Setting out from Zadar, we planned to drive along Croatia’s scenic coastline highway before shifting away from the Adriatic and heading overland to cross the border into Bosnia and Herzegovina. We bypassed most of what the beautiful Dalmatian Coast has to offer as we would be returning to this area in a few weeks time to meet up with Max’s parents and enjoy exploring the area with them. However, we couldn’t resist the thought of a nice beach session to break up the drive a bit, so we stopped at the famous Brela Beach (rated one of the top 10 beaches in the world by Forbes) to lay out and do some swimming. Being late April, the start of the high season was still a few weeks away, so we had the beach virtually to ourselves. Enjoying the luxury of solitude in such an idyllic corner of the world felt like we had beat “the system” somehow, and further substantiated our resolution that we had come to the Balkans at the best possible time of year.
After some enjoyable roadside sightseeing respites we were ready to get back to business and drive the rest of the way to our next major destination, the city of Mostar. We passed into Bosnia and Herzegovina at an unremarkable crossing on the southwestern border of the country, and were within quick reach of the cultural and economic capital of the Herzegovina region. Pictured above is the primary icon of the city, the “Stari Most” or “Old Bridge”. The bridge was built during the long rule of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans, and stood for over 400 years before it was destroyed by Croat forces during the Balkan Conflicts in the early 1990’s. Eventually it was rebuilt and finally reopened in 2004. The bridge is the site of a local cultural phenomenon wherein young local men jump from the 80 foot structure into the frigid Neretva river below as a rite of passage. It has become such a popular spectacle that the bridge has become a tour stop in the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series each year since 2015. Our host in the city later proclaimed that “there are 2 sports in Mostar, Futbol and jumping off the bridge”.