Blog Post #3 of the Series: Robert’s Daughter Travels
Bosnia and Herzegovina Marka:
I know most of my blogs thus far have focused on Eastern Europe, and there is a reason for that. Simply put, they were some of the most beautiful countries I visited. That region exceeded my every expectation and left me wanting more. Another reason could be that these countries use their own currency, not just the Euro; making them more interesting to someone like me.
I got to spend time in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and like most places, wished I had more time in this former Yugoslavian country. Mostar was the city that made a great impression on me. Its famous Stari Most (Old Bridge) was spectacular to see, as local men made splashes jumping off this 24 meter (almost 79 feet) high monument into the sparkling blue waters of the Neretva River below! The bridge was built in the 16th Century during the time of the Ottoman Empire, and it stood for over 420 years. The original bridge was destroyed during the war in the early 90s, but thankfully was rebuilt in 2014. I could write an essay about this bridge, but I will try to resist the urge! I tell you this just as a tidbit since Mostar can be translated to “Bridge Keeper”.
Wandering around the beautiful and slippery (if you have been there you will know what I’m talking about!) stoned streets of Mostar’s Old Town I was mesmerized by the Mosques and Turkish influence still felt in the streets. I had the opportunity to share a drink with a local girl in a tiny café tucked between gift shops and souvenir stands. She bought me a shot of Rakija (not my cup of tea/shot of choice). I tried to show her my gratitude by hiding my wincing face as the 40% alcoholic drink burnt all the way down. She told me about Bosnia’s three main demographics: the Bosnians, Croatians, and Serbs. She explained how each group is represented on the Bosnian flag as each point of the triangle stands for each nationality. According to her, there was a lot of debate over the flag design, and ended up being modeled after the EU flag. I was surprised to learn there were actually three presidents of Bosnia and Herzegovina and even more surprised to learn that they accept three different forms of currency. With my belly still warm as I started to absorb the shot of alcohol, I focused on her last comment – the currency.
Prior to my trip I knew Bosnia and Herzegovina had their own currency (the Marka). What I did not know is that they also accept the Croatian Kuna (click here to read my blog on the Kuna!) as well as the Euro. I found this to be fascinating (and not just because of my father). I thought about working at one of those small souvenir stands. Having, let’s say a magnet for sale, the magnet may cost 1 Marka. But now you also need to know that it would convert to 3.83 Kuna and about half a Euro. How would one keep up with method of payment and change! I’ve worked retail, and just counting one currency at the end of the day can get confusing – imagine having three! I wondered about going to dinner with a group of friends, Jess has Marka, Rachel has Euros and I need to get rid of my leftover Kunas from last week’s trip to Dubrovnik! How would we split the check? I offered this hypothetical situation to my new friend, who seemed rather amused by my interest (maybe it was due to the Rakija she so expertly tossed back). However after chuckling at my question her response was simple: “you’d use a credit card!” I laughed at her quick response, but the thought still intrigues me.
As a traveler, I find this practice convenient (considering I had left over Kuna and plenty of Euro’s taking up space in my pocket). I paid for everything while in Bosnia with Kuna, so sadly I never had Marka in hand. I asked a street vendor, after paying for my ice-cream, if he’d give me the change back in Marka so I could have a little as a souvenir, but he did not oblige (can’t really blame him with all the currency confusion already). We are currently on the hunt (hopefully at the FUN show next week) to add some of the “convertible” Marka to our website, however we still have some of their older dinar notes available on the website!
So even though these hands didn’t get to exchange in Marka, I learned all about Bosnia and Herzegovina’s love of threes: three presidents, three main cultures, and three currencies. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that I find Bosnia to be on my top three favorites as well!
Ps: I would like to believe that my cat, Iris, would have loved Bosnia as well. The locals have lovely relationships with the cats there and will feed and love them. I was told that the large population of cats helped protect the locals during the time of the black plague, therefore they still show gratitude by taking care of their feline friends. Iris would approve!
As always thank you for reading and I hope you found this short story interesting! I will be continuing to post stories and pictures from this adventure so stay tuned, and any feedback would be lovely!