Saturday, July 31, 2010

In Which Ben Reaches the Apex of Foreign-ness

Spent yesterday walking the streets and walls of Dubrovnik and relaxing on the beach. Quite enjoyable, but not much to write about.

Today was a bit more interesting. I took a side-trip to Mostar, a small predominantly Muslim city in Bosnia-Herzegovina that was once an Ottoman stronghold. As I understood it going in, this would be a grand journey into strange foreign lands, which would astound my feeble western mind. That does somewhat overstate the case:
  • The bus trip lives up to the billing - hours of delays both way, 3 passport checkpoints, crowded hot environment, generally unhelpful staff, mysterious unexpected transfers. Beautiful scenery once the rain let up, though.
Photo of my bus, one hour after scheduled departure.
  • Mostar is predominantly Muslim, but very liberal - headcoverings are rare, mosques allow photos and shoes, no noticeable prayer calls
  • The bulk of the tourists appear to be Slavic, but everyone still speaks English. I had more communication issues in the south of France.
Still a worthwhile trip - the bridge is impressive, the cultural shift still palpable. Perhaps the most interesting element was the highly visible remnants of the Bosnian war; unlike Dubrovnik, which has repaired nearly all structural damage from its own struggle for independence, Mostar abounds with abandoned ruins, bullet holes, and the graves of young men.

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