Having gotten to know Mostar and some of its lovely inhabitants, it was time to move on to Sarajevo; the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and keeper of its own wealth of tragic history and both humbling and inspiring stories of humanity. For this day of driving we had picked up another passenger headed from Mostar to Sarajevo: our new friend Jake from Minnesota. It was refreshing to spend time with another American after coming across surprisingly few in our travels thus far. Additionally, it was just fun to have another person to share the experience of travel and discovery with. This stretch of road between the two cities is gorgeous. The route leads travelers through a valley carved over eons by the Neretva River. Rich turquoise waters flow between massive walls of karst formation. We took our time following the winding roadway and stopped at multiple points to take pictures from scenic viewpoints. One of these stops, an important historical site, is pictured above: The Bridge on Neretva. This bridge is famous for being destroyed on 3 separate occasions. First, Communist Partisans partially blew it up to trick Axis forces into misestimating their next moves during WWII. Once Axis forces responded to this smokescreen, Partisan engineers quickly repaired the bridge and their forces stormed the east bank of the Neretva to break through the wall of enemy divisions that were surrounding them. Axis powers could not respond in time, but managed to order an airstrike which destroyed the bridge a second time. After the dust of WWII settled, a new railway bridge was constructed on this site. Bridge on the Neretva fell to its final resting place in 1969 when a Yugoslavian movie director blew it up for the climactic final battle scene of his film. Ironically, none of the shots of the bridge falling made it into the final cut of the film, which featured well known hollywood actors Yul Brynner and Orson Welles.
After a leisurely day of driving and sight seeing we arrived in Sarajevo and settled into our accommodation. The image pictured above would become a very common sight throughout our visit; Sarajevo has one of heaviest smoking habits in the world. We later learned that this may partially be due to an interesting fact stemming from daily life during the Siege of Sarajevo (the longest siege of a major city in recent history, lasting from 1992-1996). While industry had all but collapsed during the siege, one factory was still churning out cigarettes, making them one of the most available commodities with actual value. Cigarettes ended up becoming the primary means of exchange in the isolated city; Bosnian cash had lost all value. The unassuming cigarette became a simple comfort, symbol of status and the primary currency during this harrowing time. Walking the streets it was clear to see that some of this residual and sentimental value has carried over into the present day lives of Sarajevo residents of all ages.