A Stark Contrast: Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina

April 30, 2016
Mostar Bosnia

Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina:  Probably the most frequented city in Bosnia-Herzegovina by tourists.  In fact, it’s probably the only real stop the majority of tourists make here.  And more than likely, if you are visiting Mostar, it’s as a day trip from Croatia.  This was the case for me & my companions as well.  Let me tell you why you should make time to visit Mostar, but also perhaps spend a bit more time elsewhere in this captivating country.

Quick Fact:  Mostar is the chief city of Herzegovina

Why You Should Visit Bosnia-Herzegovina

Bosnia-Herzegovina is a beautiful country and honestly, deserves more than just a day trip.  It is a truly unique area in so many respects.  History buff?  No shortage here!  Love culture?  It’s filled to the brim!  Interested in food & wine?  Check and check!  Want natural beauty or charming cities/towns?  Definitely here!  And top all that off with incredibly warm, welcoming people.  It’s a truly intriguing place, so different than other European countries.

Quick Tip:  Bosnia-Herzegovina is often much cheaper than Croatia & Slovenia

Know Before You Go

Bosnia-Herzegovina is safe.  No need to take any extra precautions while traveling here.  Keep in mind this country is a melting pot of religions and cultures; Christians, Muslims, Serbs, Croats, and Bosniaks make up the major religious and ethnic groups here.  Their politics are as seemingly as complex as their history.  You will see the evidence of the war that tore this country apart in the 1990’s.  Abandoned, bombed out buildings still go un-restored.  Bullet hole scarred walls are reminders of past tragedy.  But don’t picture Bosnia as a dark, depressing place…it’s a work in progress with ever increasing positivity!

Mostar Bosnia

These were everywhere

Mostar Bosnia

Getting There/What to Do

There are guided tours including transport to Mostar if you prefer that route.  However, we chose to drive ourselves (totally safe & easy!) and hired our own guide to meet us there.  I highly encourage the latter method.  We hired Alma Elezovic as recommended by Rick Steves & she was AMAZING.  Alma was born & raised here.  She continues to play a substantial role in the rebuilding of here.  She is intelligent, articulate, and passionate about her country.  I cannot imagine visiting Mostar without Alma as my guide to help me understand how & why Bosnia-Herzegovina is so different from its former Yugoslavian neighbors.  If you’ve been in Croatia, Slovenia, or Montenegro, you’ve likely not seen much evidence of the conflict.  Bosnia-Herzegovina lies in stark contrast, which is part of why I find this place so fascinating.

Mostar Bosnia

Mostar itself is an alluring city, divided by the  emerald green Neretva River (if you pay attention, you will also notice that is not all this body of water divides).  This river, as Alma explained, is the center of life here.  From daily activities to rites of passage, it all revolves around this river.  And the bridge (Stari Most), connecting the two sides of the city, holds a special place in the hearts of those from Mostar (the city is named after the bridge).  The original bridge was destroyed during the war in 1993.   It had stood for over 400 years.  But visiting Mostar isn’t just about seeing a city with nice scenery.  It’s about capturing a snapshot of a complex past, culture, and region and really trying to understand and appreciate it.

I am not going to pretend to be an expert on this special place.  I don’t think anyone can understand the complexity in just a few hours, but you can certainly gain an appreciation.

Mostar Bosnia

On the Lighter Side

Be sure to stop by Art Studio Pandur (pictured above) to enjoy some beautiful local art work.

Don’t miss the food (or coffee or wine)!  We had one of the best meals of our entire trip in Mostar.  Vegetarian?  Not a problem at all!  Sadrvan is a lovely restaurant next to the water with amazing food, waitstaff, and atmosphere.  I highly recommend it!

Mostar Bosnia

Delicious Feast!

Other Places to Consider in Bosnia-Herzegovina

  • Sarajevo
  • Kravice Falls (near Mostar)
  • Pocitelj
  • Visegrad (home of the bridge that inspired a Nobel Prize winner)

Buzz around travel to the Balkans is increasing (at least in the U.S.).  Have you been to this part of the world or have any plans to do so?  I would love to hear about your experience!

Mostar Bosnia

For other itinerary options, consider visiting Rick Steves website (& forum sections) or purchasing the guidebook.  None of these are affiliate links. These are resources/people/services/etc I have used & enjoyed.  To see how I fit this into my itinerary, click here.

 

Quick Facts:

Currency:  Bosnia-Herzegovina Convertible Mark (though they took euros & croatian kuna from us, too)

Language:  Bosnian, Croatian, & Serbian (those we encountered did speak English)

Electricity:  240V/50Hz (same as western Europe)

Dialing Code:  +387

Water:  Generally considered safe, ask during your visit to be sure

Guidebook Recommended/used:  Rick Steves Croatia & Slovenia

Bosnia Sunset

Quick History

To understand this area of the world (the Balkans), I think it is really important to review a bit of history.  I promise to keep this as brief and non-yawn producing as possible!  Indeed, to fully understand you’d need a whole lot of time and way more than this little post.  It is quite complex!  Winston Churchill is famous for saying “The Balkans generates more history than it can locally consume.”  For ease, I will simply list a few highlights below:

  • The Balkans include the former Yugoslavia, Greece, Bulgaria, Albania, Romania, and the European portion of Turkey
  • The former Yugoslavia includes Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia, as well as two independent territories Vojvodina & Kosovo.
  • This area has been ruled by many empires, some notables include the Venetian & the Ottoman.
  • It was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the prince of the Astro-Hungarian Empire, by a Bosnian nationalist in Sarajevo that started World War I.
  • Yugoslavia was NOT part of the (former) Soviet Union.  Tito ruled Yugoslavia, but was a close ally of Stalin (leader of the Soviet Union)

Interested in learning a bit more?  Try here and here.

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