Visiting Mostar in Bosnia & Herzegovina

Mostar, a small but historic city in the Herzegovina region of Bosnia & Herzegovina, totally charmed me.  Even though the summer days we spent there were scorching hot, we loved exploring this mix of beautiful buildings, cobblestone lanes and poignant history.IMG_6621 (2).JPG

IMG_6455 (2)When planning our visit to Mostar, I saw many recommendations for a day trip or an overnight from nearby Split or Dubrovnik in Croatia, but we decided to spend three nights here and were happy we did.  We were able to go at a slow pace, and spend lots of time just wandering the streets of Mostar.  The old town is pretty compact, so we got to know it well in our 3 days. Also, as I mentioned, it was super hot when we were there in late August, so we left the worst of the weather to the day trippers, and went out in the relatively coolers hours of the early mornings and evenings instead.IMG_6470 (2).JPG

Stari Most Bridge

IMG_6439 (2).JPGThe most famous attraction in Mostar (and one of the most famous in all of Bosnia) is the Stari Most bridge.  The original was built in the 1400s, but was destroyed during the war in 1993.  It was rebuilt about 10 years later and the new bridge is very similar to the original. In fact – check out the photo below.  C’s parents were in Mostar 50 years ago and his dad took the top picture of Mostar and the original bridge. The bottom picture is from when we were there 50 years later.  It looks pretty similar, though if you look closely, you can see that things have changed and some buildings have been rebuilt since the war.

Top photo from 1968 and bottom photo from 2018.  The top photo shows the original bridge  built in the 16th century, and the bridge in the bottom photo was rebuilt after being destroyed in 1993 by Croat forces during the Croat-Bosniak war.

The bridge is known for its bridge jumpers, people who, after sufficient donations are received, will jump from the bridge into the river below (which is apparently REALLY cold!).  We were lucky to catch a few jumps.  It looks like the key is to get in feet first, with your legs closed 😉

IMG_6487 (2).JPGWatching the preparation for a bridge jumper’s jump while eating dinner (there is LOTS of build up before the actual jump)

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Crowd gathered to watch the jumper as he goes off the bridge

Koskin-Mehmed Pasha’s Mosque

We visited this mosque to climb the minaret for the most spectacular view of Mostar.  We did enjoy the small, but beautifully decorated interior of the mosque before climbing the claustrophobic minaret.

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Earlier in the day, we had found the equivalent of about 50€ (in Bosnian Convertible Marks) in the couch cushion of our rented apartment.  We weren’t sure what to do with it and in the end we decided to put it in the donation box of this mosque. It felt right to leave it in Bosnia and hope they could put it to good use.

IMG_6612.JPGLuckily, there wasn’t many people climbing to the top of the minaret at the same time as us, because there wasn’t much room for two-way traffic, nor was there much room at the top.  Nevertheless,  the fairly short walk up was well worth it and the views of Mostar from the top were outstanding.IMG_6599 (2).JPG

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Walking through the old town

IMG_6620 (2).JPGThe Old Town was full of beautiful cobblestone streets, vendors selling all sorts of trinkets, lovely stone buildings, and river views.  Walking through the town was magical.  IMG_6474 (2).JPG

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Delicious (but meat-heavy) meals

Speaking of dinnertime, restaurants served up LOTS of meat here in Mostar.  We enjoyed two meals of mix of delicious barbecue meats.  However, after a few days, we were ready for lighter meals!

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We had a delicious meal of mixed barbecue meats (a local specialty) at Tima Irma, a wonderful and very affordable restaurant right in the center of the Old Town.  This plate was plenty to feed all five of us. In addition to the meat, you can see lots of veggies, hummus and dips, and bread. Yum!
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Another of our favorite meals in town, at this wonderful restaurant, Restoran Lagero,  with great food (yet another delicious barbecue meat plate), a fantastic view of the Stari Most, and a kind and friendly owner.
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Boys digging into the mixed meat plate (along with other stuff like hummus, veggies and nan bread) at Restoran Lagero

War Photo Exhibition

IMG_6460 (2).JPGWe spent quite a while this summer in the former Yugoslav countries.  We had visited WWII sights in Europe before, but this is the first time that we saw the ravages from a war that happened in our lifetime.  Being a teenager in the US during the Bosnian war, I didn’t pay much attention to all that was going on, but had heard about the Siege of Sarajevo and the Croats and Serbs and the UN peacekeepers and atrocities.  Coming to this area and reading more about the conflict, seeing it in person (because the scars of the war still exist in Bosnia) was sobering.

The War Photo Exhibition was just  a few rooms of photos highlighting the war that took place in Mostar.  It didn’t take long to go through the photos and read the accompanying stories, but it was really powerful to see photos of the town we had been strolling through devastated and in rubble during the war.  Taking kids to places like this, we can never know how much they are really understanding, but I hope they will remember this at least a little bit, and feel lucky they grew up in a peaceful, safe place, unlike the poor children and families in Bosnia in the 1990s. I didn’t take pictures of the photos in the exhibition, but here are a few of the scars from the war that are still visible around town.

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The building on the right is just a shell – it has no roof and you can see the trees and plants growing inside of it.
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This building was in front of the apartments we stayed in.  It is full of bullet holes from the war.  This area was under siege during the war. Note – it was only after I was looking through our photos of our time here that it occurred to me that L’s new Croatia jersey was probably not the best thing for him to wear while we visited Bosnia.  This is a reminder that we always need to be aware and sensitive to the locals when traveling :-(.

This wraps up our time in Mostar, but we did get to spend time exploring a few other sites in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and I will share those in the next post.

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