A WEEK IN THE OLD YUGOSLAVIA: MOSTAR, BOSNIA

We left Croatia early in the morning in a bus to Mostar.

Bosnia is very close to Croatia, but with three border crossings along the way (Bosnia-Croatia-Bosnia), expect the journey to take at least a good four hours, regardless of what any guide will tell you.

The bus journey goes alongside the Croatian coast and then onto the Bosnian countryside, with scenic views all the way.

Once you’ve crossed the third border into Bosnia, it quickly becomes clear that this country is still recovering from the war, the many derelict buildings and bullet holes an evident reminder of its recent past.

MOSTAR:

mostar9_for web

I was looking forward to visiting Mostar. The view of the Old Bridge is stunning, and undoubtedly what warranted the town’s Heritage site status. Mostar is in Herzegovina, the southern part of the country.

The Old Town is scattered with souvenir shops and restaurants. There is lots of handicraft on sale, including copper jewellery and coffee sets, which are often made in workshops nearby. Prices are extremely low as compared to anything in the UK. As ever, we bought nothing.

We stopped for lunch at Kulluk. This could easily have been a tourist trap, but this being low season we had a nice lunch with views of the bridge for about £10 for two including tips – portions in Bosnia are normally quite large, and this was no exception.

What is clear all around Mostar is how recent the war is. The bridge was completely destroyed in 1993 and reopened in 2004 (there’s horrible footage of it being destroyed here). Venture outside the Old Town and all around there are buildings completely covered in bullet holes, a grim contrast to the beauty of the little city centre. War memorabilia is ubiquitous (bullet case souvenir, anyone?).

The place is at once beautiful, nostalgic, and poor – walking around the near empty streets at night it’s clear why everything is so cheap: there isn’t much money going around here anyway.

We went for a beer early in the evening at Black Dog Pub, which came highly recommended on TripAdvisor. You can have a pint for less than £1.50, which should be enough to justify the visit, but it’s actually a nice place, with a relaxed atmosphere and clearly a place for locals as well as tourists.

The place was quite full, as was Sadrvan, a traditional eatery that was completely packed on a night where every other restaurant was dead empty. This is the place to visit (we hear) if you want to try the local fare. The food was really nice, again the portions were massive (order olives and you get a whole jar) and the service was friendly. Vegetarianism hasn’t really made it to Bosnia yet, and veganism is definitely alien – even the roasted vegetables (delicious) had cheese on them.

HOW TO DO IT:

  • Transportation: Mostar is normally visited by tourists on the way to Sarajevo or Dubrovnik. Buses from Dubrovnik to Mostar leave a few times daily, and although the distances are short, be prepared to spend more than four hours on a bus. The main terminal in Dubrovnik is easily accessible by bus from the city centre. Tickets cost 110 kunars per person and can be bought at the bus terminal in advance or on the day.
  • Accommodation: We stayed at Elite Guesthouse. For 25€ we stayed in a large and comfortable bedroom with a massive ensuite bathroom. Everything was sparkling clean. Our host, Mesa, was really helpful and really takes pride on his nice hotel. Many people only stop in Mostar for a few hours on their way to Sarajevo, but I recommend spending a night there, before heading to Sarajevo.
  • Money: Everything is extremely cheap, even in the touristy areas. The currency in Bosnia is the Convertible Mark, but many places accept euros.
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