Mostar

As long as I’m confessing random things about my personality I’ve learned while traveling, it turns out one of my favorite things is simply the act of travel itself.  I sit on trains and buses and who knows what else an awful lot, but stick me on one of these and I will spend several hours in happy reverie doing nothing but watching passing scenery and thinking about something or another.  It has gotten to the point where I am always a little sad when I reach my final stop, wishing instead that I could stay in transit forever, which I realize is an odd thing but anyone who hates the travel part of travel probably wouldn’t last six months in this business.

When it comes to the travel attitude, though, I think everyone would feel the same upon finding themselves on the road in Bosnia-

It’s supremely beautiful.  Another picture to drive the point home-

Wow!  These mountains are spectacular.  Very New Zealand actually, which is the highest compliment I am capable of giving any range of mountains.

When I finally (sigh) got to Mostar and settled into the hostel, I set out for the Old Town.  Mostar is the capital of Herzegovina and not at all big, but it does have a particularly famous bridge-

Stari Most, which translates into “Old Bridge,” was  built in the sixteenth century on the route to Constantinople.  At the time it was the biggest arch in the world, and it was such an architectural feat that people still aren’t quite certain how it was constructed.

A side view of the bridge.  The top of the arch is about 20 meters from the cold, fast-moving water but that doesn’t stop some knuckle-headed divers from jumping off the bridge every  summer.  Obviously it’s not recommended without a bit of training first with such a height, but it’s sort of a macho thing for the local guys to do I suppose.

Walking up Stari Most- man, this thing is steep…

And at the top!

By the way, it should be noted that this is not the original Old Bridge, but rather paradoxically called the New Old Bridge.  This is because Mostar was the scene of the heaviest fighting in the Yugoslav Wars, between Bosniaks and Croats, so tragically the Old Bridge was destroyed by Croat forces in an attempt to destroy all Ottoman architecture in Mostar. (It is worth noting however that the general who ordered the bridge’s destruction is now facing trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for this among other war crimes.) Once the war was over they started rebuilding efforts, and the bridge was finally opened again in 2004.  There’s still an incredible amount of ravaged buildings in the area however, more than anywhere I’ve seen in the Balkans-

I realize this picture isn’t the best of destruction but frankly I didn’t have the heart to take more pictures of people’s destroyed lives.  However, I find a sign telling drivers not to park next to ruins with a car underneath quite entertaining- though most people in this part of the world don’t speak English at all (if over 30 they’ll try German on you if you don’t speak Serbo-Croatian), implying the sign is really there for tourists rather than locals.

Speaking of random signs, why is Tony the Tiger telling us what the ice cream flavors are in Mostar?  Did he decide he needed to branch out from cereal promotion?

Another interesting thing about Mostar is how being just a few hours south of Sarajevo definitely gives it a lot more Middle Eastern feel, as shown by the belly dancer costumes and Turkish slippers for sale.  There are a surprising number of Middle Eastern in general and Turkish in particular tourists around here, actually, which is odd because I didn’t notice them in Sarajevo.

After a few hours of wandering, however, I was done with Mostar.  It’s pretty and worth a stop but frankly not that big- I suspect things are different in the summer when you can go out and explore the countryside and go swimming and such, but in this season not much is going on to keep a traveler’s attention.  I figured the season was just starting to pick up further south though, and left early the next morning for Split, Croatia.  I haven’t been to the beach in awhile anyway.

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