A WEEK IN THE OLD YUGOSLAVIA: SARAJEVO, BOSNIA

We got on a bus from Mostar at 11 in the morning. The bus service to Sarajevo is frequent and tickets cost about £8.

The trip was supposed to take two hours but again it took longer than expected, nearly three hours. But this is forgiven because the views are amazing, passing through sunny valleys and snowy mountains.

The bus station in Sarajevo looked a bit rough, but most people were helpful and spoke a little English, so we managed to find our way around alright anyway.

Tram n.1 departs from the railway station (next to the bus station), and gets to the city centre in about 10 minutes.

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Although we had been enjoying the sun at the beginning of our trip, we were greeted by snow and rain in Sarajevo. I’m not sure what I expected from Sarajevo, but somehow the bad weather seemed to fit with the place, despite making it a bit offputting for tourism.

Similarly to Mostar, in Sarajevo the war still seems very recent. Many landmarks (such as the yellow Holiday Inn where journalists reported the war) have something to do with war. But this is also the place of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, which triggered the start of WWI.

The Old Town (Stari Grad) is very nice and picturesque, with nice bars and cafes around. At its heart is the Baščaršija, the old market with stalls selling souvenirs and all sorts of things.

The bad weather definitely had an impact on how much we were able to see, so we preferred to stay close to the hostel. We went for Cheers Bar for drinks, and then were were on the road again.

HOW TO DO IT:

  • Getting there: Sarajevo is often visited by tourists on their way to and from other places in the region, but there are some options for flying in as well.
  • Travelling by bus: We travelled by bus a lot on this trip. We had no problem buying tickets one or two days in advance, as it’s not possible to book anything online. The routes we travelled were all common, but sometimes we only had one option of departure time (often a very early start). Buses depart on time but somehow always end up taking longer en route, possibly because of the local landscape – which is beautiful, but doesn’t make for fast journeys.
  • Stay: Thee are many options from Hostelworld – we stayed in a place which I don’t really recommend. Staying close to the Old Town is the best options, as everything is nearby.
  • Money: Euros are commonly accepted in Bosnia, especially in hotels, shops and businesses around touristy areas.
  • Read: I started reading ‘Twice Born’ by Margaret Mazzantini after we came back from the trip. The novel is set in Sarajevo during the war, and it’s a great read – definitely captures the spirit of the place.
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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:

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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.