Sightseeing between Jajce and Mostar

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Things to do


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June, 2019

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Whilst in Bosnia and Herzegovina our driver/guide, Lorenc, drove us from Jajce to Mostar. The journey was around 165km and scheduled to take three hours, but we stopped at a number of interesting sights on route.

Every year in June, near the town of Prusac, thousands of Muslims gather at Ajvatovica for the largest Islamic traditional, religious and cultural event in Europe. The legend is that an old grandfather, Dedo Ajvas, prayed for water during a great drought. On the 40th day, a large rock began to tremble which eventually split in half. Water flowed and continues to flow today from beneath the earth. Sadly, during our brief stop, water flowed from the sky as well which made climbing a grassy path lined with colourful wildflowers a little precarious. Beehives abounded on one side and a fountain with drinkable spring water on the opposite side. At the top were several ruins including one which had a tree growing quite oddly out of the side before reaching skywards.

At Jablanica, we decided to have coffee first at a small smoke-filled café (Bosnians are serious smokers as well as coffee drinkers) to see if the rain would abate. The town is known for the Battle of the Neretva, where the partisans won an unlikely victory during World War 2 – there had been eight bridges across the River Neretva and as Tito had blown them all up, Hitler had retreated. However, the partisans and 4,000 wounded managed to scramble across one of the destroyed bridges. This bridge still stands (in its fallen state) with a train on the edge. After the war, the bridge was reconstructed but rarely used. So, in 1969 when the film, Bridge on the River Neretva starring Yul Brynner and Orson Welles, was being filmed, it was agreed to blow up the reconstructed bridge. However, when the footage was reviewed, it was considered unsuitable due to billowing smoke (maybe from the smoking crew!), so the scene was recreated in a studio. We also heard how Pablo Picasso created the poster for the English version of the film, only requesting a case of the best Yugoslav wine in return. Across manicured grass there was the War Museum which told the story of the Battle of Neretva and a memorial to Tito where flowers had been laid on 25 May – his official birth date was not known but this is the date considered to be his birthday and celebrated as Youth Day.

By now it was nearly lunch time and Lorenc suggested stopping at a placed noted for grilled lamb and chose his favourite restaurant, Zdrava Voda, from several similar roadside establishments. Under a veranda was a small stream and water wheels with three lambs been grilled over embers. I asked how long the lamb was cooked for and was told 2.5 hours, this didn’t seem very long, so perhaps something was lost in translation.

At 12.30pm, the restaurant was still relatively empty, so we got a table next to the window with good views of the river down below. We ordered a portion of lamb (11 Dinar/£5) and a shopska salata (diced cucumber, tomato and grated cheese) whilst Lorenc decided to try for the first time, three sheep’s legs. It also came with a large plate of fresh bread. The lamb was delicious and even though I’m not a lamb fan, it was well cooked and very tender. The plate of meat arrived with roast potato wedges cooked in the juices.

On a neighbouring table, a family of tourists were trying to order for a vegetarian and our guide, Lorenc intervened to try to help – possibly not the best choice of restaurant for them. On our way out, the indoor area was very busy, and three coaches were parked outside.

We then headed through the canyon where the rock strata and mountains were spectacular as we followed the winding route of the River Neretva. Most of the mountains were still green and forested but as we approached Mostar, the Mediterranean climate kicked in and the vegetation eventually became non-existent and we saw citrus fruits, strawberries, cherries, raspberries and figs growing.

Our stops made what could have been a long journey fascinating and supported our desire to always travel by road where possible.

Helen Jackson

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