I stopped at the bakery before getting picked up in Dubrovnik to spend the day in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I booked the tour with Adriatic Explore as it seemed like an inexpensive way to see a whole lot in a single day. Spoiler alert, the downside is that it just made me want to return to see more! Find out what my first impressions were of the country, and why you should visit too.
We finally arrived at our first stop, the village of Pocitelj. This beautiful medieval UNESCO World Heritage site is located along the bank of the river Neretva and is a common place to stop for those on their way to visit Mostar.
I stopped in a few of the small shops to look around before finding some stone stairs that looked like they led up to the top of what looked like an ancient castle. I jump at the chance for any opportunity to climb up something, so I decided to see where the stairs would lead!
The tower ruins awaited me higher up, with views that made me speechless. I was mesmerized as I walked underneath the archway and along the old stone walls of this fortress.
As you walk out just past the ruins, to one side you can see the mosque that was restored after the war, and to the other is a stunning landscape of scattered red roof homes where the mountains meet the river.
Before I knew it, time was already up to meet at the bus and I nearly had to run back down the stairs to get there. I definitely could have spent another hour or two in awe up there and exploring more of the area! I will never get tired of small towns.
Walking through Mostar, I was first intrigued by the colorful handmade items and small trinkets sold by the vendors lining the streets. Thankfully it was a cooler day with some clouds, as I’ve heard that it’s basically like being in an oven most days around that time of year in Mostar because of the way the mountains and hills surrounding the town close it in.
Naturally, we stopped at Stari Most (Old Bridge), Mostar’s iconic arch bridge. After standing strong for 427 years (wow!) since it was built in 1556, the bridge was unfortunately destroyed in 1993 during the Croat–Bosniak War.
Even though this bridge is a reconstruction of the original, UNESCO explains its meaning well:
“The reconstructed Old Bridge and Old City of Mostar are symbols of reconciliation, international cooperation and the coexistence of diverse cultural, ethnic and religious communities.”
To add a little extra spice to your visit to Stari Most, stick around to watch the locals dive into the Neretva river below. It is common for the young men in the town to gather donations from the tourists crowding around to watch, and then will jump once they feel they have raised enough money. Since the water below is so cold, they will come down to the shore first to take a dip in the water and get their body used to it before jumping. Those who jump are skilled in diving (the water is only three meters deep) and it is certainly not a feat for anyone to attempt!
Jumping off the bridge has been a tradition since the bridge was built, and there is now a formal diving competition held there every summer. August 2015 also marked the first time the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series was held at Stari Most. Sad to say I missed the event by just a few days!
Soon it was time for lunch, and when asked for recommendations on places to eat, our local guide told us to eat anywhere. He explained how most restaurants have the same or similar food since the locals cook and eat at home and not in the restaurants.
I chose a place that had a nice outdoor area to sit, and ordered the classic local dish of ćevapčići (minced meat made into small sausages) sa kajmakom (with cheese). It was tasty, but it was also way too much to finish all my myself!
In general, Mostar was a little too crowded for my liking, although it was peak season. While I enjoyed my visit, I think I still prefer to stick to the smaller towns like Pocitelj. I will say that Sarajevo is still on my to-visit list!
Although the country has had a turbulent past, they are continuing to make improvements and are trying to keep moving forward. Tourism is a huge help to the local economy, and to make it even more appealing to visitors it is also very cheap to visit. The scars of the recent war were evident throughout my day in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and I would love the chance to return to meet more locals and learn about the country through them and their experience.
Have you ever been to Bosnia and Herzegovina? What was your first impression?