Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel
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The spectacular Gazi Husrev Beg Mosque in the old town of Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, is most spectacular at night

Click on title of post to view photo in large format: The spectacular Gazi Husrev Beg Mosque in the old town part of Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, is most spectacular at night. It is considered one of the world’s best examples of Ottoman architecture and is the most important Read More

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Miran is an angry man. “I am not politically correct and you will not like a lot of what I say,” he announced as we climbed into his van for a tour of Mostar and southwest Bosnia-Herzegovina. He slammed the sliding door shut and popped a Bosnian folk rock DVD into the stereo, cranking up the volume as high as it would go. Shouting to be heard, he launched into a tirade about the evils of fascism, capitalism, Obama, Putin, war, and the breakup of the former Yugoslavia.

A bonus on our tour of Mostar and southwest Bosnia-Herzegovina was this abandoned airbase and hangar that was ultra-secret during the years when Bosnia was part of Yugoslavia

A bonus on our tour of Mostar and southwest Bosnia-Herzegovina was this abandoned airbase and hangar that was ultra-secret during the years when Bosnia was part of Yugoslavia

Not far from Mostar, he turned onto a weed-choked strip of concrete that doglegged to the right between two rocky cliffs. The road ended at a gaping concrete hangar that had been carved into the hillside. Armed with flashlights, we walked around the nuclear-proof door that today hangs partially open and followed Miran into murky depths. He led us past abandoned toilets and bunk rooms to a wide concrete strip at the other end of the hangar that had once been used for takeoffs and landings. “This was a secret air base for many years; not even the people from the town that sits atop the hangar knew it existed and soldiers had permission to shoot intruders on sight. The hangar could hold more than 20 planes, along with all the equipment and personnel to service them. I’ve been trying to open a museum here; my friends and I even have some of the planes that were kept here, but we can’t get the permits because our government is so corrupt.” Read More

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In the 16th century, the Ottoman Sultan ordered this Dervish House to be built at the source of the Buna River, which flows from the Karst limestone cliffs in Bugaj, Bosnia-Herzegovina

Click on title of post to view photo in large format: Near the town of Blagaj in southwestern Bosnia-Herzegovina, an underground river flows out of a 600-foot high Karst limestone cliff to create the Buna River. In the 16th century, the Ottoman Sultan was so impressed by this site that he had a tekija (Ottoman monastery) built here. This Dervish House, as it is now known, is still in use by Read More

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The old market town of Pocitelj in southwestern Bosnia-Herzegovina

Click on title of post to view photo in large format: Pocitelj, located in the far southwest corner of Bosnia-Herzegovina, was most likely founded in 1383 by Bosnia’s King Stjepan Tvrtko I. Its hilltop fortifications and the thick stone walls evolved between the 16th and 18th centuries, survived occupation by Ottomans and absorption into the Austro-Hungarian Empire. As a result, its unique mixture of medieval and Ottoman Read More

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Kravice Waterfall on the Trebizat River, in the southwest corner of Bosnia-Herzegovina

Click on title of post to view photo in large format: Kravice Waterfall on the Trebizat River, in the southwest corner of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The park is a popular destination for day-trippers from Mostar or even from Dubrovnik, across the border in Croatia. In addition to swimming, visitors can view the stalactites and stalagmites Read More

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Bosnia-Herzegovina is one of those countries that raised eyebrows whenever I told someone I was headed there. Those who had no idea where it was had a vague notion that it was dangerous; those who knew the country were under the impression that it was still at war.

Bosnia, as it is often called, does indeed have a recent history of war. Josip Broz Tito, President-for-Life of Yugoslavia, was the glue that held the former Yugoslav countries together. Within three years of his death in 1980, it had separated into six different republics, with boundaries loosely established according to ethnicity. The area where Slovenes lived became Slovenia. The lands that were home to Croats became Croatia. Serbia was populated by Serbs, Macedonia by Macedonians, Montenegro by Montengrins. The population of Bosnia-Herzegovina, however, was a mixture of Muslim Bosnians, Orthodox Serbians, and Catholic Croatians, and everyone seemed to want a piece of the Bosnian pie. When Serbians invaded Bosnia in 1991, Mostar found itself at the epicenter of the conflict.

View of the Old Town of Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina from the west side of the Neretva River

View of the Old Town of Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina from the west side of the Neretva River

Almir Taso, owner of Hercegovina Hostel, was 12 when the war broke out.  He remembers those horror-filled times vividly. Initially the Serbians invaded from the east. Bosnians and Croats, who had lived together peacefully in Mostar for generations, fought the Serbian forces, driving them into the mountains on the eastern side of the city. From this higher ground, Serbs relentlessly shelled the town, gradually reducing it to a pile of rubble.

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