The day after we arrived in Dubrovnik we headed out on a road trip to Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina following the coast until we hit the first Bosnian border crossing. Little did we know that we had to go through three borders (into Bosnia, back into Croatia, then into Bosnia again) to get to Mostar. It was a bit tedious with two windows and two checks at each crossing and we weren’t even there in high season, I can’t imagine what the traffic would be like mid summer. Be forewarned but I wouldn’t let it deter you from going just thought I’d mention the three crossings as we weren’t expecting it and concerned we might be going the wrong way. The crossings were standard checks, nothing out of the ordinary, just time consuming that had us arriving in Mostar 3 ½ hours later.
There are two routes by car from Dubrovnik; one up through the mountains and the mostly coastal route that we took which according to Google maps is supposedly the fastest. If you are going by road signs or GPS it follows the towns of Neum-Opuzen-Metkovic-Caplijina-Mostar. After you cross the last border and are back in Bosnia follow the signs to Mostar, as you enter the city look for signs directing you to the city center (centar). We were lucky to find street parking but there are many private parking lots with an attendant to usher you in for a few dollars in the town center. The parking meters take euros or the local currency which is the Bosnian Convertible Marka (BAM). Most of the shops are marked in euros for all the tourists coming in through Europe but they will take Croatian Kunas and off coarse their own Marka.
Parking secured, we walked towards the famed Stari Most (Old Bridge) and entered into the bazaar that follows along the Neretva River. Immediately you will feel transported to a more exotic place, you’ll see the Muslim influence with the minarets on the mosques reaching up to the sky give the city a more middle eastern flair, it reminded us of walking the bazaars in Turkey.
Mostar is a city in southern Bosnia- Herzegovina, straddling the Neretva River and is known for the iconic Stari Most (Old Bridge), a reconstructed medieval arched bridge. The original was destroyed during the Yugoslav wars of the 90’s but was rebuilt with private donations and reopened in 2004. Remnants of the war can be still be seen throughout the city, bombed out and bullet riddled buildings still stand as a reminder of the political struggles this area has endured. Apparently, these buildings still stand because of unresolved legal issues over ownership. My next read is ‘The Fall of Yugoslavia’ as I’m interested in knowing how this bit of history unfolded. My Father is Slovenian and had to defect from the then communist Yugoslavia as a young 20 year old man, I remember asking him if there was fighting close to his home effecting family or friends. I remember intently watching the news in the 90’s as Sarajevo was destroyed, only years prior a glittering Olympic hosting city.
The city though is very tourist friendly with all the infrastructure of a small, modern European city and the people are very friendly and warm. On the outskirts we found language a bit more difficult, not a problem in the tourist areas but English was not as widely spoken as in Croatia.
The food is incredible, a favorite of ours throughout our European travels. We had a fabulous lunch, a traditional platter for two at the Restaurant Sadrvan, close to the bridge in the tourist center. It was a large, very filling lunch of local delicacies that could easily feed 4 but we managed to woof it all down with a Mostar beer. We watched another table who ordered the traditional meat platter for two, it looked amazing and way too much food for two people. Both platters had an assortment of local, traditional foods typical to Bosnia, a melding of Baltic and Middle Eastern flavors that are to die for and the place has great ambiance to boot.
We ventured a bit out of the touristy area and you could feel a difference, it felt a bit grittier and we encountered a few gypsy beggars that we hadn’t seen since Rome. One used her two kids, a young girl and boy covered in dirt that wouldn’t let us pass without giving them money. They were persistent but cute, I played along with them and pushed our way through as I struggled mentally with should I or shouldn’t I give them some money. Throughout our travels, especially common in Italy was how to handle the beggars (you are constantly hassled in Italy between the Gypsies and Refugees), do you give each a few bucks? It has been a moral dilemma throughout our travels and something I need to research as the locals will tell you not to encourage it. You don’t want to perpetrate this as a way to make a living, you don’t want to be handing out to those who don’t need it (some were dressed better than us) and you don’t want to enable other vices. But the kids were cute and so on our way back we gave them a few dollars, then of coarse they hassled us wanting more! I got the feeling that the tourist areas are policed, most likely by the vendors and merchants and that they are not allowed in those areas. We never felt unsafe though and it’s a great cultural exchange to see beyond what is marketed to tourists.
We spent about 4 hours in the city center and then headed back to Dubrovnik as most of the tourists do that are just in for the day. If you have more time you could dig deeper into what Bosnia has to offer. If we had time we would have stopped at Kravice Waterfalls but it didn’t fit into our schedule and we felt like we got our fill at Plitvice and Krka in Croatia (click on the link to see our posts). I would have liked to make a trip into Sarajevo and other parts of the country but that will have to wait for our return. Click here if you’d like to see our photo gallery.
Here is a video of our trip to Mostar, Bosnia