Mostar is a beautiful historic town in the Herzegovina region of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a few hours north east of Dubrovnik, Croatia. The city is one of the most ethnically diverse in BiH and the Ottoman style architecture is a very noticeable difference as you move away from the coast, heading east into the Balkans. Sadly, in more recent times, the city is better known as one of the of the most heavily bombed cities during the war in BiH that lasted from 1992 to 1995 and was one of many conflicts during the downfall of Yugoslavia. As the bus rolls into town it actually goes along the main road that was the former front-line during the war where many buildings still sit abandoned in ruins and peppered with bullet holes. I am sure the bus route is not deliberately designed for this reason, but it does provide an important sobering reminder of the war before entering the busy old town, where there have been extensive restoration works.
We stayed at a place not far from the Old Bridge, run by an incredibly friendly and welcoming guy called Taso. His families house was completely destroyed during the war and he has rebuilt it and turned it into a hostel which we highly recommend if you are in Mostar.
The town sits on both sides of the Neretva river and is joined by quite a few bridges, but the most famous is the Stari Most, meaning old bridge, which was originally constructed by the Ottomans in 1566. There is also a long standing tradition of local males diving from the bridge which is about 21 m high depending on the water level. Apparently it began as a way to impress onlooking girls, but is now more like a coming of age ritual. However, the bridge that you see in the photos is not actually the original bridge as it was destroyed during the war in 1993. The current bridge is an identical reconstruction using the same material and techniques as well as some of the original pieces which were reclaimed from the river. This is actually the case for much of the historic Ottoman architecture alongside the river, as can be seen in photos at the information center that show the state of the town during the war and immediately after.
The food in Croatia was predominantly Italian but once you move east it becomes a lot more Turkish and HEAVILY meat orientated – the people in the Balkans love their meat almost as much as the South Africans! Taso suggested a lovely traditional restaurant to us that is situated in the old town. He gave us a flyer for the restaurant with his name written on it, and upon our arrival we received two complimentary shots of Rakia, one grape and one plum, both very very very potent! Rakia generally has an alcohol content of 40%, but some home made ones reach up to 50 – 70%! We had a very delicious and very filling grilled meat and vegetable platter that was supposed to be for one person but seriously more than enough for us, we told you they love their meat! We liked the restaurant so much we went back there again the next night for dinner.
We were only intending to say one night in Mostar, but decided to stay an extra night so we could go on the Herzegovina tour that Taso does every day for his guests. We started the day with a traditional breakfast of burek and yogurt. The burek is a delicious filo pastry ‘pie’ that can be filled with a variety of stuffings like meat, cheese, spinash etc. Very tasty, however I think we’ll skip the yogurt drink next time! Just up the river from where we had breakfast we visited a beautiful ottoman house that is built on the waters edge right under a waterfall. We also visited the stunning Kravice waterfalls and swam in the freezing water, and walked through the beautiful but eerie medieval town of Pocitelj which was completely evacuated during the last war due to bombings. Only 30 of its former 900 inhabitants have returned to live there. We’re really glad we stayed longer to do the tour, it was an amazing day and Taso was the perfect guide, such a lovely and fun guy!