My fascination to Mostar started when I caught one episode of Rick Steves’ travel show in PBS . He featured Mostar and I was completely amazed by the scenery of this small town in Bosnia and Herzegovina. From that moment on, I knew I just had to go there the next time I will travel to Europe. So when I planned for this summer vacation, I made sure to add Mostar to my travel destination.
Bosnia and Herzegovina was involved in one of the bloodiest and deadliest civil wars just 20 years ago as they broke away from the former Yugoslavia and the country still bears the scars to this day. From what I had researched, the civil war in this country had started as a result of dispute on whether Bosnia should stay in the Yugoslav Federation, or whether it should become independent. The three main ethnic groups – Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims), Croats and Serbs – were divided in their opinions and this resulted in the mass murders and ethnic cleansing. It is estimated that over 100,00 people were killed in the Bosnian War that took place between 1992 and 1995. Most of the fatalities were experienced on the Bosnian side, and many of the towns and villages in this region were completely devastated. It was a terrible time for these people, to put it mildly.
It was about 41 C when we got there and the sun was absolutely brutal. Everyone was “glistening”. Boy was it hot. I tried to move slowly and stay in the shade, but it was impossible to do that in the uncovered narrow streets of the Old City. As I walked down the street, it was shocking to see bullet holes – some patched, some were not on the homes and buildings on the outskirts. It is obviously that this place saw extreme fighting, and that even 20 years later, the scars of war were still there.
Mostar is famous for its bridge -Stari Most, that crosses the river Neretva and connects two parts of the city. A UNESCO World Heritage site, this bridge was originally built by the Ottomans in 1557. After almost 427 years, Croat forces completely destroyed it on November 9, 1993. Thanks to post-war restoration efforts a new bridge was built in 2004, with the help from Italy, The Netherlands, Turkey and Croatia, the outcome result looked (almost) like the original, giving Mostar once again its magical icon. These days, tourists flock to the bridge to pose for photos and watch brave yet talented local men dive off the bridge for 20 Euros, plunging 20 meters into the cold river below. Walking to this place, you can see that the Muslim influence is very visible in the amazing array of shops lining its cobblestoned narrow alleys, selling all kinds of local products from jewelries, potteries and metalworks.
At lunch, I ordered a cevapi and I thought it was okay. Considered a national dish of Bosnia and are legacy of Ottoman Empire, cevapi are made from two types of minced beef meat, hand mixed and formed with a funnel. Traditionally, they are served on flatbread with kajmak and chopped onions.
Immersing in the culture of Mostar is an incredible experience and I hope this country will continue to preserve hope and peace to all of its people.