Here’s my advice for visiting Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina:
- Don’t miss it.
- Spend the night.
- Climb a minaret.
- Pet the cats and avoid feral dogs.
- Wear practical footwear.
It was early evening when Alisa, our B&B host, picked us up from the bus station in Mostar. She brought along a friend for the ride, and within minutes they were laughing about all the tourists they’ve seen precariously stumbling about, trying to sightsee in high heels on Mostar’s cobblestone covered streets.
After tossing our bags in our room, we walked out onto those foot-massaging cobblestones, which were glowing seductively Mostar’s lamp lit Turkish old town.
Mostar at night, especially off season, is my travel fantasy: a bit exotic, authentic feeling, and—you knew it was coming— it has superstar of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Stari Most, the aforementioned superstar, is a 16th century Ottoman bridge, destroyed in the war of the 1990’s and reconstructed in 2004. Stari Most is lit up glamorously in the evening and combined with the atmospheric bath of soft lamp light, a stroll through the old bridge area could turn even a rabid pragmatist like me into a temporary romantic.
And when we woke up the next morning (in our ridiculously plush and cheap room) we enjoyed this enchanting vista out our window.
What makes a great town even better? Cats! There are so many friendly cats in Mostar. (I’m thinking of starting a band called Cats on Cobblestones–who’s in?)
There were also feral dogs around, two of which followed us about for a bit. While the dogs did not harm us, they were snapping and baring their teeth at each other, and their proximity and our inability to shake them made me break into a nervous sweat. A local gave us the “look sharp” warning, nodding at the snarling pups, which made me even edgier. Do any of you have tips on scaring off feral dogs? I’ve never had this problem before, and I’d like to know how to deal with it if I find myself in this situation again.
In fact, we didn’t see any Syrian migrants in Bosnia, though it was pleasing to see that Mostar’s resident’s, many of whom were also refugees in the not so distant past, are welcoming those displaced people currently so much in need.
The Koski Mehmed Paša mosque generously allows visitors to climb its minaret. Since we’ve never had that opportunity, we jumped, or rather climbed at the chance.
While the climb though the narrow minaret staircase is not something I recommend to claustrophobes, the view from the top is…..aahhhhhh! Just drink in the aqua blue of the Neretva River.
Mostar is truly one of those jewel-like beautiful towns, and yet, also kind of unsettling. There are the cobblestones and cozy looking bakeries and then, just around the corner, bomb holes in buildings and graveyards with tombstones all ending with 1993. Unlike Sarajevo, religious tension is palpable. The Muslim Bosnians, mostly in the Ottoman old town, are separated from the Catholic Croatians, in their hipster-modern neighborhood. While I relish religious art in many forms, the giant light-up cross on a hill looking over Mostar’s mosque-dense old city, seems to me more provocative than spiritual. And the tourist industry is oddly just sort of ignoring the ugly events of the 1990’s—-a tourist brochure we picked up just says “The Old Bridge in Mostar is the symbol of the city built in 1566”, completely leaving out the part about it being destroyed in 1993.
Interesting places are complicated, so take my advice and spend the night in Mostar. Reconstruction or no, you can’t miss this show-stopping bridge. And don’t forget the practical footwear.
How we got to Mostar: bus from Dubrovnik.
Where we slept: B&B Marshall. Price: €30.00 for a double. Recommended: highly.