Monday, May 2, 2011

Eastern Europe - Part 3

More photos from our trip 2 years ago. Check out parts 1 & 2.

From Korcula, Croatia, we headed out to Mostar, Bosnia Herzegovina....but on the way, we made an important stop. Ever since I was a kid, I've wanted to visit Medjugorje. I know this is because of stories my aunt and uncle told me about when they visited this town in the 80's, back when it was in Yugoslavia. It's also to do with my Catholic upbringing, mainly from my Mexican side, that was filled with stories of apparitions, choir voices appearing out of nowhere, blood-crying statues, people spontaneously speaking in tongues, an unexplainable image imprinted onto fabric combined with possibly, and an unhealthy dose of the Twilight Zone since the age of 5. Needless to say, since a young lass, I've always been intrigued with religious influenced stories of the unexplainable. From an agnostic point of view, mind you.

If you've never heard of the place or are not into crazy vision-seeing, miracle stories, Medjugorje is a popular religious pilgrimage site due to reports of apparitions of the Virgin Mary to 6 locals (who happen to be brothers and sisters.) She's apparently only speaking to 3 of them now, but that doesn't deter 1 million people from visiting each year. Anyway, when I looked on a map and saw that Medjugorje was on the way to Mostar, we made a stop!
Pilgrims walk up these craggy (and frankly, very dangerous) rocks called Apparition Hill. There were lots of people with canes, and I'm assuming, people who were ill. I was concentrating hard not to sprain an ankle.

When we got to the top, there was a young man praying on his knees with a lot of fervor. Having a Catholic background, I felt it appropriate to say a little prayer and then I promptly sat to do some people watching. During our short visit, nothing much happened....ok, I'll admit, it would've been cool to see something go down, but instead we enjoyed walking through some beautiful fields and poking around the town a bit. There were crappy tourist shops every 2 feet selling every rosary known to man, so of course I bought a few for the Catholics that I know. This place was definitely what you would expect of a touristy-pilgrim destination (lots of tour buses, Americans in their white-white sneakers and fanny packs) but hey, I can now cross this place off my bucket list!

Here we are (below) in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina. If you look closely you'll see a guy jumping from the bridge (which is an Unesco Site). They're trained and do it for money. I've heard it's quite shallow down there. Eeeps!

Mostar was one of our favorite stops on the trip. A great balance of history, drama, beauty and walkability. It has a very tragic story, but it still remains a really beautiful place. This was the first city I've ever visited to have such a mix of cultures and faiths. I'd never been to a mosque before Mostar (there are so many minarets!), nor had I ever heard the call to prayer ( 5 times a day). It was so moving and gave me goose bumps every time.

You can see remnants of the siege they had in '92 -'93, like all the bullet holes in the pic above. The host of where we stayed told us a little bit about what it was like back then, how you had to travel around at night so you wouldn't get shot (her B&B was right near the front line) and how her and her family had to eventually flee to Germany. She came back to an empty shell, like the rest of the city, but she rebuilt her home and turned it into a lovely B&B.

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