2018 Day 73 – Mostar

Today very nearly didn’t happen. After yesterday’s false start in Mostar, today was set aside for it. The plan was to go in for lunch then spend the afternoon exploring. Here’s what actually happened: best laid plans etc.

Lunch out usually means a lazy start. But the sun is shining and the laundry isn’t washing itself. What should have been the work of an hour or so, takes the best part of the day. We encounter one of those European machines where the wash cycle runs for 3 hours. 3 hours!!! Let me tell you, no woman designed that. We want to be in and out, 30 minutes max per cycle. The morning comes and goes, as does a good part of the afternoon. Hmmm… It’s ok, I reason. We can be flexible. Laundry, playing with kittens and lazing by the river in the morning, exploring in the late afternoon, dinner in town, a bit more exploring after dinner, job done.

Our host offers a driving service, but he’s busy today: no problem we’ll catch the bus. At 3.15 pm, we’re poised and waiting. And waiting, and waiting. The locals meanwhile are hitchhiking into town. Clearly they know something we don’t. Strangely, our bus stop features in memoriam posters. I’m deducing they died waiting for a bus….

After 4 pm, having waited for 45 minutes in belting heat, we give up and walk back to camp. Our host’s lovely mother tries to help. A taxi, we reason, is the answer. We call a series of companies: she speaks on our behalf. Nope. Everyone is busy, driving tourists further afield, to Dubrovnik, Split etc. By now it’s almost 5 pm and we’ve exhausted options. And it’s too far to ride. Disheartened, we give up. Mostar is out of reach. Parking in the city isn’t an option – each of the parking sites comes with reviews of being broken into.

But wait, our host’s mother has a brainwave: her brother. She runs home to call him: he’ll be here in 10 minutes, and he’ll kindly pick us up after dinner. Bear in mind, she doesn’t speak English, we don’t speak Bosnian. There’s a bit of German between us. Success at last! Many well deserved thanks later, we zoom into town under his care.

Oh! I’m so glad we came! Mostar is so very beautiful, so very old world. I’m immediately transfixed.

The buildings are of ancient stone, roofing thick slate, the streets are paved with round cobblestones worn smooth through millions of footfalls. It’s oh so very easy to fall headlong through time here.

The afternoon sun lights up the mountains surrounding us, casting a surreal golden hue.

The old bridge, Stari Most, now protected under UNESCO order, has been faithfully rebuilt. Despite being recognised as one of the most important pieces of architecture of the Ottoman period, it was bombed in the 1990s war. Its peak can be reached via a marble arch, it too, worn smooth. Every woman and I cling on and climb. And stupidly I wore slippery shoes! That’s us at the top. I’m looking particularly pleased that I haven’t managed to break an ankle. 😂

The views from the top of the bridge are beautiful, showcasing the old city on both sides.

Mostar’s streets are lined with market stalls offering handicrafts: lacework, copper Bosnian coffee pots, decorative pottery, decorative glass lamps, leather goods – the selection is endless.

Of course there are countless restaurant and icecream options. What’s Bosnian hospitality unless it’s groaning with food? Here at last, is the tourism that could be Bosnia’s for the taking everywhere.

We walk the old city from one end to the other while I twitter and snap away in excitement.

A bonus coming later in the day is that the crowds have dissipated. And it’s cooler. Even so, it’s quite busy. It’s clear that Mostar is a very popular stop.

We see two mad bridge divers: they dive for the crowd, collecting their reward first.

Eventually Chris convinces me it’s time for dinner. We sit outside – it’s such a balmy night – an order a classic Bosnian platter for two. It’s delicious, full of favourites, stuffed vegetables, dolmades, chevaps in pita with sweet white onion and accompaniments.

Excellent wine too.

A walnut baklava and Bosnian coffee round out our meal nicely. That’s me up till Tuesday then.

Totally worth it, that teeny weeny coffee was awesome.

There’s just time for a little souvenir shopping and one last pass through the old city before we are picked up.

Our driver has impeccable timing, arriving as we do, both a little early.

I’m so glad we were able to make it in. With its ancient history and multicultural influences from changes in power over centuries, I wouldn’t have missed Mostar for anything.

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