When people say, “tell me a travel story,” this is always the first story that comes to mind. It’s pretty bizarre and it happened when I was 20 years old.
It was spring break when I was studying abroad in Prague, Czech Rep. April of 2012 to be exact. Two of my friends and I decided to go a crazy trip, hitting up 5 Eastern European countries in 9 days (Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Croatia, and Germany).
The first part of the trip went great. We has some awesome nights in Munich and Belgrade and saw a lot of cool things. At about the half-way point of our journey, we were in Dubrovnik, Croatia. All of us were out at the bars one night having a blast. In the back of our mind, we knew that we had to wake up at the crack of dawn because we were planning to meet some more friends at a condo in Split, Croatia (a few hours up the Adriatic Coast). But that didn’t stop us from partying hard!
Before we went out to the bars that night, I looked at a map and realized that we were so close to Bosnia. In fact, it was just a slight detour to get there on the way to Split. Instead of taking the coastal route, detour would take us a bit inland and through a city called Mostar in SouthWestern Bosnia. I googled Mostar and found out that it is home to one of the most famous medieval bridges in the world (shown in picture), so why not check it out and cross another country off the list? Only one friend decide to join me, and we told the rest of the crew that we’d meet them at the condo in Split.
My buddy and I got about 1 hour of rest before we had to wake up to take the 5AM bus. We nearly missed it because we were hungover, but we managed to chase it down and get a seat. We arrived in Mostar after a few hours and it was pouring rain outside. We got off the bus, explored around the city for a few hours without umbrellas , grabbed a few beers, and then decide to go back to Split to meet our friends. We jumped on the next bus to Croatia.
Ok, that was all the boring parts of the story…
At the border of Croatia and Bosnia, there was a passport check. The police woman raided the bus and took everyone’s passport. I handed her my passport and looked over at my friend only to see him panicking and sweating bullets.
He had lost his passport.
It was nowhere to be found. The police officer told us to step outside the bus, and we were denied entry into Croatia until he found it or got a new one. Nobody spoke English.
How was this possible? He had it on the previous bus coming into Bosnia, an somehow lost it in the last 3 hours while we were in Mostar. The bus proceeded through the border without us. It was raining cats and dogs outside. It was Easter Sunday.
After talking to the Bosnian Police officers using hand signals and drawings, we had them call the previous bus company to search for his passport.
Sure enough, they found it on the last bus we were on !!! What a relief!
That original bus continued to Sarajevo (the capital of Bosnia), and that city was 4 hours by car from the border where we were standing.
So, we were stuck at the border, in the pouring rain, without cellphones or any form of communication, talking to the Bosnian police with broken English, with our big-ass travel backpacks on our backs and denied entry into Croatia until we got his passport back.
We pondered our options and realized that we had no other choice but to hitchhike to Sarajevo.
Yep, we stood on the road with our thumbs up and smiles on.
About an hour passed by… I was starting to freak out but my friend was keeping me calm.
Finally, this old man with grey hair and bulky glasses picked us up. He was driving a Ford (which made me feel more comfortable) and he was heading to Sarajevo.
He was a business man and was very friendly. We got lucky! He drove us for 4 hours through some amazing terrain and wefinally landed in Sarajevo. The entire ride, he was lecturing us on the Bosnian government and the Bosnian way of life. It was quite interesting.
We go to the bus terminal and and asked for his passport, but… they had no clue what we were talking abuot… So, we made them call the border police back and they said that the bus driver has it at his house, not at the bus terminal.
Frustrated but optimistic, we took a cab to the bus drivers house and GOT IT!
We got dinner in Sarajevo, clammed a few beers at a dive bar, and then took an 8 hour bus back to Split. It was such a relief to see out friends!
All in all, my hitchhiking experience was a little frightening to begin with, but turned out being awesome in the end.
Check out this video that I took in the back seat of the car. Listen closely to the guy lecturing us about Bosnian people and their culture.