“Why are you going to Bosnia? What’s in Bosnia? Isn’t it dangerous there?”
These are the questions I was asked several times when telling others my plans for a month in Central/ Eastern Europe last year. By this point, I had seen enough photos on Instagram to know that Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the small town of Mostar in particular, were going to be my favourite places on my trip. However, for someone who hadn’t seen these beautiful photos and could only link the word Bosnia to the Bosnian War that happened between 1992-1995, I can understand why it came as such a surprise that I wanted to go.
Now when I think back on this trip, as I had expected, I instantly remember Mostar as the highlight! Here’s what I got up to and why I fell in love with it so much…
First on my list of things to see was the Stari Most or ‘Old Bridge.’ I had seen the Stari Most all over Instagram and, as with most famous icons, seeing it in real life was just incredible. The Stari Most is an arched bridge and not overly big, but with the town surrounding it on either side, the mountains behind, and the river running under, the bridge makes a postcard worthy view!
After taking too many photos at Stari Most I started to explore the windy cobble stone streets and two things struck me straight away. Number one – how I no longer felt like I was in Europe, I felt like I was in a Middle Eastern Country, and for someone who has a romanticized fascination with the Middle East this was a good thing. The similarities were mainly due to the many minaret’s belonging to the Mosques that peaked out of the towns buildings, the food that was available, the souvenir’s that were being sold and of course every few hours I heard the call to prayer.
Secondly, how obvious the war was. There were quite a few buildings covered in bullet marks and left abandoned, and a number of street art slogans and signs such as ‘Don’t Forget’ and ‘We are all living under the same sky.’ The war was part of the break up of Yugoslavia and an extremely difficult time for the Bosnia and Mostar itself.
You can easily spend a day wandering around Mostar, eating delicious Middle Eastern food (plus an array of delicious ice creams), waiting to see if anybody is brave enough to jump off the Old Bridge (yes really, although mainly it’s the locals as it’s too dangerous for tourists to do), visiting the mosques, talking to the friendly locals and taking plenty of beautiful photos.
Apart from how beautiful the town itself is, the next thing I loved about Mostar was how many gorgeous places there are surrounding it! Once again I had seen a lot of photos online of these places (Yes, I am an Instagram addict!), but I wasn’t too sure how to go about getting to them. I looked up local bus schedules many times, but in the end I decided to do a day tour with my hostel and I’m so glad I did. Not only are the sites quite out of the way, but I also learnt so much more with a guide and it only cost £20.00.
One of the stops on the tour is Blagaj Tekke, also known as the Dervish Monastery, and it is a must visit. Built around 1520, it is an important monument of the early Ottoman Empire. These days you can walk over a bridge covering a little waterfall and visit the photogenic spot like I did as seen in my photo below. The white building, the blue water and the rock face make it simply stunning! Going inside is well worth it too, but note you do need to cover up.
Next up is the medieval village of Pocitelj. We were dropped off at the top and had time to slowly make our way to the bottom, stopping off at the fortress for lots of pictures with the beautiful scenery of mountains, the river and of course some mosques in the background. This town was deeply affected and damaged by the war and only a small amount of people live there now, so it really feels like you’ve stepped back in time.
If you’re in this area of Europe then of course a waterfall has to be around the corner somewhere, and Kravice Falls is the perfect place to cool off in the summer or to simply have as scenery to enjoy whilst you stop for lunch!
Finally, just before we got back into Mostar, we ended our day trip by driving up one of the hills that gave a brilliant view over the town. Our guide showed us the road which divides East and West Mostar which was the main divide during the war. I spent 3 nights and 2 full days in Mostar and, although I could have stayed a day or two longer pottering around, I felt it was enough time to see the town and surrounding area. Getting there isn’t overly easy, but I always say that if a place is hard to get to then you know it’s going to be good!
Your best option if you’re already travelling through Europe is to get a train into the capital Sarajevo and then another train or bus to Mostar (the view on this leg is simply stunning!). Alternatively, it’s just a 2-3 hour bus journey from Split in Croatia (also with beautiful scenery!). I took an overnight bus from Zagreb in Northern Croatia, but it was one of the worst overnight journeys I’ve ever done so I would avoid this route if possible. You can also fly into the capital Sarajevo, but flights from London are quite expensive with limited direct routes so this may prove difficult and rather costly. However it is still worth checking flights from other cities because they may be cheaper!
I highly recommend making the trip over to this little Eastern European town, as it’s so worth the effort to get there. Hopefully this post has convinced you to Mostar to your bucket list if it wasn’t on there already! As I mentioned at the start other people may question your decision, but as they say ‘To travel is to realise people are wrong about other Countries.’
Have you been to Bosnia? If you have any additional tips for our readers or questions please leave these in the comments below.
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