Mostar – Bosnia
Bus journey to Mostar
My journey to Mostar didn’t start off very well. I’d bought my ticket online but then lost the printout on the bus. The miserable man on the bus wouldn’t accept an e-ticket and so I had to pay again! Unfortunately though, I didn’t have enough money. The man was insistent and it was starting to look like I would be thrown off the bus in the middle of nowhere.
I was hoping he would just give up and leave me alone but he didn’t. Luckily a girl sitting on the other side of the bus spoke a little English and talked to the driver on my behalf. Since I didn’t have enough money, she gave me some and I was able to buy the ticket. I wanted to send her some money but she didn’t want me to, maybe she just wanted to do a good deed for someone. Either way, I was very grateful.
Unfortunately due to the stress of losing my ticket and moving around on the bus, I started feeling sick. I get terrible motion sickness and have done since I was a child. When we stopped at the Bosnian border, I promptly got off the bus and threw up next to the border guard! He didn’t look too happy.
We got going again and then I found my original ticket! Annoyingly the bus driver wouldn’t refund the money for the 2nd ticket I bought. He just shrugged as if to say ‘tough shit mate!’ With that experience in the past, the bus arrived in Mostar.
Arriving at Madja’s was a breath of fresh air and just what I needed after my crappy bus journey. I was warmly welcomed, the rooms were great as were the bathrooms, great showers! It felt like home. There were also a nice group of people staying there so I went out with them to the old town and a local bar.
Breakfast was provided and it tasted great. Madja did me some extra eggs, since couldn’t have bread etc. It was nice to have a home cooked breakfast after weeks of just cornflakes. I felt relaxed staying here, they went the extra mile to make their guests feel comfortable.
Scars of war
Walking around Mostar you can still see the effect of the Bosnian war. Mostar was a city devastated by bombing and I remember seeing it on the news reports in the 90’s.
There are still several bombed out buildings, left there partly because there’s no money to repair them and partly to provide a reminder of the town’s darker times.
Bosnia doesn’t do health and safety either as these buildings were easily accessible. A group of us decided to climb up the ‘sniper tower’ in the centre of town. Before the war it was a bank but then it became a vantage point for Serbian snipers to pick people off as they passed by.
It was a strange feeling as we ascended the exposed stairs. Only 20 years previously there was a war going on, people were being killed. We got a few strange looks from a woman in a flat next to the tower but it’s a right of passage for a backpacker, so we continued to the top.
There is also a delightful old town, of which the cobbled streets lead to an array of cafes, souvenir shops and restaurants. I’d seen a lot of old towns in Croatia but this one was different somehow.
Following the streets and you eventually reach the old bridge ‘Stari Most’. A once nearly 500 year old stone bridge, which was cruely bombed during the war in the 90’s. It has since been rebuilt to its former glory using some of the original stone.
The bridge is Mostar’s most famous sight, it’s also popular with jumpers. Not the suicidal kind but the ones who jump off for fun! A guy in the hostel jumped one morning and was trying to persuade me to jump too. I’m too much of a chicken though!
When I got to the hostel some people had done the tour the previous day and spoke very highly of it. At 30 Euros it was quite a lot of money for a poor traveller but it wasn’t your average tour so I decided to sign up.
Bata’s tour didn’t disappoint, it was awesome and he’s a great, insightful guy with a genuine interest in sharing his country’s troubled times and its potential for the future.
The scenery in Bosnia is stunning, with mountains, winding rivers, waterfalls and delightful little towns and ancient ruins.
Bata took us to a number of places and the tour really was a whole day event. First we drove through the streets of Mostar and were talked through the history of buildings and the religious and cultural differences.
It’s a city still split in half, where the children of different religions are segregated and go school at different times. They learn from different syllabuses and are taught a different version of history.
Speaking to the locals, they seem friendly enough and interested in speaking to a foreigner. Why do you come to Mostar? They ask. They couldn’t understand why someone from a western country would want to go to a poorer country. ‘I want to live in England’ they would say.
Back to the tour and after a quick stop off for a cafe for lunch, we headed through the Bosnian countryside to the waterfalls. What a lovely sight they were, the mist of water rising into the air mixed in with the sun’s rays providing a stunning view.
A few of us braved the water and jumped in for a swim. It was extremely cold and I got out again pretty swiftly!
After some more crazy driving from Bata, we made our way off road and to the ancient city. As we walked through the narrow lanes Bata once again opened up and spoke about his memories of the war and of being hidden in the basement of a neighbour’s house to prevent him from being taken by the Serbian army.
It was a heartfelt story and even though he has told it many times before, it seemed passionate and real. It made me think about how lucky I am to have never experienced war or been through any kind of turmoil. To think that we in England complain about the rain when in Mostar it was raining bombs. Makes you think.
Bata had promised us some amazing views and he didn’t disappoint. The ancient city was set on the side of a canyon with the river running below.
There were still more surprises to come. We were about to meet a nice lady for some traditional Bosnian coffee and snacks. The coffee was very strong, we slurped as instructed and let out an ‘ahhh’ to show appreciation to our host.
She gave us fruit and berries fresh from her garden and drinks that she had made herself. There was also a large piece of cake that unfortunately I couldn’t eat, being gluten free. We were shown true Bosnian hospitality in an amazing setting.
Unfortunately I can’t remember the lady’s name but she was quite taken by my camera in wireless mode.
It was getting late but there was one more stop for us to make. Bata drove us back towards Mostar and then to another location down a narrow road, veering very close to the river! There were even buses driving down this small road.
We arrived in a darkened carpark and after a short walk we found ourselves next to a large rock face complete with caves and uplighting.
Perched on the side of the rock face was a Dervish house. We were invited to enter the house but since I was wearing shorts, I needed to cover up. I was dressed in a wrap around, my skirt wearing brother would have been proud!
I’m not a religious person and am quite cynical about the whole idea but after sitting there in the prayer room I began to understand why people go to these places to find solace.
The silence gives you time to think about things and clear your mind without the distraction of mobile phones and technology. Obviously there is much more to it but for me it was more about the silence.
After a long 11 hour journey, the tour came to an end. It was a great experience and if you visit Mostar then I’d advise you to sign up to it.
I really enjoyed my time in this town. I didn’t want to leave but alas, the journey has to continue. The next morning I got a bus to Sarajevo but not before enjoying another one of Madjas’s lovely breakfasts!