My stop in Croatia was short and not that sweet. I was in Slovenia with eyes on Bosnia, so I made the decision to make a two nights stop in Croatia, just so that the bus ride to Bosnia wouldn’t be so long and exhausting. Maybe it’s just me, but me and Croatia have a very unhappy relationship and this time was no different. All I wanted was to hop on a bus and cross that boarder into Bosnia.
I got to the bus station a little too early. There were a few backpackers waiting for their buses as well. Then, I notice that before they were going on their buses, they were giving their backpacks to the driver, and then handing him money. Oh, oh! I knew what this meant, but I was praying it wasn’t true. I ran inside the ticket office and asked if the luggage was included on the price I had paid. She says no. I ask how much is the bus. She gives me a random number and shrinks her shoulders as a typical ‘that’s not my problem’.
I leave pissed because I had just spent my last Kunas, on a slice of pizza and now I don’t have anything. I walk to the nearest ATM, cursing as hell all the way, and I withdraw the lowest amount I can (13,5€…RIDICULOUS!). I just withdraw 13.5€ to pay for 1€ to take my bag. I am leaving Croatia, so basically I just had to withdraw a bunch of money from a currency I will not need anymore. Croatia….I am not coming back any time soon. Thanks for nothing! I must say that my patience was gone after two full days of getting ripped off in Croatia over and over again.
My bus was old and dirty to the point I had pieces of orange under my seat. I’m usually happy to be on a bus, but I was sure that was one of the oldest buses in Croatia and I knew that I was starting a very, very long day.
For one hour the path was all curves and no matter the position I got myself into, I just couldn’t seem to feel comfortable in any way. We did our first stop only to be told we had to change buses. Oh boy, here we go! This was not the first time I booked a direct transport and ended up having to change a million times until I finally arrived to my destination. And if I thought, for a moment, that the second bus would be better, I was just fooling myself. The second one was worse.
I kept checking my Google maps to realize where we were. We left Split, but three hours later we were still in Croatia. This happened because apparently my bus was a panoramic one and it turns out it was going almost all the way to Dubrovnik until it finally made its way to Bosnia. Thinking I chose Split over Dubrovnik because the bus ride would be smooth and a lot faster. When will I ever learn?
On our second stop we were not told to change, so that’s a relief. We are also not told if it would be a quick or long stop. I didn’t even know where were. The police hops on the bus. They wanted to check all passports and start asking everyone questions about where we stayed. When they heard hostel they move to the next person. When they heard local accommodation (as in apartment rentals) they want to know more. A poor couple was asked a bunch of questions because they rented an apartment and the police wanted to get the confirmation of the reservation and details. The poor girl couldn’t find anything and that made us loose about thirty minutes before we could leave that bus station. Glad it wasn’t me, as I can never find anything and my wifi never really works well on my phone. We were back on the road, and I was naive enough to think the stops and changes were over.
We entered a town that looked sketchy. I finally got a glimpse of buildings that still had bullet holes – remaining sad memories of the way too recent war in Bosnia & Herzegovina. The bus stops in a dirt field, with NOTHING around. What now? We are yelled to move buses again. By now I’m thinking, and saying, we will never get to Bosnia. While we were changing to the third bus of the day, kids come running across the field and start begging for money. They are sneaky and I don’t like the situation. The bus drivers don’t seem to care. A guy gives a little girl some change, but she sees he has more money and makes a hand sign showing she wants more. I can’t wait to leave. An Asian guy gets his forgotten bag out of the luggage compartment and gets in on the new bus right on time. The doors close and a crazy lady jumps in front of the bus, waving her arms. We forgot about her and almost left her in that dirt field. I was starting to fear my idea of traveling to Bosnia, because everything seemed to be going wrong.
Not even an hour later the bus makes its way into ANOTHER bus station. It parks for two seconds (really two seconds), as if the driver stopped at the wrong place, and we head to the boarder. I see the boarder. I’m crazy excited and have butterflies in my stomach. I’m hoping to get a Bosnian stamp in my passport, but when the driver asks for all our passports and leaves the bus, I know it won’t happen. We are locked inside that dirty bus for over half an hour. Bosnia & Herzegovina is right there. I can see it! It just seems like everything has to happen before I’m allowed to enter a country that has been on top of my bucket list for over a year.
As I crossed the boarder I was invaded by a crazy happy feeling, that is what keeps me traveling, even when everything seems to go wrong, every day, everywhere. I’m sure for those who love traveling as much as I do, you will understand when I say I cried a few tears during that boarder crossing. It was a mix of happiness and fear of the unknown. Was I doing the right thing? Was this a good idea, or was I just making a very big mistake of going to this country?
If you think it was going to be smooth after crossing the boarder, you are as mistaken as I was. Our third bus was no better than the other two, which makes me question why we had to change in the first place. This time the back door of the bus had life of its own and was opening every few seconds, while the bus was moving. This forced the bus driver to stop at the side of the road a dozen times, to try to fix a problem that had no solution. We all just got used to the crazy door opening and closing and we were not willing to make any more stops, as this was already the longest day of travel I’d had in a while.
When I saw the sign saying Mostar I went crazy. I was looking everywhere trying to understand where the bus was going to drop us and where I needed to go. I laid eyes on the Old Town, and my one second of excitement was killed when the bus kept on going and showed no intention of stopping. My fears were now reality, as the bus station was further away than what I was expecting. The bus stoped and the driver yells MOSTAR! Omg, omg, omg, we are actually here!!
I go to grab my jacket and I realize I have a GIANT bug crawling on it. I freak out, I start waving the jacket in the air as I try my very best not to scream. Bug is still there. I throw it to the ground and I step on it. The screams are now very real. I pick it up and search for the bug. I see it’s on the floor, still alive. I jump over it and make my way to the door as fast as a speeding car. I’m officially the crazy person on the bus.
The few people getting off the bus disappeared in seconds and I saw myself totally alone without knowing where to go. Plus, I didn’t really check my hostel’s location, so I couldn’t actually ask for help because I didn’t even know where I wanted to go. Now what?
I entered what seemed to be a travel agency. The lady didn’t really speak English. Another guy spoke English and Bosnian, but he was not a local. I tried my failed gestures that never take me anywhere. She was confused. I asked about the bridge, which is the most iconic landmark in town. When she finally understood what I was talking about, her exact and very precise directions were: twenty minutes walking that direction, then turn right. Should I give her a medal? Should I put a timer for 20 minutes and then turn right? Oh, I was in trouble!
My backpack seemed heavy that day and to be honest I was feeling scared. The only photos I had seen of Mostar were from the beautiful Old Town, so walking on a main street, totally alone and vulnerable, surrounded by destroyed old buildings scared me. I saw a kid that didn’t seem to be more than 10 years-old smoking a cigarette. I kept thinking ‘what the hell did I just got myself into?’
After managing to connect to the wifi, I got my hostel‘s location, I walked inside and I took a final breath of relief. It had been a very long day, and I never thought I was going to get to Bosnia, but I had finally arrived and I was in the process of making a bucket list dream come true. It was hard, bumpy, and long, but I made it to Bosnia&Herzegovina, and my next 10 days would be spent getting to know a country that fascinated me, with the most incredible and honest locals I’ve ever encountered. I can tell you that by the time I had to leave Bosnia my heart was broken and I didn’t want to go anywhere else.
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