Friday, September 18, 2015

Of Bridges and Grottos

The drive from Sarajevo to Mostar was nothing short of spectacular. We felt we ought to stop every few minutes to snap a picture. So we did. Quite often.

 Granted,it took a bit longer than 2 hours, but well worth it!

Moving from the valley through the Dinaric Alps to Mostar

The mists were just clearing from the mountains and it afforded a glorious sight
Mostar seemed to be far more frequented by tourists than Sarajevo.
Herzegovinian Graffiti. Interestingly, in English.  A testament to the tourist friendly nature of the town, perhaps. 
We saw busloads arriving from Croatia on day trip to this pretty little town, all converging onto the Bridge,Stari Most. Its an exact replica of the the original built during the reign of the Ottomans in the 16th Century. The old bridge was destroyed during the Croat - Bosniak war in 1993 and the reconstructed bridge was opened in 2004.  During the time of the Ottomans, It was the largest man-made arch in the world and was quite famous throughout the world. Even now, it is a beautiful bridge to look at.

The town pretty much revolves around the bridge and we didn't find much else to do there. We did, however spot a cliff diver threatening to jump off the bridge into the Neretva, and I'm sure, secretly, every one of the tourists was secretly egging him on. This however turned out to be a false alarm (either that or he was perhaps hoping someone would pay him money to dive and the tourists were being particularly tight fisted).
Don't know if you can see it, but the tattoo on is arm is of the Stari Most
So a coffee (and Toilet. Always the Toilet) stop later, we headed out to another place we'd heard was worth a look- Vrelo Bune.

This was meant to be our lunch stop and our last pit-stop until Dubrovnik. Vrelo Bune is the freshwater spring from where the river Buna originates, so we guessed it would be quite popular. However, it is one of those hidden gems that seem to be so secret that even the locals feign ignorance when asked about it. But, we are a persistent lot. Besides, we were hungry. And when you have a hungry brood, you are pretty determined to find a restaurant (preferably with a view, and hopefully with vegetarian food on the menu). The restaurant was well hidden but when we stumbled upon it, the view pretty much blew us away.
Enjoying the view as we munch on lunch
After a leisurely lunch - where our server was most upset that we wouldn't be trying the fresh fish, and a boat ride for young Pickwick, we heard of the lovely grotto we could ride into just upsteam (you can see the cave just above the waterfall) which is reputed to be as good as the blue grotto at Capri
Well, I haven't being to the blue grotto at Capri (despite having been to Capri, that thanks to some very un-Capri like weather), but if this is anything to go by, It. Is. Ah-Mazing.
Into the grotto using the ropeway

Clear blue water, nearly 25 metres deep
Our boatman, Ibrahim encouraged us to quench our thirst with the cool waters of the spring. We didn't need to be told twice, It was a hot day and everyone, pretty much dove in with both hands. It's so clean in fact, that when we asked the shops for water, he just pointed to the the spring flowing behind him, wondering why we needed bottled water when you had so much of it running free.
Part of  Blagaj Tekke- A Sufi monastery which stands close to the mouth of the Spring.  This is the Musafirhana
It was then time to head on to Dubrovnik if we even planned to make it before nightfall, and we bid a very reluctant goodbye to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The land of quiet beauty and people of immense strength.

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