Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Međugorje, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Last year during the Pope’s visit to Brno, I was given a blessed charm for my grandmother by a nun from Međugorje. I had never heard of the place before but here’s what I found out.

In 1981, six children from Međugorje, Yugoslavia (today it is Bosnia and Herzegovina) claimed to be visited by the Virgin Mary. The visions have continued almost daily since 1981 and many others have claimed to have seen the Virgin Mary as well. Originally she was seen on a hilltop near town where there is a large cross commemorating the Redemption.

This has become one of the most popular pilgrimage sites for Catholics as a Marian shrine. Around 30 million pilgrims have come to Međugorje since 1981 even though it is not officially recognized by the Vatican which makes this one of the world’s largest illicit Catholic shrines.

Since I could take a bus from Split to Međugorje I decided to see it for myself this past Saturday. The bus ticket was $20 and left at 6 AM. I wanted to buy a round trip ticket but I was told that I could only purchase a one-way ticket and would have to buy my return ticket to Split in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The ride there took 3.5 hours and it was a great opportunity to see some beautiful scenery on the Croatian coast.

When we got to the border the bus stopped and Croatian border guards checked everyone's passports. No problem. The bus drove 1 minute and came to a stop again. This time the border guards from Bosnia and Herzegovina came on and checked everyone's passports. They made one guy get off the bus and we waited for about 5 minutes. Then the guy had to remove his suitcase from the bus and we drove off without him. Who knows?

Međugorje is a small town in the Herzegovina part of the country. I noticed people there from the U.S., Poland, England, Italy, France, Canada and Lebanon. But the whole town seems to be run by Irish Catholics. I expected there to obviously be some tourist shops but it was kind of ridiculous. I really have no idea how many Virgin Mary nightlights, ashtrays and coffee mugs one town needs.
There was a light drizzle when I left Split but I had full-on rain the whole time I was in Međugorje. So this kept me from climbing up the hill to the cross. On the ride back to Croatia we sat in queue at the border crossing for over an hour. Our passports were checked before we left but they were never checked coming back in to Croatia. Due to the delay at the border, the rain and the traffic, the ride back to Split took 6.5 hours. But at least the weather cleared up by the time I made it back to Split and it never rained the again during the rest of my vacation.

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