“New Zealand?” asked the customs agent. “Let me check if you need a visa to enter,” he said as he walked away with out passports. My heart sank, I knew I didn’t need a visa. Last time border control walked away with my passport (I’m looking at you Cambodia) I ended up paying a ransom to get my passport back. He returned moments later with a grin, handed back out passports and relief washed over me. He welcomed us to Bosnia, commenting “we don’t get many of you guys here,” he said as he waved us through.
That mix of emotions, the ups and downs on arrival were a sign of how I was going to feel throughout my time in Bosnia Herzegovina. Mostar is so pretty, full of the kindest locals I’ve met in my travels and yet the history is heartbreaking. And the signs of it are everywhere. From the bus station, the walk into town takes you past buildings full of bullet holes. Walk away from the main tourist streets and the buildings are full of bullet holes. Look out the window of your hotel onto an alleyway and the buildings are full of bullet holes. Atrocities happened here, neighbours killed neighbours, hate was rife and oftentimes it was a case of kill or be killed.
Yet the city felt full of hope. The centre of Mostar has been rebuilt, the Mostar bridge has been rebuilt and the people of Mostar have moved forward from the war. Neighbours work together now, not against each other. There are mosques and there are churches.
The people of Mostar welcomed us with open arms. From the hotel receptionist regaling us with tales of her life in Mostar, to the kind customer at the bakery who swapped our large bank notes for smaller ones so the baker could give us change. We were made to feel at home in the local bars, and even in the touristy areas we weren’t made to feel like we were invading their city.
Bosnia has a bright future ahead of it, you can feel it in the air.
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