Our first experiences of Bosnia included a lone cow with a rope around it's neck wandering the railway tracks, a ticket inspector with no interest in inspecting tickets and a train which enjoyed stopping willy-nillily in the middle of nowhere. This all made us think that the place was going to be as dysfunctional as the stereotypes ingrained in our minds had led us to expect. I half expected to see Borat jump aboard!
However, on arriving in Mostar all this was quickly dispelled. We were picked up at the train station by someone from the hostel and were given a whirlwind tour of the city en route to our accommodation. Very quickly the gravity of the conflict in the early 90s became apparent. Many streets had buildings that were shells or riddled with bullets holes that were nestled next to buildings in perfect condition - a very strange juxtaposition.
Once we got to our hostel - the incredibly Hostel Majdas - we were greeted by a lot of people sitting around having a beer and chatting. Finally a sociable hostel! And from there we went out until the early morning.
The next day 14 of us set off on a 12 hour tour with the brother of the hostel owner who was, simply, mental! But in the good way. To fit everyone in his van he set up stools in the boot which would be unstable with a careful driver. However, our guide wasn't a careful driver and enjoyed to take breaks from steering to dance to his music and break/accelerate along to the beat!
The highlight of the tour was a several hour stop at Kravice Falls. After mucking about in these stunning waterfalls (google them!), we had some local firewater washed down with some native lager and he took us off the tourist trail and we scramble through rivers and up rocks and down waterfalls until we reached an 11 meter jump into a gorgeous lagoon! Even Jack did the jump and it was thrilling but pretty scary. The jump itself took so long you had time to think about how far you were falling as you were falling. An unusual feeling.
The next day, before heading to Sarajevo, we went to check out the Old Town. The first stop on the way was the "Sniper Tower". An old bank that was used by Croat snipers during the conflict. It had a very erie feel as you walked up the staircase - which had no wall to protect you from falling out the multistory building- as you realised not so long ago people were shooting neighbours and old class mates etc from this very place. There are still numerous bullet cases lying around.
After that, we went and checked out the famous old bridge. Destroyed in the war but perfectly rebuilt, it stands 25m above the river below at it's highest point and members of the local diving club will plummet off it (for a fee!). Really made me feel less impressed with the 11m I had thought was so great the day before. Had a dip in the river myself to cool off but the current was much too strong and the water much too cold to really enjoy it!
From there (with a few beers and a portion of cevapi in between) it was onwards to Sarajevo!