Mustapicked A Good Vacation!

The adventures of Amey and Musty's trip to the Balkans and Italy in September '06...

Thursday, September 14, 2006

This morning we woke up early in chilly gray Sarajevo with overcast skies. We headed back downstream along the Neretva river, through the wooded mountains and then through Imotski. The further south you go in Hercegovina the more arid and scrubby and craggy it becomes. As we neared the coast we came to a very old and beautiful little Ottoman village along the river called Pocitelja. It's one of the western-most outposts of the Ottoman empire. Today Islam is the majority religion in Hercegovina. As Amey has mentioned, it's really interesting for post 9-11 American eyes to see Europeans populating an area that looks a little bit like the North Carolina Piedmont with the tractors, the agriculture (small scale family farming exclusively, lone sheppards), with mosques dotting the countryside everywhere in the exact same way we're accustomed to seeing little churches.

Anyway, Pocitelja is a particularly picturesque little cobblestone village with an old Ottoman fort up on the ridge and a mosque and stone houses built into the hillside. We'll post pictures tomorrow. You have to see it.

During the war Muslims were forced out of their countryside homes in little places like Pocitelja and took refuge in the cities of Mostar and Sarajevo. Now, the older generations are returning to their former homes when they can and fixing these little villages up, rebuilding homes from rubble. All over western Hercegovina you can see mile after mile of abondoned farmland gone to seed. Little two acre stone-walled plots now just have tall grass. It's shocking.

From Pocitelja we headed south and east about 20km, up into the tall Dinar mountain range, along an endless one lane road through moonscape to a tiny village called Hutovo where we'd been told was the 17th century origin of the name Mustapic (though there are accounts of the name in Serbia go back to the 15th century). It felt a little spooky-crazy how far out we got into this remote mountainous territory. Finally we found a church and some homes and a cemetery. We got out and looked at the one-acre cemetery...Mustapic everywhere, from mid-1800s to modern times.

We rang the priest's door bell and i showed him my driver's license and he gave me the customary local welcome, which is to point to a chair on the porch and say 'pivo', which means 'beer'. So Amey's hard work and genius for language kicked in and we had a nice conversation about how some Mustapics had been in this spot for at least 300 years, and how somewhere along the line some of them took off for imotski, about 60km to the north. My grand-grandfather was probably from the Imotski branch of the 'family'. Amey managed to communicate that I build guitars so he really lit up and ran into the house to get his classical guitar. We handed it back and forth for about 20 minutes while we 'talked'. It was really just fantastic. We exchanged email addresses and he said he'd get in touch with the priests in Lokvicici, Lovrec, and Imotski to see what he could figure out for me. What fun!

On our way out of the moutains we followed a much more straightforward path (still incredibly windy) toward the coast just a bit north of Dubrovnik. Just as we were pulling out of Hutovo, driving over the ridge, we literally drove THROUGH an old stone Ottomon fortress. We've founded out that around Hercegovina Mustafic is a very common muslim name. It's easy to speculate about the relationship between these names.

We pulled into Dubrovnik at about 4:30 this afternoon and quickly found unbelievably beautiful lodging in an old elegant villa, not nearly as expensive as we thought it might be here. All I can say about Dubrovnik is WOW! I had absolutely no idea a place could be so beautiful. It's a stunning, gleaming storybook place. Pictures and more very soon.


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