After hurtling ourselves out of Montenegro as fast as we could, we landed back in Dubrovnik, to feast at Nishta’s (which means ‘nothing’ in Croatian, as Croatians chirp that vegetarian food offers ”nothing’,’ seeing that Balkan cuisine is riddled with meat). We found ourselves there three times in a row. We ate tempeh-rittos, carrot, ginger and orange soup, ratatouille lettuce wraps, veggie burgers on rice cakes and best of all, delicious desserts; our favourite was dried figs stewed in wine and topped with cinnamon marscapone cheese and candied Dalmatian orange peel. So good we had two in a row.
We are currently in Hercegovina, in a small, delightful town with a haunting history. Mostar is proving to be a highlight on this trip. At one time, Mostar was left blown apart and in a pile of rubble back in the civil war in 1993. Everything has been painstakingly restored, including the famous Old bridge, which is pictured below.
Picture a small town, built alongside a creamy, sea foam coloured river, which happens to be rushing quite strongly right now, after all the rain. The sound of it gushes around the Old Town, lending just enough white noise to drown out the hum of tourists coming for a day trip from Dubrovnik. The old bridge arches gracefully over the river, connecting two small bazaars littered with cobblestones, where vendors sell souvenirs you might find in Turkey. Some are garish and tacky, others are beautiful and intricate. My favourite has to be the pounded copper plates and coffee sets. A few minutes ago we sat down for Bosnian coffee which was served on a copper plate, with a tiny copper pot full of sugar cubes. A small ceramic cup sat in a sheath of copper which emitted the metallic smell of hot pennies when brought to my lips. We were surrounded by stone walls and turrets and more minarets than I have ever seen. I feel as if I am in Cairo once again, with the blaring Arabic music coming from speeding cars, and the call to prayer filling the streets three times a day. However, roughly 15 minutes after the call to prayer, you will hear ringing church bells, a constant reminder of coexistence and perhaps a little competition? It is a tricky, messy subject, and mighty puzzling to visitors.
Last night we crossed the Old bridge and were met by a crowd of young, beautiful Bosnian Muslim girls. They were dazzling in baggy genie pants and sparkling vests and head coverings. Their eyes were etched in thick black kohl, highlighting their blue and green and pale brown eyes. They were not afraid to show their true colours, and it again reminded me of the heavily perfumed and cake faced women from Egypt (these girls had pale skin and eyes, of course). I had to force myself to avert my eyes, as I was blown away by the teeny tiny line drawn between Muslims and Christians and Orthodox. From what I have heard, the line signifies your identity rather than your actual religion. Physically speaking, I am having a hard time deciphering the difference between them all (I assume there really isn’t one).
About 10 minutes later, as we were waiting for our meal at a cafe, a small group of young non-Muslim Bosnians stumbled towards our waiter, waving at him and chit chatting over school. They were long and lean, all blonde, straight hair and legs, dressed in tight-fitting, short black dresses, with thick, gray and white belts highlighting their tiny waists. Their eyes were painted in purples and gray, with expertly arched and plucked eyebrows. Such a contrast, such a gorgeous, wonderous land.
Of course, along with the romantic streets and smells, comes the startling mass of buildings riddled with bullet holes, or worse, caved in and blackened by bombs. It is incredible to see, heartbreaking and makes me speechless. I have been wanting to see Bosnia for years and years, after reading countless stories about the war, and of course, falling in love with U2’s track ”Miss Sarajevo”. As expected, there are many U2 fans here, and I often hear Bono drifting down the aisles of grocery stores (but mostly I hear Bosnian/Turkish dance music).
We ended our night with a small box of gooey turkish delight, and stood on our small patio, looking out over the twinkling old town, listening to the echoes of the muezzin and cathedral bells.