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krisek Mostar - A travel report by Krys
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Mostar,  Bosnia - Herzegovina - flag Bosnia - Herzegovina
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krisek's travel reports

Picturesque old town with slender bridge. Mostar.

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Mostar hit headlines and front pages of daily newspapers when its iconic slender bridge listed as a UNESCO world heritage site was destroyed 9 November 1993. It has since been rebuilt and it looks gorgeous! report of the month contest
Aug 2010

Mostar's Old Bridge, photographed from the southern side.
Mostar's Old Bridge, photographed from the southern side.
I am not the first (or the last) to visit Mostar. However, it all depends on the timing. Those travellers, who went to see the town before 1990, or even 1993 for that matter, had a chance to see the sights of Mostar in their original form (most of them, that is), including the main reason to come to Mostar at all, the Old Bridge. It was originally completed on 7 July 1567. The structure was bombed by the Bosnian-Croat army (apparently) on 9 November 1993, after it was badly damaged by artillery the day before. This was done for no reason at all, apart from perhaps that it was beautiful and lay in land, which wanted to exit the Federation of Yugoslavia. The Croat army claimed that the bridge had a strategic position, yet how could it have? It was too narrow, too slippery and too steep for armed vehicles. People today have trouble walking on it. For a number of years, there was no bridge at all, then for a while a simple connector, a simple footbridge was placed there. On the 23 July 2004, things changed. A group of universities and other institutions from around the world supported by UNESCO and other global organisations, completed the reconstruction of the old bridge in it's original slender shape. There was a grand opening attended, I think, by Prince Charles, the heir to the British Throne.

Actually, Mostar was one of the main reasons why I wanted to return to Hercegovina after my very brief visit to Neum at the end of last century, shortly after the war. And I was glad that I did come, and I was also glad that the same material and the same technique was used to reconstruct the bridge. Some stones had been recovered from the riverbed. But Mostar was a pleasant spot overall. Not the new town that much, but the tiny old bit, or bits that the bridge connected. I liked it enough to be happy to stay an extra night, when somewhat expected circumstances materialised. Yes, it was touristy, but in this case I think it was okay. The society needed all the right support.

Favourite spots:
View of Mostar from the Lucki Bridge at sunset.
View of Mostar from the Lucki Bridge at sunset.
Little souvenir shops sold all the usual useless stuffs. A few had interesting paintings and glasswork. Some disturbed me with pens made of bullet shells, military helmets, and other war related items.

Everywhere was walking distance from everywhere. The train station and the coach station stood next to each other just north of the old town, along the Marsala Tita street, on the east bank of the river. A couple of ATMs were placed right in the old town. on both sides of the river, and there was also a bureau de change on the east bank.

The very top of the old bridge (Stari Most) was one of my favourite spots in town. This was were the local guys jumped off into the incredibly deep green waters of the river. It was also the only spot on the bridge, where one felt relatively comfortable standing, as the other parts of the bridge were too slippery to keep a balance without looking on one's feet. It was also one of the better points to observe how fast the very green river was flowing.

What's really great:
One of old Mostar's main streets at night, near the Marshall Pub.
One of old Mostar's main streets at night, near the Marshall Pub.
Actually, I did not expect it to be so deep, either. It was amazing to watch it flow and hear it murmur, and it made me think how much water there was, and fascinating our planet truly was! Eh.

My other favourite spot was the Caffe Luft, by the southeastern side of the bridge. It was perfect for lounging. I actually did put my feet up there at some point, as I think my great German hiking boots of eight years, which must have been to about 100 countries, lost their water resistance in Sarajevo the night before. See also hangouts below.

I think that one of the great things about Mostar was its flexibility about currency. In most places, that including souvenir shops, restaurants, cafes, bars, clubs, hotels, one could pay in BAM, EUR or HRK. Not terribly convenient for a Briton like me, but the vast majority of the Europeans had it easy plus the Croatians.

But on a serious note, it was great to see that optimistically new buildings grew amongst the ruins.

The Stari Bridge at night.
The Stari Bridge at night.
Ruins, which were closed for any kind use and will likely be taken down or somehow restored to normal buildings. Yet, one of the locals confessed to me that he was not so sure about the peace. It shocked me. But on the other hand, I did see disturbing signs in both Bosnia and Herzegovina. People did not treat each other well, shouted a lot, could not control their temper, and kids were playing with assault riffle toys, complete with plastic bayonet!

In addition to the massively elegant bridge, there were a couple of other interesting spots in Mostar. One of them was kriva ćuprija (eng. crooked little footbridge), a small prototype of the famous bridge. It was located near its larger cousin, over a small stream, by the Kriva Ćuprija Motel. It was amazing how similar those bridges were.

The other sights included the Bridge Museum at the tallest tower by the bridge, The Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque dating back to 1618, the Neziraga Mosque built in 1550, and the Ćejvan-bey Hammam.

Kriva Ćuprjia II, room number 103 with sophisticated shower cabin.
Kriva Ćuprjia II, room number 103 with sophisticated shower cabin.
I stayed at the Kriva Ćuprjia II Hotel (Kriva Ćuprija I was a motel in the heart of the old town), 3 minutes walk from the old bridge. I booked it through, and was charged €32 for the single use of a twin room. I got room #103 on arrival. It was modern, very clean and had a great bedding. There was a small TV set hanging from the wall, a desk and a chair and a night stand between the two single beds. The en suite bathroom had a sophisticated shower cabin, complete with 'rain' head, regular shower head with a few settings and a back massage nozzles. Fresh, crisp and white towels were provided, shampoo sachets, liquid soap and toilet paper sheets dispenser at standard as well. The thing about this hotel, however was its cleanliness. It was absolutely spotless, seriously mega clean. The reception was manned 24 hours, and their buffet breakfast (included in my rate) was really good - eggs, hams, cheeses, sausages, jam, cereals, juices, excellent coffee, tea, milk and breads.

Caffe Eldino at night, and the crowd of thirsty teenagers.
Caffe Eldino at night, and the crowd of thirsty teenagers.
The locals kicked off the night at about 8pm at the bar Stari Mostar Caffe Eldino, next to the Restoran Teatar. It was really hot hot hot! Many young locals chatted and tried to sing along to US dance hits. It was terribly funny! But most of the tunes were native Bosnian or Herzegovinian. Their 0.33l bottles of lager were just BAM3.

The other bar, right next door, the Bajga got its crowd later.

However, those locals, mainly teenagers, who could not afford pints in bars, tended to party by the eastern side of the bridge, having brought bags of booze acquired in supermarkets. They either sat at the water's edge or climbed the chunks of the bridge, which lay below the bridge after the 1993 bombing. It was great to see them party like that. Having moved on, hopefully! Uh, and I could swear I smelled ganja!

The terrace of the White Bar, offering a great view of the Old Bridge.
The terrace of the White Bar, offering a great view of the Old Bridge.
The mother of all hangouts in Mostar were two adjacent cafes, Caffe Luft being one of them, on the western bank of the river offering great views of the old bridge. Both offered drinks only, including beers, local wines, sodas, fruit juices, teas and coffees. They were perfect spots to observe the guys jumping off the bridge and watch the sun going down.

Caffe Novalić Terasa (that belonged to the White Bar (Bielij Bar)) on the east bank was another perfect sunset spot. The view of the Old Bridge, the old town streets and the mountains beyond was truly spectacular. And it offered almost a bird's view due to the elevation of the terrace.

Caffe Tabhana, next to Restoran Babilon, had good music, friendly staff and a few pool tables, for those, who wanted to escape the sun and chill out with friends, or perhaps challenge locals to a quick pool game.

Labirint Restaurant and the view of the Old Bridge.
Labirint Restaurant and the view of the Old Bridge.
For lunch, I went to Restaurant Labirint with a nice terrace at the northwestern bank with a nice view of the bridge. But I was made aware that I was not allowed to have anything from grill as they expected a group of 40 people and the kitchen was busy. What a cheek! So I had some water and decided to go somewhere else. I crossed the bridge and a girl from the Babilon Restoran found me promptly. I saw their terrace from the other side of the river, so without much protest, I agreed to be shown the table. It was cool - right below a large tree and with a view of the northwestern side of the bridge. I asked for a glass of local red wine (small 0.2l glass BAM5 (€2.50)) and a plate of mixed grill (BAM17(€8.50)), which came either with chips or potatoes. It was definitely potatoes for me! They would be better grilled or baked, but cocked were better than fried. They also brought be bread. The mix included steak, grilled liver, flat burger, beef of skewers and little kebabs.

Other recommendations:
Blagaj, the old villa by the river.
Blagaj, the old villa by the river.
The next door Restoran Teatar had better views (it was closer to the bridge) and had much friendlier waiting staff. It was great for the after sunset red clouds above the bridge.

Blagaj, a small village by the river, complete with a large fortress and a lovely villa standing right by a river cave, was about 12 kilometres 140 degrees southeast from Mostar. A yellow bus sponsored by Japan made the route every 2 hours or so. It was worth the effort of going there. There were less tourists visiting and the local fish restaurants, right on the river, were superb. If one wanted to take a picture of the villa, one needed to cross the river and follow signs for the cave. Locals offered trips inside the cave and there were canoes for rent as well. It was a small place and although I made all the effort to use the public transport, I was standing at the bus stop for almost two hours to no avail. Eventually, a guy, who worked at the House of Culture, right next to the bus stop, offered me a ride.

Published on Friday September 17th, 2010

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Sun, Oct 10 2010 - 03:51 AM rating by basia

It is a pity that war kills people and destroys beautiful places on Earth. Krys, you had a chance to see destroyed places. Wonderful report.

Sat, Sep 18 2010 - 07:28 AM rating by jorgesanchez

Excellent report! I am glad to read that you also visited Blagaj, a lovely and magical place.

Fri, Sep 17 2010 - 05:08 PM rating by jacko1

A great report, history is olomst always written by the victors, in this case everybody lost!, this is not meant to detract from your excellent report, just a personal observation!!

Fri, Sep 17 2010 - 11:30 AM rating by pesu

Since I had seen the Stari Most as cover picture of a Geography book in school I wanted to visit Mostar and finally managed to go there about 1983. Few years later I was totally shocked by the war and couldn't comprehend it at all. Now I am glad to see the new Old Bridge and can only hope people will be wise enough to preserve the peace.

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