I've heard stories about Mostar for years, many tragic and sad relating to the Bosnian war there in the early 1990s, a few happy stories of travel and stories from my friend Selmir who I work with, who grew up there. All the stories though have the one common thread of 'It's Beautiful!'
I was lucky enough to have time to travel here while Selmir was visiting his family on a long holiday. I spent 4.5 days in the region, a day in pretty Dubrovnik, Croatia and a day in Sarajevo, Bosnia's Capital.
The drive in was in the dark, so I didn't get to see the beauty of the area... but I sure woke up to it! The family house was at the east side of the city up a hill, so all day you could see the prettiness of the mountains surrounding the old town.
On Day 1 of the trip we headed into the Old Town, most of which was destroyed during the war, and was still clearly visible with building ruins everywhere you looked, with no attempt to rebuild some of them and are just left there. The Stari Most ("Old Bridge", for which the town is named after) is one of the most famous monuments of the country and is very beautiful to see, although, walking over it, you must be careful not to slip - the stones that make up the path over the bridge are seriously smooth, and especially slippery when it's even the slightest bit wet, which I found out all too well. No wonder all of the older tourists were walking along the edge gripping the railing for dear life. Built during the Ottoman Empire, the bridge was bombed during the war, but rebuilt to as close a replica as possible with photos and old documents. When we arrived, we were lucky enough to see one of the 'jumpers' a young man jumping off the 22m bridge into the rushing river below... an amazing, slightly terrifying thing to see! The markets were busy and touristy, but sat comfortably in amongst the old town buildings. The area is just as beautiful at night!
After the Old Town, we made our way down to the pretty town of Blagaj, where the River Buna starts at the Vrelo Bune, the largest spring in Europe, producing approx. 30m3/sec with super cold, but crystal clear water. At the mouth of the spring, the Blagaj Tekija is built there, an old Ottoman Monastery built around 1520. While there, we also passed some inviting coblestones steps down to something called 'Ecomuseum - Velagić Houses' "National Monument"... this turned out to be a pretty house with an incredibly enthusiastic guide who seemed like they probably only had visitors once or twice a day. The place was an old Mayor's house and used to be a working water mill area. Complete with a screaming neighbour who didn't believe in tourism and to 'GET OUT'... Our guide completely ignored her, by talking all the more loudly.
And oh, the food! At Blagaj, there were riverside restaurants to keep the tourists well fed and give us somewhere to get out of the summer sun. We splurged on a €55 platter for 2 of seafood (of which, I'm not always a fan... but so ridiculously glad I made an exception here): 2 whole trout, a mountain of calamari and octopus, heaps of stuffed baby squid, rice, salad... and a glorious beer to wash it down! Wow, it was good... and so ridiculously cheap for all we had! Definitely should have been for 4 rather than 2. We lounged on the wicker seats for about an hour with the cool water rushing by about 1m below. The setting was so beautiful, I had such a stupid grin on my face the whole day.
To top off an already perfect day, Selmir's family and I had dinner up at their holiday house - a small place in an old village up on the hill with a stunning view - not that you can't get a stunning view from basically everywhere in the area! Selmir's brother just added to the brilliantness, by singing in a beautiful tenor voice while he sat cooking marinated chicken over a coal pit BBQ... It just fitted so perfectly into the image, I had to record it. A little later when his family watched the video I'd taken, they roared with laughter, telling me he was making up a song, singing something about 'Oh Mother, I feel sick, please look after me'. Slightly ruined the image, but it sounded good all the same.
I now see why one of my friends wrote 'JEALOUS!!!' on my Facebook wall when I said I was visiting Mostar... I would be too if I heard someone else was going there. Good food, a little too much awesome homemade wine, incredible company (even if I couldn't understand anything that was being said when I wasn't involved in the exact conversation), and heart stopping views made for one of the best trips I've ever had. I was lucky enough to have a local to show me around, but that should in no way put anyone off - you'd love every second, all the same.