Bosnian Adventure
Sarajevo and Mostar, Bosnia, 2010-05-25 12:00 by Laerke
We drove from Croatia to Bosnia i Herzegovina to the town of Mostar, a very quaint little town in the Southern part of the country. Once we crossed the border the roads got slightly more potholed and the temperature rose a bit.
Upon arriving to Mostar we easily found our accommodation at Hostel Nina where we got a lovely room for 20 Euro. It was nice not to get lost for a chance :)
We spend the rest of the day walking around the little town center, it was picturesque to say the least with its narrow cobbled lanes, robust stone houses and of course the fantastic bridge! For the best view we went into the mosque compound, there we sat in the early evening sun under the minaret and took in the fantastic view of Stari Most and the blue Neretva River gushing under it, it was perfect – it was a great mix of east meets west, orthodox Christianity and moderate Islam, and old Europe as I think it just might was once. We sat there for a long while, occasionally catching the soft scent of the nearby elderflower trees that was blooming, right until the mosque caretaker politely told us he had to close the gate now.

But all was not always this idyllic in Mostar, we saw a photo exhibition of photos of the town during the war. The photos showed how the bridge and the town surrounding it got more and more out shelled during the years of 92 and 93, in one of the photos someone had placed a white flag on top of the bridge, little did that help though, the bridge fell in 1993 as it was gunned down by artillery fire.
Vast international assistance efforts have since rebuilt most of the UNESCO-listed old city center. In 2004 the Old Bridge was reconstructed using 16th century building techniques and stone from the original quarry. Now it looks as beautiful as when it was first built in 1566. However as soon as you walk a few streets away from the bridge many of the buildings lie as empty shells with no roofs, window glass or floors, the outside walls are filled with bullet holes and here and there rockets had left big gaping holes. Walking around these buildings it was chilling to think that the war only ended 15 years ago, most people we pass on the streets have witnessed the atrocities that happened here not that long ago.

The drive from Mostar towards Sarajevo was surprisingly beautiful, it took us through idyllic rural areas and we entered the mountains, tall beautiful and green – some of them still snowcapped! For a long time we drove alongside the Neretva River that carved its way through the mountains, it was gorgeous scenery.
As we entered Sarajevo we discovered to our delight they still have trams here, in my opinion trams really add to a city! So does the green mountains that jut up just outside Sarajevo. All in all it is a pretty capital and it doesn’t seem very big and we also – quite surprisingly and maybe a bit lucky – easily enough found our choice of accommodation down a tiny lane right after the mosque with a wooden minaret – cute!!! After Split we were expecting to get horribly lost all throughout the Balkans.
Café culture has been perfected into an art form here in Sarajevo it seems, and of course we had to take part! We has lunch down a cobbled lane at the cutest little place with green shutters, cabbage, a yellow curry sauce and smoked meat formed the majority of the meal but it was nice and filling, later after ambling down little lane after lane and admiring one grand old building, church, mosque and synagogue after another we ended up at another little café with sofa like benches, here propped up against big pillows we regained some strength over a Sarajevosko Pivo (the local beer) or two.

The war definitely seems as a thing of the past. On the surface Sarajevo is a capital like any other in Europe; lots of traffic, bustling shopping streets with fashion boutiques and restaurants and beautiful old architecture. Too many graveyards, a few bullet holes in the facades and a “Sarajevo Rose” here and there remind you of the tumults of the past though.

We just had two shots of Bosnian rajki, given to us by our host’s uncle – the first one was simply out of hospitality, the second because we forgot to take a picture of us having the first! It is strong stuff to have in the middle of the afternoon, when you are already a bit tired from walking in the hot sun all day – but it’s nice to feel welcome.