// B O S N I A & HERZEGOVINA
When I told people I was going to Bosnia and Herzegovina, I got one of two reactions.
Either they’d look worried and say something like: “But is it safe? ... Will you tell your mum before or after you go?”
Or they would look at me surprised as if I’d just said the weirdest thing ever, and ask: “But why? What’s in Bosnia?”
Let me explain.
the hidden secrets of
Everything you’ve ever heard or thought about Bosnia & Herzegovina, forget it. Unless of course your thoughts were something along the lines of it being this diversified culture soup filled with incredible history, humble people and the most delicious food croutons … because all of this is so true. It is amazing. If you like quaint fairy tale towns and azure blue water, this post is for you.
I tend to avoid telling people about these kinds of places in the fear that they’ll become the next ‘big’ and tourist laden thing (like Iceland) but Mostar is too amazing to not share and I encourage everyone to visit at least once in their lifetime. I guarantee that is all it will take for you to fall in love with it or your money back. Actually, scratch the last bit. I’ve just spent all my cash on flights to Canada and can’t offer you any money. What I can offer you is some tips and tricks on what to do if you ever find yourself lucky enough to be in Mostar.
*tip: the local currency is Bosnia and Herzegovina is convertible mark (KM) and is fixed to the EUR. 1 EUR = 1,955 KM and it is usual to calculate the exchange rate by 1:2. EUR which is accepted almost everywhere. Local traders use this calculation too so I would suggest it is more profitable to pay in EUR instead of buying KMs upon arrival if you are only staying for a day or weekend. In saying that, I found that supermarkets didn’t accept EUR and I did need some KM at times (and you might too unless you really don’t plan on staying for too long and don’t think you’ll require odd bits you pick up from a supermarket).
D A Y 1
Arrive at Mostar airport
I caught a horrifically early and eyelid anguishing flight from Dusseldorf to Mostar at the beginning of summer 2019. I spent a few days in Dusseldorf, checking out this chic niche and grooving to bands I mispronounced and later just renamed because it was easier. It’s pretty simple getting to Bosnia from most places... although I have heard it’s more popular to fly direct to Sarajevo. You could then just catch a bus or train from Sarajevo to Mostar. Flixbus seems really popular in Europe and the Balkans and the prices are extremely kind to the backpacker pocket. Most coaches have air conditioning, WiFi and a toilet on board and you can just recline back and enjoy the views and appreciate the fact that you don’t have to drive along risky roads with organ donor motorcyclists weaving way too close to the wheels and wingmirrors of vehicles. However, from Mostar airport, you have two options: you can either walk or you can catch a taxi. Walking takes about an hour but involves some sketchy roadside trekking and a taxi will probably set you back like ten marks (KM) or roughly five euro (€).
We stayed at a place called Hostel Balkaneros near the old town. Three beds in a four bed dorm set us back around €9 each/night and included breakfast, linen and free WiFi. The staff are so friendly and welcoming and are happy to help with any questions, queries or concerns you have bubbling away in your mind cauldron. The owner of the hostel runs a daily tour around the highlight spots of Mostar and it’s surrounding areas and I 110% recommend it. I’ll give you the low down on this trip a little later. For now, I’ll pop the link for their website here so you can give their site a scroll if you’re looking for accommodation in Mostar.
What was meant to be a quick pit stop en route to Croatia where I picked up the part of my soul that’s been missing for the last two years (aka my best friend from Australia) revealed itself to be a true treasure… and maybe even the best impromptu escapade I’ve been on this year. I know for sure that Bosnia has definitely found a spot in my memory box and I can’t wait to come back to explore and learn some more about this colourful country in my future travels.
So now I’ve done with what might have been the messiest introduction since lady gaga’s entrance into the 2011 grammy’s in an egg (yep, it actually happened), I guess I’ll start telling you just how we got hooked during our short Bosnian taste tester.
Surrounded by mountains and straddling the jade green Neretva river, Mostar is extraordinarily photogenic. Like 'stop at every corner and take a photo that probably looks just like the 25828 you already took' kinda photogenic. It's maze-like streets also make it so easy to lose yourself in the Old Town. But, as quick as it is to get lost is as quick as it is that you seem to find yourself and your accommodation when you recognise something familiar or stumble across the famous Stari Most. You just have to remember if you’re staying on the right or left of the bridge for this trick to work!
Most people who think of Mostar then think of the Stari Most, the famous Old Bridge, bombed and demolished in 1993 during the war in Bosnia. The town, in fact, takes its name from the word Most which in all Slav languages means bridge. But few know that the bridge in question is situated in the heart of the town and also in the heart of the Mostar caršija, joining the two historic parts of the town divided by the waters of the Neretva. The caršija lies on both river banks connected by the famous bridge, bombed and now rebuilt.
A little history
The Neretva divides the town into two parts, the Muslim and the Croat. At present in Mostar Muslims and Croats live in two parallel worlds without their Serb fellow citizens who fled during the war. Before the conflict none of the three nationalities had a majority, but now the two identities differ in silence and, with their politicians caring little for the multicultural situation of the town, different curricula are used in the schools, contrasting interpretations of the same facts are taught and they like to think they even speak two different languages: Croatian, laced with Zagreb's radically purist reforms, and Bosnian, with Turkish and oriental influences often with dialect and archaic forms that are no longer in use. All in the name of keeping their identities separate.
Men from the local area try to make some quick cash from curious tourists by jumping from the bridge into the Neretva waters. Jumpers are a huge attraction in Mostar and there is even a local diving club, offering to teach any enthusiast to jump from the bridge for around €25 or €30. It is said that the tradition began just after its inauguration and since 1968 an annual diving tournament is held there. The games were suspended in 1994 after the destruction of the Old Bridge and resumed in 2004, when the new Old Bridge was opened.
But there's more to Mostar than the Stari Most. On the left bank of Neretva is located the old market – the Kujundziluk street, where you will meet both local handicraftsmen and traders offering virtually everything. It’s also where you’ll find loads of places to eat traditional cuisine, make yourself sick with baklava and take in the Balkan atmosphere!