Hannah Roche ’21 describes the groups journey from Mostar to Korcula.
We started with a leisurely morning breakfast in Mostar, surrounded by the rushing stream as we ate, taking in our few moments of relaxation before the busy travel day ahead. We shared one last Bosnian coffee as we sat in a cafe near the Old Bridge in Mostar, where less than thirty years ago, the city that had peacefully coexisted broke out into battle with the bridge at the center, dividing the Bosnian Croats and Bosniaks. A visit to a local former mosque on the Bosniak side of the Neretva rounded out our time in Mostar, and with one last stop to view the bridge, we departed Mostar and got ready for the long day ahead.
After an hour on the road, we stopped in a small village for lunch. Immediately after stepping off the bus, Adam, one of our tour guides, stopped us to point out differences in opposite sides of the town. On one side lives predominantly Bosnian Croats, who display their pride by flying Croatian flags and serving Croatian alcohol brands, and on the other the Bosnian Muslims sit in cafes serving Bosnian coffee. The most striking difference was in the two places of worship. The mosque and the Catholic church sat facing each other, with their clock towers in an open conflict, as if the Catholic people could not read time off an Islamic clock and vice versa. Adam asserted that one tower had mostly likely been built to be just slightly taller than the other.
This division between neighbors that we witnessed all throughout Bosnia only furthered our understanding of why peace today can be so difficult to find in this region. If neighbors are unwilling to be in the presence of one another and if they shield their kids from each other, how can they hope for the next generation to move past prejudice? This question still lingers in our minds and will continue to do so long after we return to the United States.
We drove for a few more hours through the border and back into Croatia, where the terrain was rapidly changing from green to bare mountains, and then to flat, dry plains with wind turbines spinning in the distance. Then, as soon as we had gotten used to the new landscape, the mountains opened up into the ocean, with islands scattered about the sea. The mountains stretched right down to the sea’s edge, making way for a gorgeous view for the few of us still awake from our coffees that morning. We then took another pit stop in Ston, where the longest chain of defensive walls other than the Great Wall of China resides. Continuing on, we drove for another hour, and then took a short boat ride to our final destination for the day, the beautiful island of Korčula. We checked into our hotel and then headed to the beach before finishing out the day with a dinner on the water as the sun set. We are looking forward to spending another day here tomorrow before departing for Dubrovnik. Our days are winding down, and we are savoring each moment that we share together.