I owe my Mostar travels to a good friend. We studied abroad together in Prague when we were in college, and she came to visit me in London after her trip to the Balkans a couple of years ago. One of her favorite places to visit in Bosnia and Herzegovina was Mostar, a town with a bridge so famous that it made the cover of the Lonely Planet Western Balkans guidebook she left with me when she went home to Seattle.
After spending the first day of my two-week 90 under 30 Travel Project trip to the Balkans in Sarajevo, I hopped on a bus for the two-hour-and-15-minute ride to Mostar. The drive through the mountains and beside the emerald green river was one of the most beautiful I’ve ever experienced.
When I arrived in Mostar, I alighted at the bus station and walked to my accommodation, Vila Park Mostar. My friendly host welcomed me in the reception and spent a generous amount of time recommending places to see and things to do in the city.
After he handed me a Mostar sightseeing map, I headed upstairs to my room, which had two double beds, a TV, a desk, and a large bathroom. I quickly turned on the air conditioning to cool off from the sweltering heat outside, and once properly chilled, I ventured out to take advantage of my Mostar travels.
First I walked down a friendly pedestrianized street full of mosques and markets. I passed by several historic houses that are now museums, and soon I found myself in front of Mostar’s most famous monument, the bridge.
I had read about the Old Bridge before arriving, and knew that it had been built in the 16th century and stood as a city icon until the tragic war in the 1990′s. It was bombed and completely destroyed during said conflict, but fully rebuilt in the exact methods of the original bridge following the Dayton Accords.
The new Old Bridge was just as stunning as its historic counterpart must have been. Rising in a perfect peak high above the Neretva River, it was not only a symbol of the city, but also a symbol of Mostar’s ability to rebound after a rough period in Bosnian history.
All around the Old Bridge in Mostar were souvenir vendors and shops selling everything from ice cream to iconic paintings of the city. There were far more tourists there than I had expected to see, but none seemed to speak anything but Italian, Spanish, and a smorgasbord of Slavic languages.
After exploring the old town and stopping for an overpriced bowl of chicken and vegetable soup called bey, I ventured into the more modern part of Mostar.
There I found a city on the mend. While Bulevar Hrvatskih Branitelja, the official dividing line between the Croat and Muslim populations, was still lined with dilapidated buildings riddled with the aftereffects of mortar shells and shrapnel, many of the streets to the west were as cosmopolitan and full of cafes as Paris or Madrid.
Back in the old town, I walked around until my feet were sore and I was convinced I would faint from heat stroke.
I soon found a corner cafe that the manager of my Mostar accommodation had recommended. I ordered a plate of cevapi like the one I had enjoyed the previous night in Sarajevo. The only difference was that this place was out of the tourist zone. Consequently, my meal cost a resounding 1.25 British pounds. I was ready to relocate to the region.
After dinner I walked back to the Old Bridge for one last look under the night sky, then returned to my Mostar hotel for a good night’s sleep. I awoke the next morning and headed to the bus station, where I caught the coach to Dubrovnik, a Croatian city that I hadn’t visited in over eight years. I was excited to return to the Dalmatian Coast, but loath to end my Mostar travels and leave Bosnia and Herzegovina. Next time I will spend more time in Mostar and Sarajevo and give the cities with the famous bridges more of their due.