Where East meets West
Travelling through the Balkans is like being tossed into a cultural blender and nowhere is that more true than in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In fact nowhere else in Europe can you experience the fusion of East and West quite like you can here. So whether the relaxing drift of Dalmatian life is awaiting you or behind you, consider an eye-opening trip to the storied city of Mostar.
The capital of the Herzegovina region, Mostar is a captivating city where natural beauty is intertwined with the chilling scars of War. The city is a photographers dream with stunning bazaars, bridges and mosques lacing the banks of the turquoise Neretva River. However a closer look as you walk the streets reveals a plethora of bullet holes and mortar damage from the Bosnian War of the early 90’s. The city is still healing from this tumultuous period in its history, but those who stray from the well-worn tourist trail are now being rewarded with one of Europe’s best-kept secrets.
The Stari Most
The Stari Most (Old Bridge), after which the city is named, is the beating heart and the most iconic symbol of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Tragically reduced to rubble in 1992 the bridge was painstakingly reconstructed using 16th century building techniques and stone from the same quarry as the original. A good portion of your day should be dedicated to finding the perfect vantage point to watch the local divers fearlessly leap from the top. In the Western tower of the bridge is the War Photo Exhibition. Displaying some incredibly moving images and insight into the Bosnian War, this small museum is an essential stop and will give you a greater understanding of the city as you continue to explore.
A buzzing city
Stemming from this beating heart are the winding veins of the city; it’s bazaars. The cobblestone alleys are bursting with market stalls, boutiques and restaurants with the finest Bosnian fare. It is in these streets that the Eat-West cultural fusion is most obvious. The Islamic call to prayer will ring out as you walk past Orthodox and Catholic churches, the souvenirs range from Yugoslav military memorabilia to fine Ottoman metal works and the cuisine draws influence from Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and traditional Slavic tastes to produce something altogether unique. Getting lost in these streets is a great way to spend the afternoon.
Surrounded by natural beauty
Whilst one day can easily be spent in the city centre alone, the land surrounding Mostar is well worth spending a second day to explore. Just 40km from Mostar is one of the best natural swimming holes around. The Kravice falls are a curtain of cascading fresh water with deep turquoise pools below. The balmy Bosnian summer days are all the reason you need to seek out god’s own swimming pool. A short drive from the falls is the fortified village of Počitelj. The ancient village sits in a truly spectacular position and scaling the iconic Gavrakapetan Tower leads to a vista you will never forget.
As the visitors start to flow back in to this ancient land, there has never been a better time to take a trip to Mostar and experience the famous hospitality of Croatia’s closest neighbour.
A trip to Mostar is the perfect dose of culture and beauty before of after your Horizon Sail week. Daily busses depart from Split and Dubrovnik to Mostar. We recommend spending a night in Mostar, however it can also be done as a day trip for those short of time.
Ryan MacFarlane is a freelance writer from Melbourne, Australia.