Living in the UK gives us very easy direct access to a number of historic and wondrous countries. The usual European tourist hotpots such as France, Spain, Italy and Greece, see an influx of British every year. Interestingly though out of the potential of fifty countries, there is a handful that we simply didn’t ever expect to visit.
One such example is the country of Bosnia Herzegovina, a member of the former country of Yugoslavia. Plagued with civil unrest and war throughout our childhood, the mere name of its capital Sarajevo brings up horrific memories of a war fort not long concluded.
Given the opportunity to visit a country with such an eclectic yet tragic past was an opportunity too good to miss. As we only had a small window of time available, we decided to concentrate our visit on the historic city of Mostar. Once a very significant city in the Ottoman Empire, Mostar is now known for its cultural melting pot of Bosnians, Croats, Serbs and Muslims.
It’s most recognisable asset is the astonishing Stari Most (Old Bridge) bridge that straddles the river Neretva and connects the two sides of the city. The original bridge stood for over four hundred years before being crippled in 1993 during the war. Luckily for all the reconstruction in 2004 is still a marvel. Stari Most stands 25 metres above the river on its hump and if you are lucky you can witness the locals jumping from its summit (a very dangerous and skilled jump).
Stari Most stands as a pedestrian bridge alone and as such is connected by cobbled streets on either side. These cobbled streets are littered with shops and eateries all which have a very eastern influence. This is reinforced by the marvellous mosque sitting on the east bank, we found the streets to still house a very Turkish feel.
These cobbled streets really are a wonder to explore, with a number of routes all connecting to the bridge entrance. It may have been designed with that in mind as traders from many countries used to trade here. The eclectic mix of of restaurants ranges from Turkish to American, Croatian to Italian and its locals are a mix of Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs – a true melting pot of cultures all living in peace. Fifteen years ago this was a far fledged dream!
Mostar was an incredible induction into a world of countries we had never contemplated visiting. We were really, really surprised by how incredible this place was – a true beauty of Europe with so much culture and surprise. We wouldn’t hesitate returning to Bosnia and all of a sudden Serbia, Macedonia, Slovenia, Montenegro and Albania all spring to mind…
What new country could we visit next – as my 60th? Comments welcome…