Category Archives: Bosnia and Herzegovina

Pilgrimage

Počitelj, Bosnia and Herzegovina

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At the time I booked a day trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina, I didn’t even realize it was possible to visit the country. My mind was stuck in the early 90s when all I heard about was the Bosnian War and the massive amounts of damage that occurred in its capital, Sarajevo, among other cities and villages. It’s crazy to think that it was about 20 years ago.

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The view of the Hadži Alija Mosque and Neretva River from the Sahat-kula fortress and bell tower. The road leading here was lined with pomegranate trees. I had no idea they even grew on trees. I just thought, hey, pomegranate. Like, they popped out of nowhere.

Mostar

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Stari Most, the Old Bridge that connects the Muslim and Catholic sides of the town.

Two guys, stripped down to their swim trunks, went over the bridge railing and positioned themselves to jump into the river down below. You can’t tell from this photo but it’s a pretty long way down. But, as they jumped fearlessly and swam back to the bank and held out their hands for change, you knew that this was just another routine on just another day for them. I didn’t have much cash on me so I gave whatever change I readily had in my pockets, and got a huff in return. Oh, sorry, mister. Did you want me to drop my credit card into your hand?

I later stopped by an ice cream stand and realized I didn’t have enough change for a second scoop. I should’ve saved my money for gluttony instead of giving it away freely to ungrateful men.

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The view of the bridge from the other side, on top of the mosque. Our guide for this portion of the trip was a local Muslim who told us about a time in his childhood when he was afraid to walk in certain parts of town, for fear of being persecuted for his religion. It puts into perspective how lucky I was to have grown up in a much more tolerable society. Yea, I went to public school with a bunch of racist kids but, all of their comments were harmless. When the guide found out I was from New York, he excitedly opened up his blazer and pointed to his t-shirt emblazoned with “New York City,” then told me that he wears a different city’s t-shirt each time he gives a tour. It’s good to see that he’s come a long way from that childhood fear.

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Old Town and its many in-your-face tourist shops. A bunch of us ate in one of the recommended restaurants and as we were eating (I had the ćevapi – deeeelicious Bosnian kebabs), a kitten came by and gave its best “I’m not a bitch,” dilated pupils face. One girl gave it some food and, of course, 5-6 other kittens came out of nowhere and joined the party. There was one kitten who was clearly the bully, and any piece of food given to them had to go through the bully first. Any discarded pieces (basically anything meatless) was eaten by the other kittens. If one meek kitten tried to eat a piece of meat, the bully kitten would run her off and hiss. Fear tactics. I eventually had to sneak pieces of meat to the others. Bully kitten, you can’t sit with us!

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The interior of the Koski Mehmed Paša Mosque.

Medjugorje

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Apparently, back in 1981, six local children saw a vision of the Virgin Mary and, since then, the town has become a popular pilgrimage site for Catholics worldwide, albeit an unapproved one. One interesting thing to note is that the visions and other subsequent metaphysical visuals seem to have occurred/occur during times when tourism was/is down, thus boosting it back up to a million visits per year. Coincidence? I’ll let you be the judge of that.

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Hordes of people were waiting in line to rub some sort of oil or water on the legs of Christ’s statue and pray. Even as a person who grew up in a Christian household, I found this place to be somewhat eerie.