After leaving Sarajevo and our misadventures in the Bosnian highland villages, we arrived in Mostar. Our arrival was a little rocky, we got lost finding our hostel and were underwhelmed by the communist style buildings all around us. In fact, our hostel was located in what appeared to be a old and mostly abandoned apartment complex.
|Bombed out building in Mostar|
Sarajevo has healed many of its scars. Mostar has not. At least towards the city edges, the rubble of war is still very raw. Burned out buildings and bullet holes were highly visible as we walked from our hostel to the old town. But in the end, the war ruins that we passed just made the big reveal all the more shocking, because Mostar is gorgeous.
Mostar is like a painting, and the bridge is the star. Arching over the green water, it forms the center of the old town and the focal point for every restaurant, vista and patio in the vicinity. I realize its a bit shallow to devote so much time to the city center without taking the time to explore the rest of a city, but it was impossible to tear ourselves away.
Most of the old town had to be rebuilt after the war. The Old Bridge, isn’t really that old. It too was demolished during the fighting, but has since been reconstituted. The bridge was so important to the city of Mostar, that they went to great lengths to preserve its historical integrity. The stones were cut from the same quarry as the stones from the original bridge using only tools and techniques that were available during the time of the old bridge’s construction.
Under the bridge there was a small swimming area with an outdoor bar. Because the water comes down from the mountains, its freezing even in the warm summer months. The current is also very strong, so its not the best place for a casual swim. That didn’t stop locals from jumping off a nearby platform to the cheering of the tourists. The platform seemed high to me, so I was surprised to hear that the locals will often jump off the top of the bridge for money. Locals stand on the bridge and encourage tourists to give money to the ‘pot.’ When the ante gets high enough, they perform a graceful jump into the water as they have many times before.
We were only able to spend a day in Mostar, which turned out to be plenty. Despite its charm, Mostar is a small city with limited things to do. The next day we were scheduled to drive south to Croatia to visit the city of Dubrovnik, another town legendary for its beauty.