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"Bosnia’s Beachhead – The Neum Corridor: A Not So" Topic

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Tango0129 Jun 2020 12:53 p.m. PST

…Croatian Coastline

"The morning I left Mostar the sea might as well have been a thousand kilometers away. The only water within view was the emerald flow of the Neretva River beneath the city's famous 16th century Stari Most (Old Bridge). In Mostar, the Ottoman Empire seemed closer than any ocean. The landscape around the city was rocky and rugged. As the bus made its way out of the city and headed southward, the prospect of the Adriatic's ebullient waters was still a long way off. The landscape of Herzegovina (the lesser known half of Bosnia and Herzegovina) was as harsh and unforgiving as the history that had set this land and its people on fire not so long ago. There were still visible signs of the Yugoslav Wars, such as the half-ruined house pockmarked with bullet holes that slumped sadly within sight of the highway. The structure was an unforgiving reminder that Bosnia and Herzegovina were still riddled with the residue of modern conflict. Soon though, Croatia was on the horizon in the form of a border crossing.

Stops for passport control at border crossings are still obligatory in the Balkans. While much of Europe has moved toward a world of porous borders, the Balkans are still a region where entry and exit is closely monitored. Only Slovenia has borders where one can whisk through at a hundred kilometers per hour. Unfortunately, this only applies to their borders with Austria and Italy. Meanwhile, Bosnians and Croats, Montenegrins and Macedonians. Serbs and Kosovars wait for permission in the form of a passport stamp to see them through to the other side. I received multiple reminders of the vagaries of borders and passport controls on the bus from Mostar to Dubrovnik. This was where borders had not yet collapsed. On the contrary, they seemed to close in from what seemed like all sides. It was also where I first came across a geographical and geopolitical anomaly, the coast of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

When I think of Bosnia's geography, rugged mountain landscapes, rocky canyons and crystalline rivers come to mind. One thing that doesn't, the Adriatic Sea. In the Balkans, the Adriatic is a Croatian or Montenegrin or Albanian sea. There is an even a sliver of coastline abutting the Adriatic in Slovenia, but the idea of a huge blue body of water lapping up on a Bosnian shoreline seems unimaginable. And yet it exists today. I saw it for myself not long after the bus closed in on the Croatian coastline. Soon we were pulling up to another border crossing, something we had just done less than an hour before. I did not understand why we were having to do another passport check. This made little sense unless Croatia had some kind of internal border to deal with a security risk. Soon I discovered that we were leaving Croatia to enter Bosnia or more appropriately, Bosnia by the sea…"
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