Mostar and surrounds

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October 27th 2019
Published: October 31st 2019
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We left Jajce straight after breakfast and headed off in the direction of our final stop in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mostar. Unfortunately it was rather foggy for much of the drive so we didn’t get to see a lot of scenery during the first part of the trip. Once the fog lifted, the scenery was quite lovely. High mountains covered in autumn leaves next to a blue-green river.

The drive to Mostar took about 2.5 hours. As we entered the area close to the Old Town a man in a hi-vis vest waved at us and said something in Bosnian that we didn’t understand. I thought he was dodgy but Scott chose to turn around and find another route to our hotel.

On the second route towards our hotel we were again waved at by another guy in hi-vis, this time the paid parking next to him was far more obvious and we were fairly convinced that he was just trying to get us to pay to park in his area. We drove past him and realised our suspicions were correct.

We found the street our hotel was in not long after. I hopped out and met the owner, who said he spoke only a little English but was better than he gave himself credit for. He helped us to park our car and let us know that we would have to wait till 1:30 to check in. We left our stuff in the car and then headed off for a walk through the Old Town of Mostar.

Mostar is the fifth largest city in Bosnia with a population of approximately 106,000 people. Evidence of human settlements from prehistoric times have been have been discovered in the area of Mostar, however the town itself was first mentioned in 1474. At that time the region was ruled by the Ottomans who fortified the town between 1520 to 1566. The most famous landmark in Mostar, the Old Bridge, was constructed in 1566 under the orders of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.

Along with the rest of Bosnia and Herzegovina the city came under Austro-Hungarian rule in 1878 and the subsequently Yugoslavia. After the declaration of independence from Yugoslavia, the town was the site of intense fighting between the Croat and Bosniak forces when the alliance between the two parties against the Republika of Srpska (Serbs) broke down in 1993. The aim of the Croat forces was to create a Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia; this conflict is sometimes considered a war within the wider Bosnian war. There are still quite a lot of scars from this conflict on the buildings around Mostar.

It only took us about two minutes to reach the Old Town from our hotel. We were suddenly surrounded by old buildings, pebble paths and hoards of tourists. We walked along the path and eventually reached the Old Bridge of Mostar.

The bridge is a loving reconstruction of the original Ottoman bridge which was destroyed by Croat forces during the conflict. The arch shaped bridge is protected on either side by fortified towers.

After crossing the bridge we continued through the Old Town (and hoards of tourists). The Old Town itself isn’t that large so we exited the other side after not too long and continued through the streets of Mostar nearby.

Eventually we reached a restaurant by the river which looked quite nice so decided to grab a table. I ordered a platter of grilled vegetables while Scott opted for the classic ćevapi. The food was quite nice, though Scott wasn’t so keen on the massive pile of raw onions that ćevapi is usually served with. The views from lunch were excellent as well so it was a nice place to have our first meal.

After lunch we made our way back to our hotel via the new part of town. It was rather warm by this stage so we were fairly happy we were able to check into our hotel by the time we reached it.

We decided that our only task for the rest of the afternoon would be to do our washing. After relaxing for a little while we packed our dirty laundry and books into our backpacks and set off for a laundromat in the newer part of town, about a half hour walk away.

We had assumed that we’d be doing our own washing and would read our books while we waited the hour or so for it to finish. However, when we arrived at the laundromat we discovered that it was actually staffed. The staff told us to come back in about three hours to pick our clothes up. This meant we had a whole lot of hours to fill in a part of Mostar which didn’t have any obvious sites of interest to tourists.

We ended up discovering a mall nearby and decided to check out whether there were any movies on. Joker was playing at a convenient time so we decided we’d see that while we waited. We killed the time before the movie started by looking around the shops...and ended up running into one of the Bosnian-Swedes we’d met when we did the Siege of Sarajevo tour. We were rather amused that we’d run into the only person we knew in Mostar.

After the (rather brutal) movie finished we headed back to the laundromat to pick up our clothes and then walked back to our hotel.

That night for dinner we headed to a restaurant that our hotel had recommended. I ordered another plate of grilled vegetables and Scott ordered a chicken risotto. Scott also had a beer and I had a wine. My grilled vegetables weren’t as nice as the ones I’d had earlier in the day as they lacked seasoning. Scott’s risotto would have horrified a lot of Italian chefs as it wasn’t very traditional, in fact it tasted a lot like a chicken curry pasta packet mix available in Australia. My wine also tasted a little like it had been poured out of a plastic bottle (it probably had been).

The following morning we decided to go for another walk. While we were walking Scott decided it was time to brave a Bosnian hair cut. The first barber we popped into was fully booked the whole time we were in Mostar, but they recommended another salon nearby. We booked an appointment for lunchtime and then set off to the Museum of War and Genocide Victims.

The Museum of War and Genocide Victims is a reasonably extensive museum which explains some of the atrocities that occurred during the 1992 – 1995 war. The museum contains numerous items, photographs, videos and personal accounts of experiences from the war. It also contains a room which details those that have been convicted of crimes committed during the war and the sentences they received.

The museum was rather intense as you might expect. The stories of what humans are capable of doing to each other were horrifying. It made for a very heavy two hours but was informative and fairly well presented. It was well worth the visit; hopefully by remembering what went on it won’t happen again (though I’m not sure humans are that quick to learn…).

After the museum we went to get Scott’s hair cut. Fortunately he came out looking fairly normal so we didn’t have to find someone else to fix it!

We went for a longer walk after his haircut and eventually found ourselves on a bridge outside the Old Town with a fantastic view of the Old Bridge. We were the only tourists on the bridge which was rather surprising given it was probably the best free view of the Old Town.

During our walk we were surprised to discover several grand old buildings which are abandoned and in a state of disrepair. Hopefully someone purchases these buildings and restores them to their former glory before the crumble beyond return.

We had a late lunch at a little restaurant outside the Old Town. Scott ordered a kebab and I had a chicken burger. The food was actually really nice; the most flavoursome we’d had in a little while.

That afternoon we took our books to a restaurant by the river. We ordered some drinks and read our books while admiring the view. While we were at the restaurant we watched one of the locals who makes a living taking tips to jump off the bridge into the river below (which is apparently a chilly 7 deg C during summer) dive off the bridge. It was incredibly underwhelming as he didn’t even to any tricks on the way down! They apparently need to collect 35 Euros in tips before they’ll jump; a rather steep price given they don’t do much for it.

After the sun set we made our way back to our hotel. A little later we ventured out for dinner to a place we’d found on the internet. I ordered a chicken skewer plate and Scott ordered a meat platter for one. The food was actually really nice and quite flavoursome, but massive! We probably could have shared one dish and been satisfied. The owner of the restaurant was slightly crazy, but in a good way, which was rather entertaining.

The following day was our last in Mostar. We ventured out early to take some photos before the streets got busy. It was nice and quiet at this time of the day with only a few tourists and locals around, much different to later in the day when the main street through the Old Town is wall to wall tourists.

After breakfast we hopped in the car and set off for our trip to three sites near to Mostar. Our first destination was Blagaj Tekija which is a 600 year old dervish monastery built into a cliff at the source of the Buna river.

On our way into Blagaj Tekija we encountered the men in hi-vis waving at us and trying to get us to pay for parking (which seems to be a staple around Mostar) but drove straight past them and found free parking not long after.

After parking the car we bought our entrance tickets and headed to Blagaj Tekija to explore. The monastery itself was quite small and the rooms were pretty bare. Scott didn’t even enter the rooms themselves as he wasn’t particularly interested.

After I’d walked through the rooms we headed across the other side of the river (which is free) to take a look at the monastery from there. The view from across the river was better than actually being within the monastery, and free. I didn’t think it was worth paying the entrance tickets for Blagaj Tekija.

From Blagaj Tekija we set off for our next stop, Počitelj. Google Maps let us down; the gravel road turned into a road through a park which led to a bridge which no longer spanned the entire river. We retraced our steps and followed the more sensible route.

Počitelj is a historic village and open air museum on the side of a hill near a river. It’s a pretty little village and is free to visit. After parking our car we walked up the stairs with a tour group to a mosque which had nice views over the village. We admired the view for a while and then continued up the hill, along the shady paths / stairs until we reached another view point higher up. It seems like not many people continue beyond the mosque so the walk was lovely and quiet.

After taking photos and enjoying the view we headed back down the hill. Not long after we started walking back down I spotted a friendly cat who trotted up to us and then demanded pats. We sat on the steps for a while patting her (and being meowed at when we stopped patting her) while she dribbled happily.

Eventually we decided it was time to continue trying to reach the fort on the other side of the town, but the cat had other ideas. She kept meowing sadly and rubbing against my legs as we walked. Such a friendly cat.

We couldn’t find a way to reach the other fort; the track we took lead to a dead end. So we gave up and then headed back to the car. After reaching the car we set off for our final stop on the tour around Mostar; Kravice falls.

After about half an hour we arrived at the car park for the falls. We paid our entrance fee (about 10AU per person) and then started the walk down the hill to the falls.

The falls themselves are quite pretty, however the area around them was a little odd. I had expected lots of grassy areas where people could have a picnic and enjoy the scenery, however there was a dusty area with lots of people posing for Instagram photos and selfies instead. In the part of the falls our entry ticket covered, it was quite hazy so our photos don’t do it justice. We could have paid extra to catch a boat to a small area across from the main lake which looked like it was in a better position relative to the sun to take photos, but given we’d already paid quite a bit to access the falls we were opposed to that!

After watching people take photos of themselves in awkward positions for a while we made our way back up the hill. By the time we reached the top we were rather warm as the sun was quite strong.

The drive back to Mostar took us about an hour. We took an alternative route to avoid having to follow an incredibly slow driver which turned out really well; not only did we avoid being stuck behind a terribly slow car which struggled with corners, but we also got to see some pretty incredibly scenery as we took a windy road which approached Mostar from above.

After we arrived in Mostar we headed out for a late lunch at the same restaurant as the day before. I ordered the same chicken burger and Scott had a mixed durum wrap. The food was quite delicious again.

After lunch we returned to our hotel to read our books for a while.

That night we went out for dinner at a pizza place which was recommended by our hotel. I ordered a ‘Mediteranea’ pizza and Scott ordered a BBQ’d chicken. The pizzas were decent, but not as good as our favourite place in Melbourne.

On the way back from dinner we stopped to take some photos of the Old Town at night before heading back to our hotel.

We enjoyed the few days we spent in Mostar. The Old Town is really pretty, particularly away from the busy main street, and the other parts of the city had a nice feel to them. We probably wouldn’t recommend Kravice falls or paying the entry ticket to Blagaj, but really liked Počitelj.

Additional photos below
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3rd November 2019
Mostar Old Town

Old Town
Lots of personality.

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