Tuesday June 27, 2017
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Stari Most At Dusk Mostar BosniaStari Most At Dusk, Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Historic And Spirited City

I try to make conversation with the owner of a local fruit stand, but I am quickly unmasked.

“You are from New Zealand!  What brings you all the way over here to Mostar?” enquires a female voice from behind me.
Many of the travellers I speak to during the bus trip from Croatia are planning only to spend a few hours wandering around Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina. It is obvious I am not the first Kiwi to do so.

Some tourists bypass the city, but I’d been told not to.  A month earlier a tourist gave me a piece of paper with recommendations of what to see in the former Yugoslavia and scribbled among was, Mostar – see bridge

Arriving at the almost derelict bus and train station, I am approached by Maria who has bought her daughter along to translate.  They are just two of the many locals trying to get tourists into their guesthouses.

As we make our way across the river from the station, the streetscape deteriorates: bombed buildings, twisted steel and smashed windows. Occasionally we pass a cemetery full of gravestones bearing the names of Turkish and Middle Eastern origin, all dated 1993 and 1994. It’s been more than 10 years since the Yugoslavian war, but it feels eerily as if it were only a few weeks ago.

We enter a drab concrete building and I realise I am the sole occupant of the guesthouse.  Once I hand over my 10 Euros, Maria bids me a pleasant stay and departs.  I leave the comfort of my room, complete with its padded toilet seat, and head into the old town area.

As I approach the Neretva River, a large mural depicting the Stari Most comes into view. This famous stone bridge was built by the Ottoman Turks in the mid 16th Century and destroyed by a missile attack during the conflict of the early 1990’s. In 2004 it was rebuilt and reopened, to much celebration.  That alone has been seen as significant progress in rejoining this ethnically divided city.
I call into a small tourist office and ask the women behind the counter if the new bridge is exactly like the old one.

“Not really,” she says jokingly, “This one is too clean.”

At one end of the bridge is the Mostar Divers Club headquarters, where the long-running competition in which local men dive off the bridge into the Neretva River far below.  However, today it is too windy for them, so I explore the mass of souvenir shops which line the old Turkish bazaar.

Plenty is on offer, mostly catering for day trippers up from Dubrovnik, a few hours away in neighbouring Croatia. The trinkets range from ornately carved mortar shells doubling as coffee and pepper grinders to 1980’s era postcards depicting Mostar’s  shopping mall, which is now located among a series of other derelict buildings.

An outdoor café lures me and I sit down to my first Bosnian Chevapi, a skinless sausage made to a traditional Balkan reciepe. 

The 16th century Karadzozbeg Mosque, also damaged in the war, has been meticulously rebuilt and stands along Ul Brace Fejica, one of the main streets in the old town area.

As I pause to take photos, a boy offers to show me around for a small fee.  He explains everything in great detail and allows me to climb to the top of the minaret.

After making my way up narrow winding stone stair case, I am rewarded with a sweeping view.  High on a hill on the other side of the river stands a large cross which overlooks the Catholic Croat side of the city.  The minaret sways gently in the wind, which I find a little un-nerving.  I descend to be ushered toward a small table of souvenirs outside in the courtyard. Despite their sales pitch, I decline and bid farewell to my guide.

Mostar From The Top Of Minaret Of Karadzozbeg Mosque

Mostar From The Top Of The Minaret Of Karadzozbeg Mosque

Stari Most, Mostar, Bosnia

Stari Most, Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina

After dinner at the Restaurant Taurus, I make my way down to the riverbank where the Stari Most looms impressively, bathed in the moonlight.

Music flows out into the night as I walk back to my room, passing groups of revellers heading out to many of the new nightclubs and bars lining the river.

The next day, as I wait patiently on the deserted platform for the 6.56am train to Sarajevo, I am thankful that I made the effort to spend time in Mostar, discovering that only better things can come, for this historic and spirited city.

Ul Brace Fejica, Mostar, Bosnia

Ul Brace Fejica, Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Stari Most At Dusk Mostar, Bosnia

Stari Most At Dusk Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina

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