Bosnia and Herzegovina… first things that come to your mind before coming here aren’t that pleasant: war, fratricidal wars, unease, Sarajevo, genocide. I don’t know about you, but for me, Bosnia never meant anything good. When I think about it now I get the feeling that it was in the early 90s when I started paying attention (more or less) to the news and the conflict in Bosnia was a popular subject then. I guess that’s why I still remember it so good… I returned to Bosnia when I was preparing for my university exams and needed to be up to date with all political matters. Then I forgot about it for years. We’ve been planning to go to the Balkans for a while, but we haven’t planned the exact location, what to do etc.
After spending 2 days in Bosnia we already know that it’s yet another place that we are not that familiar with, but after giving it some time, it reveals its charm. Another place that has not been invaded by tourists yet. A bit like Armenia which we visited in May. Another place that has some magical locations in store, that most of us never heard of!
We arrived in Bosnia from Croatia. Our car, no problems. EU citizens can cross the border showing personal ID only, we had our passports with us, though. On the border, you also have to show the vehicle insurance, the so called green card. And that’s it! We’re in Bosnia! We didn’t even get the stamps in our passports, however Łukasz, being a collector, quickly asked for them. The customs officers cheered up! 🙂
Mostar was our first destination in Bosnia and Herzegovina. An absolutely magical and charming place, where you DEFINITELY must go! If you’re not planning to go to Bosnia / Balkans, take a trip in between warming yourselves in the sun in Makarska (125 km) or in Dubrovnik (140 km). You won’t regret it! We already knew how beautiful it is, when we took a walk through a quiet and deserted old town of Mostar on our first night here. During the day, Mostar proves to be even more beautiful, especially in the afternoon, because before that, the streets of the old town are crowded with tourists who tend to come here for one-day trips.
What’s so charming in Mostar? Mainly the old town and views that make it look like scenery of a movie taking place in the Middle Ages. Streets paved with cobblestones, amazing colour of the Neretva river on banks of which the city is located, stone houses… and the most important landmark of the city, the Old Bridge (Stari Most). The bridge is important for historical reasons – wooden in the beginning, stone from 1566, it used to symbolise the peace between Christianity and Islam. It was built by the Turks, who established their stronghold in Mostar in 17th century and treated it as a trade and craft centre until 1875. It’s easy to remember about it since the souvenir stands look so similar to those from lively Istanbul bazaars – colourful pottery, lamps and candlesticks made from colourful glass (like the one at our home!:)), scarves, shawls, even similar magnets that Maks noticed.
After World War I, Mostar became a part of Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes later known as Yugoslavia. For years it was a city where different nations lived together peacefully. Bosniaks, Serbs, Croats and Yugoslavs. Until May 1992… Then, fratricidal fights started in Mostar (at the time being in independent Bosnia and Herzegovina) – first Bosniaks and Croats fought Serbs, then Croats fought Bosniaks. It was Croats who torn down Stari Most in 1993. It went down after heavy tank fire. It was rebuilt in 2004 and since 2005, the bridge and the old town are on UNESCO’s cultural heritage list. If you look closely, or walk around the city at night, you will find things that remind us of the tragic events – stones with “DON’T FORGET 1993” written on it. Since the ceasefire in 1994, the city is divided into two parts: Bosniak (Islam) and Croatian. In the old town, you will find several mosques that fit the landscape beautifully: Karadjoz-bey (1564), Tabacica (16th century) or Koski Mehmed Pasha’s mosque, with a “backyard” that provides the best view of the Old Bridge – really magical. It’s not an accident, that we chose it for our “cover” photo 😉
While you’re sightseeing, be sure to try some Balkan food in Sadrvan restaurant or in Hindin Han, located just by the river and providing rest even on a hot summer day! We will surely write more about what to eat in Balkans, however you should remember to absolutely try little meat rolls called ćevapčići and pljeskavica with ajvar!
When you get a good look of Mostar, go and see Sarajevo (127 km). However, before you leave, stick around for a while and see Blagaj (14 km from Mostar) and Počitelj (30 km from Mostar, approx/ 25 km from Blagaj).
In Blagaj, located between the rocks, you will find a 16th century tekija – a dervish monastery belonging to Muslim religious brotherhoods. It used to be a place for prayer and lodging, but today you can take walk through the halls with colourful carpets and admire beautiful cliffs and the spring of Buna river that starts right next to tekija and flows from beneath a 200 metre high cliff. The tourist industry is well developed around here – you will find numerous restaurants and souvenir stands. A charming place. If you have time, think about having lunch by the river.
From Blagaj, we went right to the medieval Pocitelj that looks as magical as Mostar. Little houses made of stone, cobblestones and a long hike to get to the tower left of a Turkish stronghold. The Neretva view from there is amazing! It’s worth climbing up the tower! We visited the town late afternoon/early evening and were pretty much alone in it! That’s the kind of sightseeing we like the most. Even though the tiny Pocitejl looks like an oasis of peace right now, it was also harmed during the war in 1993 – that’s when the built in 1562 Hadzi-Alija mosque was torn down – it was rebuilt in 2005.
There are more interesting places to see around Mostar – Medjugorje known for Holy Mary revelations, Kravica waterfalls by the Trebizdat river. And if you’re into extreme stuff, there’s also a rafting possibility… We, on the other hand, start our explorations of Sarajevo… the trip was difficult and tiring , hopefully it was worth the trouble! 😉
* The entry was written in cooperation with HTC. All pictures were taken with HTC One(M8).