Saturday, July 16, 2016

EUROTRIP 2015 Part 7/8: Mostar, an European gem

Mostar, a city of the famous Old Bridge in Bosnia-Herzegovina is hugged by mountains Hum and Velez and kissed by the emerald-green and ice cold Neretva River. Mostar keeps impressing me all over and over again. As you know this was not the first nor last visit to this European gem. As my grandma is from the Herzegovina region, Mostar and its surroundings are still a home for many of my family members. If not the first at least their second home is here. The previous posts about Mostar can be found by clicking on the label "Mostar" (or by clicking THIS, THIS and THIS).

"Birds met on the bridge.
Perched on the balustrade.
Pecked crumbs left by the friends.
Swooped through the cool darkness below.
Then out again – joyously – into the light.
To the birds the bridge was a place for crumbs.
Each side was the same except
on one they had built a nest.

It was a fine bridge.
An old bridge."

- Bruce Balan

Stari Most (Old Bridge) was erected in 1566 on the orders of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent: 28 meters long and 20 meters high (90' by 64') and it quickly became a wonder in its own time. Later it became not only the city's symbol but also a place where east and west walk hand in hand. However, the bridge was bombed by the HVO (Croat army) during the Bosnian War in 92-95. It was reconstructed again and the grand opening was held on July 2004. Stari Most and the old town around it are declared as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Some are still trying to divide the city to half, to catholic and muslim sides, but in reality normal locals do not want that nor do they live like that.

As said, that water, as almost any other river or a lake at former Yugoslavian countries looks like this- the colour is amazing. You will see mostarians jump off the bridge according to the old tradition which served as an act of bravery. In all cities in BiH the churches, mosques and synagogues exist side-by-side, and it is this juxtaposition of civilizations that gives this country its colorful charm. Something that entire world should learn is to live in a multicultural way. People in Mostar could not agree on a whose statue would stand as a symbol of peace in their city so they finally agreed on… Bruce Lee!

Cultural events are rich especially during the summer months. You have everything from the Red Bull Cliff Diving to music festivals. There are also many good galleries, ateliers and museums, such as Museum of the Old Brigde, Aluminij Gallery, Aleksa Santic House, Muslibegovic House and War Photo Exhibitions. You can swim, go rafting, climbing or hiking, shop, party in the cave bar called Ali Baba and eat at many restaurants while walking along the bazaars and the urban city. It is also a really easy to pop by to the beautiful locations near by: Blagaj, Stolac, Radimlja necropolis, Konjic, Pocitelj, Kravice water falls, Jablanica lake or Nature Parks Blidinje (with its amazing wild horses and mountains of which Prenj is the most famous) and Hutovo Blato. Make sure you have a local guide, they know what to show and when, they have personal stories to share (not selling you the basics from Wikipedia) and it is a good way of supporting the local economy. People usually speak English or German, so you just have to find the right guide for you!

 Mostar has its airport but the easiest way to reach is by train, bus or a car from airports in Sarajevo (BiH) Split (CRO), Dubrovnik (CRO) or Banja Luka (BiH). The train station is really small and due to the bad financial situation of the railway companies also a bit neglected. However, new trains from ZFBiH should start their service any day soon now. While in Mostar, remember to eat local specialities, shop, drink Bosnian traditional coffee (which is NOT the same as Turkish, remember that) and explore the historical sites also around the Mostar. Mostar and its surrounding cities have a lot to offer for thrill, history, culture or piece seekers and remember to keep in mind that Sarajevo is also near by! The route from Mostar to Sarajevo is definitely one of the most amazing I know! That was also our plan after Mostar,  the European Jerusalem- Sarajevo!
- Herminica

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