You may have seen that I recently wrote a post on my long weekend in Croatia with my son, if not then Part One is right here.
Part Two is all about our escapades over in Bosnia and Herzegovina, more particularly our visit to the humble but still clearly war affected town of Mostar. Coby and I had no idea what to expect from Mostar, but what we did see and learn is probably something that we’ll never forget.
I got the impression a few people were surprised when I told them we were heading over to Bosnia & Herzegovina. I’d done the research though. The war between Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina had been over and finished for two decades, we would be fine, even if there are apparently still risks of stepping on a landmine… joking… (not).
Lonely Planet has Mostar’s Stari Most Bridge ranked as the 113th best travel destination on the planet, so therefore it’s totally worth visiting, right? Read on and see…
AN EARLY START
With a moody Coby (he didn’t appreciate our 6.15am pick up) we boarded our mini-bus with eight other sleepy tourists and we drove for a couple of hours admiring the beautiful Croatian views.
Making our way (precariously) across the Bosnian border shortly after arriving in the slightly grey, but charismatic pretty town of Mostar. It’s quite hard to explain what Mostar is like. It certainly hasn’t been restored the same way Dubrovnik has, and whilst it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site there are still signs and remnants of the 1992–1995 Bosnian War everywhere. It’s quiet, it’s calm but has an edge of nervousness to it still. Coby was silent…that never happens! We couldn’t quite work out what was going on at first, but once we met with our guide we began to understand a little more.
TAKING IT ALL IN
Our guide was called Jusef and told us he was a ‘born and bred’ Yugoslavian. He said he wouldn’t impose his opinions on us but more tell us the facts about Mostar. One thing he did say that was prior to the Bosnian war Yugoslavia may have been a communist country but it wasn’t communist the same way Russia was, everyone was happy. Healthcare was free, unemployment was low and the war certainly wasn’t welcome with the people. Since the war ended Mostar now has a 46% unemployment rate, a complicated government structure, no free healthcare and no free primary school education. The town is split in two with a busy main road keeping each district apart, and I even found out that Mostar has two phone networks, two electricity companies, and two school systems!
I wouldn’t say we felt in danger in any way, it wasn’t threatening at all, and I think that each group or religion residing in Mostar are clearly very proud of their beliefs and have firm opinions on who the country really belongs to. The impression I have is that Bosnians are very quiet, almost melancholic. Even when the streets are packed with people it can be super quiet.
Told you it was hard to explain, the only way you can really understand what it is like is to visit!
ADMIRING THE BEAUTY
We wandered through East Mostar, the oldest and prettiest part, with plenty to offer. The cobblestone streets (which apparently were made a certain way to massage your feet the same way reflexology does), are filled with markets and food stalls, all of which kind of made me feel like I was in Turkey or Marrakesh!
We eventually made our way over to what we really came to see. The Stari Most Bridge. The bridge is actually a reconstruction of a bridge which previously stood for 427 years before being destroyed in 1993 by the Croatians during the War. The bridge was then rebuilt and opened again to the public in 2004. It is huge… and kind of mesmerising! The water below is a lovely shade of turquoise and it has some of the most amazing views over the town, I’ve never before seen a river of such stunning colours. I think this has to be one of my most favourite photos I’ve taken yet.
Whilst here, we had the chance to see a man jump off of the bridge and dive into the flowing river below. I had previously read that they wouldn’t jump for less than €25 so our group all pitched in and paid the guy. This is his job! He jumps off a bridge and risks his life every day to make a living. Up he went again, teasing the crowds and we sat anxiously ready to snap a photo of him leaping from the bridge before doing a perfect dive into the water. After some time, he finally jumped, arms soaring behind him, toes pointed and a big smile on his face!
Our guide told us that you’re not a real Bosnian until you have jumped from the bridge and he’d actually done it when he was just 14 years old! His Mum of course went insane when she heard. Made us chuckle.
After watching this craziness we meandered through the small walkways enjoying looking at one souvenir shop after another, and stopped for some lunch by the river next to this cute miniature bridge which actually repeats the form of the Stari Most Bridge – cute!
Tourists are the livelihood of Mostar who are really trying to get their foothold in this world. If more tourists arrive, the economy will get better and the living conditions of people will improve. While I was never worried about myself or Coby whilst we were in Mostar, there were people, especially women and children begging for money. This, I did not see as a threat or danger to our visit. It only made us feel sorry for them and want to help them.
THE NEXT PART OF OUR ADVENTURE
Anyway, we were moving on and we had one more stop before heading back over to Croatia – the Kravice Waterfalls. A large lake surrounded in waterfalls, free to enter and flipping freezing cold! Stretching over 100m across and tumbling down 25m, Kravice is one of the largest waterfalls in Herzegovina and certainly the most impressive.
The sound of the water crashing down is incredibly relaxing too. We sat and had a little time-out before heading back up to the mini-bus, driving back to our apartment and crashing out!
I’m a little vague on the journey back as Coby and I took over the back seats, closed our eyes and snoozed all the way home!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my little two-part series. I’d not only highly recommend taking some time out with your child to do something different but I’d also, and I think this is clear, highly recommend visiting both Dubrovnik and Mostar, there are literally no other places like them on Earth and they are both equally as breath-taking.