In the city of the most famous Balkan bridge

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November 14th 2016
Published: June 12th 2017
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It was a really short stay in Montenegro and as we were leaving the apartment I thought that probably we should've stayed at least one more night to give Perast another go. The weather also was absolutely beautiful which only made me regret leaving Kotor even more... but what was done, was done... We had accommodation booked in Mostar already and the transport as well, so it was time to leave Montenegro and go to another country I have never been to before - Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Our driver came to pick us up from the main entrance to the Old Town. He was right on time! Quick adjustment of Millie's car seat (yep! full service!) and we were off! The guy actually looked really friendly and was speaking surprisingly good English... It turned out that he was mostly doing excursions around Kotor for the cruisers but once in a while he would take a trip to Mostar as well... He was very well informed about Kotor and its surroundings and the way he was talking about them, you could feel that he was really proud of his country and was really interested in its history, geography and economic situation. We timed our departure pretty well as shortly after we set off, Millie fell asleep - pheeew... an hour in the car without the need of entertaining... We drove around the bay for a while and took a new road up to Bosnia - apparently it's been there for two years only, it looked as if hardly anyone - maybe except trucks - knew about its existence actually! Once we left the bay behind I was surprised about the sudden change of the surroundings - suddenly there was nothing else around except for rocks... Our driver even had a little anecdote about that and said that someone said that if they took all the rocks and squeezed them all to make Montenegro flat, the country would become the highest situated country in the world... Who knows maybe there is a bit of truth in that as the country is definitely very mountainous...

I was really happy that Millie had a decent sleep in the car as not sure if I would have managed entertaining her for the 3+ hours... all these curves made my stomach slightly uneasy, I never really had a motion sickness so why was I suddenly feeling so nauseous? Anyway... Crossing the border went very smooth – the Montenegrin side – quick look at the passports, done! The Bosnian side - the border control officer disappeared with our passports for a moment and soon after gave them back to us as well – unfortunately all stinking of cigarettes! Yuk! At least we were in Bosnia and Herzegovina now!

We didn't drive for too long though as shortly after we were stopped by the police! Our driver did all the talking obviously... Raised voices, our driver opening the boot and police looking at our luggage... What were they looking for? And why were we stopped in the first place??? Strange... Ok, it looked like we were ready to go... When Goran got back to the car he said they stopped him because his front light wasn't working... Somehow they didn't stop any of the cars before though... He said that it happened often - they were stopping all the foreign cars with all sorts of excuses just to get some pocket money... I think there is a word for that! We had to stop two metres after at the mechanics to replace the bulb but thankfully it didn't take too long and soon after we were on our way. Welcome to B&H I guess?

Millie was fully awake after that little incident. We read some books, played a bit, she got quite a few snacks... I was running out of ideas... Was it far still? Just as I thought about it I saw a sign: Mostar 10km, sweet! Goran dropped us off close to our accommodation - 3,5hours journey instead of 9 hours by bus, not too bad at all... There was one bus connection we even considered for a moment – through Dubrovnik which supposedly took only 5,5 hours... We gave up on this idea when we were told at the bus station that it would definitely take longer than that though... Who knows how long it would really take? Maybe it was 5,5hours after all but they were just exaggerating a bit because they were trying to sell us private transfer? Anyway... We were happy to randomly have found Goran as he took us to Mostar in one piece and gave us a lot of info on the way as well... It did cost us a bit more but at least we were in Mostar already! If we took that bus, we wouldn't even have left Kotor yet... Pricey or not it was all worth it!

We got to our apartment and were happy to see it was another clean and spacious one, so far so good! It was time to check out the town and get some food, as we were starving! To get to the Old Town we had to make it through a construction site first! The main street leading to the Old Town was totally dug up! It was fully functional still though – you’d think they would’ve closed it off for pedestrians! I didn’t really like the idea of walking through it but nobody else seemed to mind and since the surrounding streets looked more or less the same we made our way through the middle of it also, to the sound of the pneumatic hammer of course... Soon after we were walking through a beautiful shiny stones, surrounded by souvenir shops, cafes and restaurants. I have to say that it all reminded me of Turkey a bit... With Turkish coffee and caj on the menus even more so... We strolled around for a while, checked out the famous bridge and were ready to try something Bosnian to eat... It was so empty around... Eventually we chose a restaurant we passed by before with some people inside. It looked like there was no smoking inside also or maybe we were just lucky there were no smokers at that moment? Anyway... that would do for now... We were surprised how cheap it was here comparing to Croatia and Montenegro! A soup 1,5-2EUR, main dishes starting from 4EUR, not too bad at all. I got Bey's soup (traditional Bosnian dish - beautiful, hearthy chicken soup) and Grant got some other Herzegovinian speciality, simply called Herzegovi mixed - little cabbage rolls filled with meat. The soup was such a good choice! Since the days were getting colder and colder I knew there only would be more soups to come...

After that we decided to call it a day, sun was already setting, it was getting really cold and Grant was still wearing shorts! We got some snacks for later and some drinks and were set for the day... As we were getting back through the main road we noticed more and more derelict buildings - some of them looked like they should've been pulled down as didn't look safe at all... bullet and artillery marks on the walls everywhere - we were going to look into that more the following day, but for now one thing was certain, the war might have been long over but the reminders of it were basically on every second street in town...

As the days were becoming shorter and colder, I have to say I started finding it more and more difficult to actually push myself out of bed and do something. Staying in bed is not really an option with Millie though as she almost never sleeps past 8am, still lately it's been taking us much, much longer to get ready and start exploring than before... That day we were beating all the records, sunny day outside and yet we were only leaving the house at 11am...

First we headed to the bus station to buy the tickets to Sarajevo. From there we just decided to check out the other side of the river and go through there to town... We thought before that the side we were staying on was badly destroyed but it looked like it was nothing comparing to the other side of the river... On this side almost every building had some kind of marks on it, with many buildings left in total ruins... And that unfortunately continued all the way to the Old Town... Once we got there we decided to have a plate of Bey's soup again and once we sat down, we realised that we didn't even take the backpack with Millie's food and nappies... not sure how we missed that, it was a first for sure! Thankfully our apartment was only a short walk away.

After that we wandered around the Old Town again. Opposite to one of the mosques there was a little cemetery which caught our attention as all the graves seemed to have one thing in common - all these people passed away more or less in the same time, few months apart really – some time between May and July 1993! There were a few older graves there as well but you couldn't really make out the dates on these ones at all, but as for the rest all 1993! 2,000 people died in Mostar by the time the war ended in 1995.

Next we went to check out the famous old bridge. Originally built in 1556, the bridge crossing Neretva river, is considered to be one of the most significant pieces of Balkan Islamic architecture. Sadly the bridge was destroyed during the Croat-Bosniak War in November 1993 and it took 11 years until it was rebuilt - there was a temporary bridge put in place during that time which enabled people to cross the river, a cable bridge! Speaks for itself... Croats claimed they destroyed the bridge as it was of strategic importance, many argued though that it wasn't the case, they believed the bridge was destroyed simply as act of cultural property destruction...

Next we went to the War Photo Exhibition to see the photos by a New Zealand photographer depicting the scenes from war in Mostar. Having walked around town a bit already, now we were able to recognise some of the sites from his pictures. To be honest quite a few of them looked more or less the same as in the pictures – still in ruins unfortunately... Really interesting exhibition with stories about different people and in general about life during that time as well. And what a hard life it was – constantly hiding from the snipers and hoping the missiles wouldn’t hit your house... And in the middle of it a volunteer, a photographer wanting to make a difference, to document it all and show it to the world! One word - brave!

Later on it was all about searching for a place to have dinner. Quite a few restaurants around for sure but as we walked in to a few, we got out even faster! They were basically smoke rooms and not restaurants... No thanks, I’d rather have a sandwich at home then than be sitting in that! Eventually we did find a place and once again we were lucky as there were no smokers around – one appeared later on but thankfully we were about to finish by that time. We tried some more local specialities. Very nice meals once again, nice and filling comfort food! I probably would’ve added a few more spices into it, but a pretty nice meal that was for sure. After that we just called it a day.

The following day to avoid the pneumatic hammers, we got to the Old Town with a slightly round trip through the other side of the river again. We were really trying to find some other place to have brunch at and one seemed like a possibility, that is until we walked inside - could barely see anything there was so much smoke around! The waiter told us there were some more seats upstairs, yeah! Don't think that was going to work... so in the end we had two Bey's soups at the same place as usual... Still good, but I was slowly getting over it now...

After that we wanted to visit a couple of places but we didn't have much luck. The Old Bridge museum - closed, the old Ottoman house - not only we had to get there through the construction site, but it was closed as well, the mosque which was apparently opened for tourists - 12eur for both of us seemed slightly pricey to be honest, so we just gave up on it in the end... Instead we decided to go to... the shopping centre! Only to look for shoes for Millie though, since she really was picking up on walking with a speed of light! What a disappointment again... Basically on every floor little cafes, which meant everyone sitting there was smoking of course! We went to two shops and after that had enough, felt like an ash tray after that! And no luck with shoesies either...

Back to the Old Town to wander around and say goodbye to Mostar then... It seemed that we got there just on time as some guy was just about to jump off the old bridge! Absolute lunatic I'd say! Something around 8C in the air, the water in the river probably close to that as well... Ok, he did have a wetsuit - short sleeves and short pants though! I actually remembered seeing the suit drying on the rail (or maybe just airing) earlier that day and wondered whether someone was really going to jump... And so he did! There were lots of people on the bridge, including a big group of students. It looked like they were his main audience actually – meaning they most likely paid for his ‘performance’. As crazy as it was in that weather, it was still pretty cool to see the jump in the end. After all jumping off that bridge is meant to be Mostar’s main attraction in summer, so I guess we could tick this off the list now as well.

And that was it for Mostar. On our last evening we weren’t too lucky with non-smoking table for three. Every restaurant we went to seemed to have smoke coming out of the main door already. Ah well... Dinner outside then – with temperature dropping by the minute, it was a quick one this time. I’ve noticed that I’ve actually never been bothered so much by smoke as I was now. Maybe living in Australia spoiled me a bit – as they seem to be very anti-smoking there for sure. Or maybe it was this weird change I started feeling in my body recently... Being tired all the time I could definitely blame on the weather – winter slowly sneaking in, dark mornings and sun setting much earlier, temperature dropping... But my sense of smell seemed to have changed quite drastically as well... and it wasn’t only the cigarettes that were bothering me, any intense smell was just making me nauseous... One little test confirmed my suspicions, but I still wasn’t convinced... you couldn’t just rely on that little stick, right? For now we were going to continue on with our journey and look for some more signs along the way... 😉 Next stop: Sarajevo!

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12th June 2017

Welcome to B & H
Glad the minor police shakedown wasn't too much trouble. Sleeping children are always a blessing. You are really ticking off the countries. I like the looks of this one. I would like to wander old town.
16th June 2017

Welcome to B & H
We really enjoyed Mostar, probably would've enjoyed it even more if it was a few degrees warmer. The Old Town was really nice!

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