Yes, hi, I am blogging again! As you might have noticed, it has been a bit quiet on my blog. The past few weeks I traveled a lot. First for work to the Balkans and immediately after that my big trip started in Miami and Colombia. It was actually my first time in the United States and South America and I really liked it. But more on that in the upcoming posts. First back to where we left off. Bosnia and Herzegovina, the country I visited in the summer of 2017. After Tuzla and Sarajevo my boyfriend and I traveled to the historical town of Mostar in the region of Herzegovina. Many tourists we spoke to visited Mostar on a day trip from Croatia. Personally, I think Mostar deserves more attention than 6 to 8 hours. There is plenty to do and see in and around Mostar. Today I will share my 10 tips!
1. Watching the Bridge jumpers at the Stari Most
A must do hazing ritual for young Bosnian boys: jumping off the historical bridge Stari Most into the Neretva river. According to the local tradition, a successful adult life can only start after the 20-meter high jump. However, this jump is not without danger. The water of the Neretva river is cold and there are many rocks at the bottom. Moreover, the wind speed under the bridge can easily bring the jumper out of balance. Yet the tradition continues up to this day. To show tourists what it looks like, during peak season every hour an experienced jumper jumps off the bridge. Of course, they don’t do this for free. If the total amount of €25 is collected, they jump.
The bridge itself, the Stari Most, is a special bridge. The stone arch bridge is deeply linked to Mostar. In the sixteenth century the Ottomans built this bridge and shortly afterwards the first boys started jumping off the bridge. During the war the bridge was blown up in 1993. Ten years later, the restoration started with the help of international donations (also funded by the Netherlands). In 2004, the city celebrated when version 2.0 was opened and the two parts of Mostar were connected again.
2. Look for the brother of Stari Most: Kriva Cuprija
The name Stari Most (translation: old bridge) suggests that this is the oldest bridge in Mostar. But that is not the case. The Kriva Cuprija is the oldest bridge in Mostar. This small arch bridge was built eight years before the Stari Most. According to the old stories, this bridge was a trial to test whether such a construction was possible. In contrast to the summer crowds at the Stari Most, at the Kriva Cuprija it is nice and quiet. Moreover, the small bridge looks beautiful in the midst of the historic buildings and cobblestone streets.
3. Wander the čaršija
Mostar finds its roots in the Ottoman Empire. The city was founded in the thirteenth century and the following seven centuries the city flourished under the Ottomans. The long Ottoman regime has left its mark on the historic center. Mostar was an important trade hun in the region. On both sides of the Stari Most you will find the čaršija, the old craft and trade center of medieval Mostar. Today it is a market street with tourist shops that offer Turkish tea and oriental lamps. The whole area feels more like a bazaar in Turkey than a market in Bosnia. I have to note that walking down the old pebble stone streets is not that comfortable, especially walking downhill. The stones can be slippery, but of course it gives a certain charm to the center.
4. CLimb the minaret of the Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque
The east side of Mostar is the Bosnian side and you will see many mosques here. One of the most prominent mosques is the Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque. You can already spot this mosque from the Stari Most. The mosque was built in 1613, but unfortunately it was partly destroyed during the war in the nineties. What you see now is a copy. The mosque can be reached through a courtyard near the Tepa Market. The courtyard has a couple of tourist shops. I certainly recommend everyone to view the mosque from the inside and to climb the minaret. The mosque is situated on the banks of the Neretva river and from the top of the minaret you will have a stunning view over the historical center, the Stari Most and the river. Not a fan of small confined spaces? Then the climb up the 89 steps of the minaret will be a challenge for you. The minaret is quite narrow, making the climb feel claustrophobic. Luckily, at the top you will be rewarded with – in my opinion – the most beautiful view of Mostar.
5. Walking along the Bulevar Revolucije
Mostar has a macabre record on its name. It was the most bombed city during the Bosnian war. Therefore it is not surprising that you will still see many destroyed buildings in this city. Almost every wall shows bullet holes. You will see the most ruines around Bulevar Revolucije. This street was the frontline between the Bosnian and Croatian side, resulting in daily shelling and bombing. Offices, bank buildings and appartments were turned into ruines. A prominent example is hotel Neretva, in the nineteenth century this was a beautiful hotel built by Austria-Hungary, nowadays there is only a forefront left.
In the middle of these war ruins, one striking building stands out: the orange colored Gimnazija. This school was opened in 1898 at the time of the reign of Austria-Hungary. The wish was to open a school to promote the Bosnian identity without clear Ottoman or Slavic ties. In 2009 the renovations were completed; the building was damaged during the war. Today the school has a symbolic location (on the former frontline), and it is the only school in Mostar where both Bosniak and Croat children go to school. Although it is often separated and with a different school schedule.
Tip: join the free walking tour. The guide will show you with old photographs what the buildings looked like before the war.
6. Enjoy the splendid view from Hum Mountain
Looking for a nice panoramic view over Mostar? Then I advise you to climb up the Hum Mountain. From this hill you can clearly see the picturesque location of Mostar in a valley. We went up the mountain during a tour of Mostar Travel. The guide grew up in the war and shared a lot of personal stories with us. On the mountain he told us that the Croatian troops used this hill to bomb the Bosnian side of Mostar. The Bosnian inhabitants were literally closed in, on the one side by the Croatian district and on the other side by the Croats on the mountain. When walking around on the hill, we even found old shell casings. This reminded us that this all happened not too long ago.
7. Swim in the Kravica waterfalls
Seen everything that can be seen in Mostar? Then there is plenty to do in the area of Mostar. For example, go swimming in Kravica waterfall. Something we were really looking forward to. We visited Mostar in July and therefore could use some refreshment! The Kravica waterfall is beautiful to see, but the water is icy cold and full of pebbles. Be careful when swimming in the water, because you can easily bump your knee or foot. Because there is height and water involved, the Bosnian jumping ritual also continued here. I am afraid of heights, so I skipped it. My friend joined the Bosnians and jumped off one of the waterfalls. And he can still tell the story, so it was okay to do it.
8. Visit the Dervish monastery of Blagaj
One of the most fairy-tale sights of Bosnia and Herzegovina is only located 12 kilometers aways from Mostar: Blagaj Tekija. A sixteenth-century monastery built during the Ottoman empire according to the Dervish culture. The monastery is very photogenic because of its location. It stands on a hill against a mountain and in the front it is surrounded by beautiful blue water of the Buna river. Unfortunately I did not see the monastery from the inside. Maybe next time!
9. Spend a couple of hours in the fortified town Počitelj
Do you love visiting fortified cities? Then you certainly must not miss the town of Počitelj. This medieval town was once, among other things, a military headquarter during the Ottoman rule. It strategisch location on the border between Ottoman Herzegovina and Venetian Dalmatia was of extreme importance. Unfortunately, in the nineteenth century the city lost its importance under Austria-Hungary and was severely damaged in the Bosnian war. In the recent years, thanks to UNESCO and the national restoration and protection programme, parts of Počitelj were restored. Počitelj is a gem to wander through. A labyrinth of paths and stairs leads you to all historical sights. The best thing to do in Počitelj is to enjoy the view over the city from the Kula (fortress). Perfect!
Tip: we visited the Kravica waterfalls, Blagaj and Pocitelj in one day during the Discover Herzegovina Day Tour of Mostar Travel. I absoluted loved this day tour. I am not sponsored to say this. I am true fan.
10. Street art hunt
The icing on the cake: street art. Yes, in Mostar you can find lots of that. From small pieces with a specific message for society to awesome murals. The amount of street art in Mostar keeps on growing, thanks to the annual street art festival. Many works concentrate on and around the Sniper building (the former bank building the snipers used for shooting during the war). This is a good place to start a search for street art in Mostar.
Want to see more street art? View my photos in my article about street art in Mostar.
Would you like to visit Mostar? Do you have any additional tips for Mostar?