Mostar is a city in the Herzegovina half of Bosnia & Herzegovina. Hamish & Andy fans will probably recognise it from an episode of Hamish & Andy’s Euro Gap Year, where Hamish and Andy jumped off the 25m tall Stari Most bridge. Mostar is named after the keepers of this bridge (then, a wooden bridge) in medieval times (mostari). Like Dubrovnik, it was also held under siege during Bosnia & Herzegovina’s war of independence from Yugoslavia. It became the front line of the war, where the Yugoslav army took control of one section while the Army of the Republic of Bosnia & Herzegovina, together with the Croatian Defence Council, held control of the rest (eventually forcing out the Yugoslav army). Unlike Dubrovnik, there is still a lot of damage visible around town due to the fact it was the site of such intense fighting.
We spent 3 nights in Mostar, which gave us 2 full days. Unfortunately the town had suffered a lot of rain in the lead up to our visit, and kept raining on and off while we were there, especially throughout our first day. The river level was very high, with one river-level restaurant terrace completely flooded (most other restaurants are significantly higher on the river bank). We were able to spend a bit of time exploring the old town centre, despite the rain, but we eventually got so wet we retreated back to our room. We spent quite some time that night, and the next day, holding a hair drier on our shoes to dry them out!
Fortunately on our second day the rain had eased up and the streets were not running with water anymore. I still wore my thongs (flip-flops) out and about as my trainers were still drying out. As the day was a bit drier, more street-side stalls had opened and we were able to do a little souvenir shopping. I even bought two pens made from rifle shells left over from the war… however several weeks later I completely forgot they were in my bag and tried to carry them onto a plane! Needless to say they got confiscated.
The old town of Mostar is very small, however due to the rain we didn’t get to explore much further. We enjoyed getting to visit one of the local mosques, which included a climb up the minaret for a view over the river and old town. There is also a traditional Bosnian home which we visited, which was furnished in a very Ottoman style, reminiscent of Turkey.
We also watched a couple of local men do the famous Stari Most jump a few times while we were there. If you watch the jump from its most famous viewing points – on the bridge itself or by the swimming area just downstream from the bridge – friends of the jumpers will try to collect tips from the visitors after the jump. So either duck away as soon as you’ve taken your pictures of the jump, or hide yourself behind a tour group!
We tried to visit some local museums, but due to the fact we were there in the off-season their opening times were haphazard and we missed them – just our luck that the Stari Most museum was open the morning we had to leave! We did take a walk through the local cemetery, whose graves (most bearing dates of death between 1994 – 1996) were a stark reminder of the independence war. Unfortunately this war also resulted in the destruction of Stari Most, and the current bridge dates only from 2004 (although was reconstructed in the original design).
And then, we were on another bus headed back to Croatia. We had to switch buses again, but at least this time it was the middle of the day and we changed from one coach to another coach!