountered along the way.   The drive from there to Mostar was eye-opening.  In the US as you drive down a street you may see an abandoned house, and in Slovakia you’ll see a couple in or around the city just because its cheaper to abandon the house than to tear it down, but in Bosnia it was entirely different.   We saw house after house and building after building half built or with glass blown out or with trees growing straight through the floors or roofs, or lack there of.

Our minibus parked outside of a Mosque in the city and as we walked towards the main strip we were greeted by the most poignant beggars I’ve ever seen, and on the hip of every one was a baby.  We explored the pedestrian path with typical restaurants and souvenir shops and found our way to a “library” selling post cards and showing a video of the Bosnian war wreckage and how the bridge (Stari Most) was destroyed and reconstructed all in the last fifteen years.  Past the library was another row of tourist shops selling the same tchotchkes as the last, but being bold as we are, Burke and I trekked off the main road and onto the adjacent alleyway and the road running parallel.  It was shocking.  Only one block from the strip was a road so desolate and sobering that it would have made us feel bad for just visiting if it weren’t so apparent that tourism was the city’s only source of income.  The operational buildings were marred with bullet holes, the intact buildings were boarded up or blown out, and the ruined buildings were the home of no one but overgown vegetation.

Oddly enough it was in Bosnia that we found and utilized the free wireless of our lunchtime restaurant.  Although we hoped for a more eastern cuisine, we settled for a pretty typical lunch and agreed we’d finish off with baklava, at least a little taste of the Turkish part of the city.   We found a restaurant that served it and I went in with my two euro (another sign of a tourist city: takes euro even though they aren’t in the EU) and rather humbly asked “Can I have Baklava to go?”  The server looked at me blankly.  “Baklava?” I asked again with a shrug.  Nothing.  Burke came to my rescue with his quick thinking, “BakLAva?” he asked with a heavy accent on the second syllable.  I could practicly see the lightbulb above the waiters head as he made an aha noise and held his finger up to the air in exclamation.  He returned from the kitchen, we paid, I tasted, disliked and Burke enjoyed his hard earned baklava.

Just one off the main tourist path and you get unsettling imagery like this.