If you do an  image search on Mostar, pretty much every photo is of the same thing. And I’m sure I’ll add my own pictures of this bridge when I see it in person. But this, I guess, is Mostar.

The Stari Most (“Old Bridge”), was built in the mid sixteenth century, when Mostar was part of the Ottoman empire, and at the time it was the longest single-arch stone bridge in the world. On November 9, 1993, Croats shelled the bridge and it collapsed into the Neretva River below. This was only partially strategic and largely symbolic, since the bridge was an icon of the Muslim heritage of Mostar.
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My little history lesson has given me a new sense of context that I think will make visiting Sarajevo very memorable. Of all the places I’m going on this trip, I think it is the one where knowing the history will make the most difference in terms of how I experience it.

It’s a cruel irony that for a few short years, Sarajevo became synonymous with sectarian strife, because for virtually its entire history , this beautiful city was a model of the opposite: Muslims, Catholics, Orthodox Christians, and Jews living together in cooperation and harmony. (One of its many nicknames is “Little Jerusalem.”) Squeezed into its narrow valley, Sarajevo never even had the option of splitting itself up into ethnic ghettos , so people lived side-by-side. To this day, there are several places in the city where you can see a mosque, synagogue, Catholic church, and Orthodox church with a turn of the head. (Rick Steves)

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Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going. (Paul Theroux)

I started this post writing about my enthusiasm for seeing Sarajevo because of the extraordinary history that city has experienced.  This is the centennial year of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife, Sophie, the touchstone for World War I.  It’s also 30 years since Sarajevo hosted the Winter Olympics. (I came across some photos of the facilities that were used in the 1984 games and have since gone to neglect or damage from the Yugoslav War.)  And it’s stunning to think about what was going on in Sarajevo and throughout the areas I’ll be visiting just 20 years ago.
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At 347 km, the drive from Plitvice to Sarajevo is the longest of my trip, about 5 hours.  That would still allow plenty of time in the morning to visit the national park before the drive (if weather or timing the day before makes that advisable).  But there are two stops that have been recommended, and I’d like to arrive in Sarajevo early enough to see a little and have a relaxing dinner, since that is my sister’s last night before she flies out the next morning.
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In preparation for my upcoming trip, I bought the Kindle edition of Rick Steves’ Croatia & Slovenia guide book today. It’s coauthored by Cameron Hewitt, who led the travel session I attended in Edmonds last spring, and I suspect it’s more authored than coauthored by Hewitt.

In reading various passages, I started second guessing the itinerary.  It’s already evolved a bit from what I posted earlier. Here’s the latest version from JayWay Travel, whom I’ve pretty much committed to hire to plan this trip for me:
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Two days until I leave on my Oregon road trip.

I’m planning to blog daily while I’m gone, posting experiences and photos.

Meanwhile, I’m continuing to think ahead to next May and my trip to the Balkans. I requested a private tour itinerary from JayWay, and I’m now seriously thinking of doing that instead of the Rick Steves tour.
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With less than two weeks until I leave for my Oregon road trip, I find that I’m already on the verge of putting down a deposit on my next vacation.

I was thinking the Balkans in the fall, but now I’m thinking I won’t wait that long. I’m looking at Rick Steves’ first tour next spring, May 11 – 24, and then extending it with some independent travel.
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One of the trips I am seriously considering for my next vacation abroad is eastern Europe. After my visit to Tallinn, I think it would be amazing to spend a few weeks exploring other parts of the former Soviet bloc. There are so many alluring destinations.

Prague and Budapest are probably the most interesting cities in terms of things to do for a traveler from the United States. I was in Budapest in 1989, while it was still behind the Iron Curtain, and it would be very interesting to see it again. And people I know who’ve been to Prague say it’s wonderful. I recently caught Rick Steves’ Prague show, and it rekindled my interest in going there.
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