After leaving Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, (you’ll read about sweet Sarajevo in a future post), I couldn’t believe the trip was halfway over. After several nights of bonding over epic sunset views, strong rakija and amazing beef cevapi with the #YOGYPSY crew, I didn’t even want to think about the trip coming to an end.
Our next stop was Mostar, the quaint cultural capital of the southeastern Herzegovina region. We left Sarajevo around 10 in the morning via van and started off on the 2.5 (which turned into 5) hour drive. Similar to the other car journeys during our time together, we were on Balkan time: enjoying the scenery, stopping for Bosnian coffee, and of course starting a dance party at every restaurant that crossed our path.
A couple of hours into our journey we stopped for lunch in Jablanica, a town in central Bosnia and Herzegovina. Known for its lush foliage and dramatic mountain views, we spent a good half hour snapping photos. Even on a cloudy day, the Neretva River was a picturesque shade of blue-green.
After lunch, we continued our journey to a city founded in the 1400s, exhibiting signs of a previous era of Turkish rule. Although Mostar was one of the smaller towns we visited during our 11-day trek through the Balkans, it was quite possibly the most memorable. The Old Town, with architecture dating back to the medieval ages, was very striking in its contrast between the peaceful Neretva River and the remnants of devastating violence from the Yugoslav Wars.
The Stari Most (Old Bridge) is the most recognizable and magnificent architectural piece in Mostar, soaring high above the old town in a perfect arch. Constructed in 1566 by the Ottomans, it stood for over 400 years until it was destroyed during the Croat-Bosniak War. In 2004, the bridge was reconstructed completely, representing rebirth of a town that lost so much a mere twenty years ago.
Stepping outside of the bubble that is Old Town, I noticed the city hadn’t exactly started fresh. Bombed out buildings, bullet-ridden houses and cemeteries give the city an eerie feeling that I couldn’t quite shake. In 1993, due to residual effects from the Bosnian War, Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats began fighting over territory within Mostar. Bosniaks were driven out of the western part of the city and the Old Bridge was part of the front line, dividing the city between the Muslims and Christians. Most of the horribly battered buildings are located here. One of the more prominent ruins was a bank tower turned sniper den, towering above the city as an ominous sign of the city’s war-torn past.
While a few of the other #YOGPYSY trippers did a little urban exploration in some of the abandoned buildings, I opted for coffee and a little writing. For a better account on the devastation and heartache the war caused on many people in the region, check out Yomadic’s blog for a very poignant account of a homeless man in Mostar.It is local custom in Mostar for brave bridge jumpers to plunge into the chilly Neretva River to showcase their strength. We learned upon arrival that we would most likely not witness this for free, as most local divers charge around 25 euro to make the 20-meter jump. After forking over the cash, a 20-something diver was happy to oblige, already in a wetsuit, ready to make the leap. I had to get this on video (below) because it looked absolutely terrifying.
Stay tuned as I continue to document my trip through the Balkans!