While I was in Croatia, I decided to cross the border to Bosnia Herzegovina. To visit the famous Stari Most bridge of Mostar. A very long 7 hours journey, so I took a night bus from Zagreb Croatia to Bosnia Herzegovina. It was a good choice mostly through out the journey I was dozing off. Through the bus window I watched the darkness of the countryside. As I gaze intently a blurry shadow of the mountain, imagining would be beautiful scenery during a day travel. As the bus slowly gliding in the midst of the night we smoothly passed the Croatian Border to Bosnian Border. A quick passport and document checks. My excitement builds up as we reached Mostar Bus Station about 6:30 am. And I head off straight to find Guma apartment, according to my navigator it’s only 10 minutes walk from the station and it’s along the Stari Grad.
As I walked through the sleepy street of Mostar. Breaking the silence with the sound of my luggage trolley, as I dragged it along the pavement. I slowly navigated to my accommodation. I soon found it, with no proper check in, the owner just gave me the key and I went straight to the room. The bed was so inviting after a 7 hours journey, without hesitation I jumped into the bed to catch up for more snooze. I set my alarm for 9 am and by 10 am I was ready for my wander. There’s a café attached to the apartment with same management, so I went to grab a cappuccino and it was free. The atmosphere of the café is so laid back. Guma the owner of the café seems to know everyone in the neighbourhood. Such a friendly person and while I was having my coffee, he was trying to communicate, with a little English and hand gesture and lots of laughter. As I check the time it’s almost 12 midday and I didnt realised. So I gathered my personal stuff and off I went for my usual meandering.
Walking through the Stari Grad the main street. You will passed by local cafés and bars. Then you’ll notice the cemented stone footpath will suddenly change to marble stones( be very extra careful it can be slippery), that leads towards the old bridge. It seems that local lives with tourism, as evidence of rows and rows of souvenir shops and restaurants.
Tourist from around the world come to visit the famous bridge. But on that day mostly Korean tourist and locals. As I wade my way from the crowds towards the famous Stari Most bridge. The welcoming arch bridge was just in front of me. I remember the first time I saw it on photo it was so beautiful. And this time, that very moment it was really stunning. A great day to spend a day staring at the magnificent semifull circle arch structure. Admiring the two fortified towers of the Halebija tower on the northeast and the Tara tower on the southwest, called “the bridge keepers” (natively mostari). Completed by the stunning backdrop of the force flow of Neretva River. Matched it with beautiful day as the sun is shinning so bright. What a great day for a wander. There are so many tourist taking selfie photos along the bridge. So I continued my walk till I reached a passageway towards a small bridge called Crooked Bridge it resembles like the Stari Most but in smaller scale. I later found out that this bridge was their structural experiment to rebuild the Stari Most.
Then I stumble upon a small alleyway between two restaurant going through the river bank. The most amazing place to admire the bridge. While I was sat and relaxing I noticed there was a man trying to jump off the bridge. It’s very common this days that bridge divers visit the place and brave enough to take the plunge. There’s even an annual divers competition celebrated during Summer.
After an hour of wandering around, I met a local Bosnian guy named Miran to show me around. Before my visit to Mostar we already arranged to meet up. We first went to a local bar as I needed a refreshment. After a refreshing drink I was ready for more exploration. He took me to the Muslim side. It’s my first time to visit a Muslim community and the first thing I noticed are the grandeur of the Mosque and the towering minarets adding a beautiful skyline to the neighbourhood.
And he started about telling me the history of Mostar, with the famous bridge which was named after the bridge keepers (Mostari) who guarded the Stari Most (Old Bridge) during medieval times. The Old Bridge was built in the 16th century by the Ottoman empire. Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence from Yugoslavia in April 1992, but the tensions between Croats and Bosniaks increased in Mostar. Resulting a severely damaged of religious buildings including the Old Bridge during the Bosnian war. Passing through the Old derelict building, with noticeable holes of bullets and lots of abandoned buildings everywhere. But it seems the local has slowly recovering from the past.
The monumental project to rebuild the Old Bridge, was initiated in 1999 to the original design and mostly completed by Spring 2004. Now a day the old Bridge is one of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s most recognizable landmarks. And the Old Town is on the UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE LIST.
Even up to this time it seems the tension on both sides are still eminent, that Bosnian hates the Croatian or vise versa. And another situation when I asked if there’s a significant of the Cross on top of the mountain. It meant that the Catholic people peace offering but according to the Muslim side catholics are not welcome in Mostar. I was gobsmacked when he said it.
So I just stirred off away from religious topic, it’s always a sensitive discussion. As I looked at the pretty Mostar bridge its hidding a grim history between the two sides, there’s still grudges of local people to each other. As my friends warned me not to go there because of the tension but I just ignored it. But I’am glad I did visit Mostar it is such a beautiful place to explore. If you asked me about safety, it is safe to visit Mostar and dont be discouraged about the local tension. You won’t noticed it unless otherwise you will mingle with locals and they tell you the history of their place.
On our way out from Bosnia Herzegovina entering Croatian Border. It was horrendously long wait it lasted more than an hour. After passport and document checks, they requested some men on the bus to go to the checkpoint hut. I was wondering what was going on. As soon as one guy came back to the bus, I asked him what did they do. He honestly answer they did body and bag checked. And he added it’s because his Bosnian. They are a bit strict on Bosnian especially men crossing the border. Then they all searched for our luggages if we are carrying alcohols, cigarettes or anything to declare for tax purposes. A couple from America and Canada was mumbling and complaining about how strict the border control in Croatia. I even asked myself is it because of the history between Bosnia and Croatia, so up to these days there’s still a big gap between the two country.
How to get to Mostar?
There are day trips from Dubrovnik to Mostar if you want a organised trip. That cost € 45 up. But if you want to stay for the nigth in Mostar there are cheap accommodation to choose from hostel, hotels and apartments.
For independent traveller check out the bus connections. I have used this website, check out bus times and prices varies depending on time of departure. Here Bus Croatia
Spending currency in Mostar is Mark/BAM, their local currency but they do accept Euro most establishments around Old Town. But if you wander outside the Old Town they only accept their local currency.
Have you been to Mostar? I love to hear your experience in this beautiful place. Have you had any similar situation about border control? I would love to hear from you. Leave your comments below.