Mostar – Bosnia’s Hidden Gem

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When we were planning what to do one day in Croatia, we decided to go into Bosnia and Herzegovina instead. We had done research on a small city called Mostar, and decided it was perfect for just the day. To go to Dubrovnik, you have to pass through a small part of Bosnia as well, but it’s not the same to really say you’ve been there.  Into the car we all go, and drive the hour to the border.

Be careful if you go here and get to the border for passport checks… We didn’t notice the man in the first booth, so we started to drive to the second. Someone then stuck their head out through the first booth YELLING at us – he was pissed, with good reason of course. We apologized profusely, but he didn’t want to hear any of it. When we asked if he spoke English, he said no, and continued to yell. Eventually he looked at our passports, and let us through. This trip was off to a bad start…

From the border there is about another hour to get into Mostar. What shocked us the most during the drive, is this country is still very war-torn. The Bosnian War lasted between March 1992-December 1995 – 21 years ago! You can literally still see abandoned buildings with bullet holes in the sides. So different than what we see at home and the rest of Europe so far. At one point, we almost turned around to leave, and realized we would probably look more suspicious if we were in the country for only an hour, so we kept going. Plus, we really did want to see Mostar.

Once you get closer to town, you start to see a difference in how the city has been rebuilt. Buildings are a little nicer, more restored than the small towns along the way. Our main reason to be here was to see Stari Most, a rebuilt bridge which was destroyed during the war, in 1993, and reopened in 2004 – this bridge makes the city!

We found private parking (expensive, but no other choice), and walked the not even five minutes downtown.

There are vendors on both sides of the street, each selling something different than the first. Most also accepted Euros, so that made it easier than trying to find a bank machine to pay with Bosnian Mark. These were some of the most beautiful souvenirs I have seen yet – of all the places we have been! The lamps… The tea sets… The brass plates… I could have spent hundreds of dollars!!! I had my eyes set on a silver tea set with red stones, but kept walking – it’s not a necessity, so I figured I’d pass.

souvenirs

We made it to the bridge, and wow! Absolutely beautiful!! I am so glad we didn’t turn around in the car when we’d thought of it. The best view would be from the opposite side, so we decided to cross over – but that was a little more dangerous. Instead of being made out of cement, the entire walk over was made out of this slick, shiny cobblestone. They have “steps” made of the same shiny-ness, so you still almost lose your balance. It’s steep as well. For someone wearing flip flops (me!) because I couldn’t wear running shoes with a swollen sprained ankle, this was not an easy cross. Tyler and I got across slowly, and caught up to John and the other two boys.

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The view though, really was beautiful! Stari Most is 24 meters high, 30 meters long, and 4 meters wide. It was a cloudy day, but I could tell that during a sunny day, the colours would be even more beautiful.

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We were all hungry, but we decided to keep walking, finish our sight-seeing, then eat afterwards. In the distance from both sides of the bridge, you could see a tall white tower. We decided to venture there. As you get closer, you can see it is a Mosque – Karadoz Bey Mosque. There are two entrances, one for those who want to go in and pray, and one entrance for those  who just want to go in and look around. It was nice for there to be an entrance for tourists, without feeling like they are intruding. We weren’t sure it was a smart idea to bring the kids inside (plus we really were hungry!), so we just looked around the outside, and walked back towards downtown.

mosque

We were trying to find places to eat that accept Mastercard or Visa. Every place we found looked like excellent food, but they all wanted cash. We were starting to give up when we FINALLY found a place – excellent! Kids were so happy to have food in their bellies! We sit down, and before we even have a chance to order drinks, we get a huge basket of naan bread. It was freshly made and still hot. The first basket was gone within minutes!

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John and the kids each ordered a coke, and I ordered a Bosnian Coffee. I know, what’s different, right, than normal coffee?!?! Well let me tell you, everything is different… It comes on this beautiful brass plate. On it, is a brass “pot” with what you think coffee is inside (but it’s very very thick), an empty cup with two sugars in it, and this gummy type of candy on the side. I literally just stared at it. What am I supposed to do with this?? I really was about to use Google, when I decided I’d suck up my pride, and just ask our waiter.

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So the above picture is how the coffee comes. What you have to do is use the spoon, and stir the coffee in the pot so whatever is in it, mixes together to make it liquidy, no longer a thick “glue”… Then, you pour it over the sugar in the white mug.

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Thing is, I hate sugar in my coffee. The sweetness drives me crazy – what people crave in a French Vanilla coffee, I hate – I prefer a boring plain coffee with milk. Whatever, I’ll try this Bosnian coffee the way they gave it to me. So I pour the liquid over the sugar, mix the sugar so it mixes, and take a first brave sip. And holy crap, worst taste I have ever tried for coffee in a very long time! Absolutely horrible! It has a very strong refined taste – something you probably need to grow up liking, or just get used to it. I took a couple sips to see if I could do it, but by the time I got to my sixth sip, it wasn’t liquid anymore, it was grainy. This little thing is not like an espresso where you can gulp it down in one shot, this takes actual sips! I tried to finish it, but I just couldn’t do it. I’m not sure if I just didn’t drink it fast enough, or I should have re-stirred it, but I couldn’t drink anymore.Oh well, I am very glad I tried it – this is not something I could have tried anywhere back home! I always say, I will try something once before saying I don’t like this. Once was enough!

Food on the other hand, absolutely delicious! And cheap! The three boys had a hamburger, John had a chicken and fries meal, and I had a mix of chicken, veggies, mashed potatoes, and this rice mixture – an authentic Bosnian meal. Picture a hamburger in your head – you got it right – a bun with a burger inside, with different toppings of your choice. Now if you look below, Bosnians do not have the same “hamburgers” as we do – although I am pretty sure I prefer theirs over ours! The same naan pita bread is what they use, instead of our buns. There is ketchup on the table if you want, and a piece of lettuce and a tomato slice inside. All three kids ate everything! Nathan’s thing is “I don’t like fries!” – which was and is a lie as he ate it all! Like I said earlier, they were all hungry little boys! John really enjoyed his too! Mine was just as delicious! I was excited to try an authentic Bosnian meal, and it did justice. In the end, we paid less than twenty-five euros for all five of us to eat and drink, and we left with our bellies very full!!

We decided it was time to head back to the car, and head back to our chalet. Along the way, we passed by the lamps and tea sets again. John saw me looking, and insisted we buy one. I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend that kind of money on something for display only, but it was a once in a lifetime buy; we were never coming back to Bosnia… We ended up buying my tea set, and a green lamp. Gifts were cheap, so we also bought souvenirs for family at the same time.

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As we were crossing the bridge, we saw people on the opposite side, kind of underneath the bridge – a different angle than seeing it straight on. We decided to find how to get there. There are steps that bring you down. Seeing Stari Most from this angle was just as beautiful. Pictures were actually better from down here! We ere also right along the Neretva River, so the boys enjoyed splashing around a little while we enjoyed the views.

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To say we left here happy is an understatement. I definitely recommend going and spending a couple hours if you are close by. You don’t need a full day, or even half a day, but a few hours is enough time to see the city, and have a great time!

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