A question often posed to philosophically-minded travelers is this: have you really gone to Bosnia-Herzegovina if you haven’t made it out to Mostar? The city is renowned for it’s Stari Most (Old Bridge), which UNESCO named to their World Heritage List in 2005, and consequently is a popular destination for tourists. If you’re lucky, you can even see people diving off the bridge, adding an extra layer of allure to the city. (I missed seeing it by minutes, sadly.) Through a quirk in my itinerary (i.e. no excursions were headed there on Friday thus I took matters into my own hand), I decided to cap off my Bosnian vacation by heading to the gorgeous city.
Friday morning was a fairly mad scramble. I was trying to get ready for checkout while simultaneously getting ready to head to the bus station for Mostar, all while trying to sleep in as much as I could. There was an option to take the train, but as it left at 7 AM, that wasn’t in the cards; I wanted to get to Mostar, but not that badly-I needed sleep by this point of the week. Having enough foresight the previous night, I checked to see the times for departure of the buses, and lo and behold there was one at 8:55. The receptionist also had told me I could take a tram directly to the station, and the stop was pretty much right behind the hostel. So, I eagerly walked outside to wait for it. However, trams #3 only showed up, and not my tram #1. After about 20 minutes of anxiously looking at my watch for the tram, I decided to just hail a taxi and pay a bit more. To speed things up here, I made it there, but unfortunately not in time to catch the bus. No worries, as the next one left at 11:30. While I had to kill a fair bit of time, I was able to grab a solid chicken breakfast at the adjacent grill, which gave me the requisite energy I needed for the journey. I also couldn’t help but people watch while I was enjoying my meal, as the bus station did attract a gamut of customers. In particular, it was both awe inspiring and a bit intimidating how the the lady in charge of the place ran the place. She was guiding customers and (literally) barking orders to the poor cooks. The comparison that sprung to mind was General Rommel leading his Afrika Korps in World War 2. If that historical reference goes over your heads, and apologies if that’s the case, just imagine your stereotypical efficient German who is getting belligerent at those disrupting said efficiency. Anyways, my wait for the bus sped by far quicker than I’d imagined. So, it was time to hit the road!
The journey to Mostar took roughly two and a half hours, which was reasonable enough. While I admittedly could have been there sooner if I’d gotten out of bed a bit earlier, things worked out. I made sure to check when the last bus departed back to Sarajevo, which was at 6:15. Since I arrived at about 2, that gave me plenty of time to check out the city. I realize that given my time frame, I essentially was going to say I was there. I wholly acknowledge that, but I was told that a day there would be more than enough time, and that was the case. Yes, I’m sure there were other things to see had I planned more (and I didn’t, because I really slacked off big time prior to leaving), but I was content with sticking around the Old Town. Once I flagged down a taxi, it took just about ten minutes from the bus station to get to Old Town. A continuing theme in Bosnia was having great taxi drivers, and the one here got to chatting about my sunglasses. He asked me if mine were original (they weren’t; I bought them for $5 in the Czech Republic two years ago) because he liked them, then told me how his Raybans were the real deal. We also talked about the city and where I was from, which was standard procedure by this point of the trip. We took a slightly roundabout way to get to the bridge, as parking space was an absolute mess. Once I got there though, things were fine. The first order of business was to stroll from one end of the bridge to the other, as I wanted to just see what it was like. This was followed by the obligatory “top of the bridge” photo session, and I shamelessly got someone to take my picture. As the attached pictures show, it was gorgeous; I just count myself as being very blessed to have had the opportunity to make it to Mostar! I picked up some souvenirs but for the most part, I limited myself to spending money on the few museums adjacent to the bridge. People watching also was fun, as Mostar attracts a plethora of tourists-I ran into some Americans and the inevitable Australians. While walking along the bridge, I spotted a small museum dedicated the the bridge’s history, so I stopped inside. The museum itself wasn’t very big (about 20-30 minute’s worth of wandering would have been enough to see everything), but it bolstered my knowledge of the very bridge I took to get there. As you may or may not know, the bridge was built during Ottoman rule in the 16th century, was destroyed in the horrific Bosnian War, and only was only completed in 2004. However, what I learned was that the Dubrovnik (the strip of Croatia in the SE, bordering Bosnia) Republic was fairly involved in the construction, as they had business interests in Mostar and Hercegovina (the other half of the country). In fact, Hercegovina got its name from Serbian, thanks to the Bosnian Serb Stjepan Vukčić Kosača’s duchy, meaning “duke’s land”. The more you know, right? Anyways, I got to see some of the tools the Ottomans utilized the make the bridge, and man, I can only imagine the dedication used to build it! Also, making it even more impressive, the design of the bridge was said, at the time, to be absolutely insane. In the little documentary video I watched further on in the museum, the modern crew tried to replicate it, and they couldn’t believe at the mastery it took. Watching the video also was incredible, as the builders lovingly recreated the original bridge, down to the same techniques from five centuries ago. From 2002 to 2004, the multinational crew labored to bring the historic bridge back to life. I think the whole world can safely say that this project was a godsend to both Mostar and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
After leaving the museum, I wandered around a little bit longer, as I still had time to spare. Unfortunately, due to touring the bridge museum, I missed the famous attraction of seeing some brave people dive off the bridge, and by mere minutes to boot. For the rest of the day, nobody else was diving off it, and I’m still cursing myself for the missed opportunity. Alas, I’m going to have to make a return trip to see it! From the top of the bridge, I noticed there was a little beach to relax on, which piqued my curiosity. It turns out that while there are several hostels and B&B’s in that area, the place is public property. So, I rested for a bit and admired the beauty of the whole place. After a while it was time to head back. As I mentioned earlier, I know that I was not able to see the entirety of Mostar, much to my regret. It is my goal to one day return, to Bosnia in general, and explore even more of this very hospitable and lovely country. Even as I was flying to Sarajevo, I didn’t know what to expect in Bosnia. However, I am pleased to report that the country exceeded every single conceptions I had, and for that I am blessed. Hvala!