Monday, September 16, 2013

Serendipity- Bosnia, Mostar

Stepping off of the boat after Croatia Sailing we were at a loose end, with a couple of days to spare until we had planned to catch up with our two favourite traveling companions Carly and Rhiannon in the North of Croatia. Without a second thought we spontaneously jumped on a bus to Mostar in Bosnia, just a short four hour trip away from Split. Taking this leap was one of the best traveling decisions I made yet.  With its recent wars and debacles 'safe' and 'friendly' is not the first thing that pops into ones mind when Bosnia is mentioned. However upon arrival I was truly blown away. Mostar is definitely one of Eastern Europe's little gems.

Staying at a hostel close to the train station, Magdalena-Lena. We were greeted with open arms by Lena herself. A delightful Bosnian women who was one of the best hosts I had ever had. Being sick at the time Lena would come bring me toast and mint tea every morning to aid my cold. She would also be there with freshly cut melon and a cool drink when you returned from a hot long day wandering the city. Living in Mostar her entire life she took us out for coffee and opened up to us about her experiences and the war. I couldn't recommend a better hostel to stay in when traveling through Bosnia. Lena certainly made my time in Mostar that much more special.

Mostar's main monument is its Old Bridge Stari Most. In the heart of the old town it attracts many tourists from all over. Most who are seeking to take that leap of faith and participate in the traditional dive off the the bridges highest point. Like a coming of age for years Bosnian boys from the age of 17 have been diving 22 meters into the freezing cold river below. For anyone game enough to join in the traditional 'fun' the diving is run by the local diving team who organises and prepare you for your jump. Before you can participate you must complete two 10 meter jumps and swim in the river in order to climatize your body to the freezing temperatures, to insure your body doesn't go into shock causing a heart attack when diving. As alluring as it all sounds I definitely was not up for any diving this trip, although James was of a completely different opinion. However there was the monthly diving competition on the weekend we arrived. Where hundreds flock to watch and admire some of the best divers, a huge event in the small town of Mostar. This being so James was unable to make the jump. Devastating to him, yet of some relief for me. 

The old town of Mostar was like no other I had been apart of. Instead of the typical Medieval architecture I had become rather used to the town was lined with colourful stone bricked buildings giving it a somewhat bohemian feel. Little stores full of trinkets lined lane ways where stray cats came out to play. The city itself was a deep valley surrounded by great mountains which complemented the picturesque setting. 

 We found a sensational traditional Bosnian restaurant called Mostar Restoran Sadrvan up by the river. Suggested to us by Lena it was run by a lovely local family. Quickly becoming there number one customers we ate there sometimes twice a day. James treated himself to traditional meat platters and cevapi (skinless sausages) why I was happy to indulge  in there home made duvac and cheese burek. All for a ridiculously low cost it was almost unbelievable. 

Stepping back a few streets from the Old Town we found ourselves amongst old deserted streets that had been effected by the war. Rows of half torn down bombed apartments and bullet holed walls and doors were still present, it was a phenomenal sight to see. We learnt from Lena that after the war the government did very little to help the families of Bosnia rebuild there houses and of course their lives. Although to us Mostar was a ridiculously cheap city to all of those who live there it is far to expensive for the average wage, especially in comparison to the other towns in Bosnia. It was rather heart wrenching to see and learn first hand the devastation a war so current had had on a country and on its people. It was truly beyond eye opening. 

Bosnia is a extraordinary country full of such rich culture and history. After the two nights I was definitely not ready to say goodbye to the town of Mostar and could have easily spent endless weeks exploring the mountains and waterfalls deep throughout the entire country. Bosnia is without doubt the number one country on my list of places to venture back too. 

The Wanderers Daughter xx

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