Come Away With Me: Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
They often say that you shouldn’t be proud of things you did not control or contribute to, such as your nationality. Here I am though, beaming with pride of being from a place as beautiful as Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Maybe it’s the natural beauty and landscape, the crisp air that’s unique only to that place, or the hearty and tasty food. Maybe it’s history of it all that smacks you right in the face at every turn. Mostar is a simple place that is so unapologetically all these things, and with another visit booked for a couple months time, its hard not to daydream about how great it is.
The city is best known for the Stari Most (Old Bridge), which is an Ottoman bridge that stood for almost 430 years before destroyed in the Balkan War in 1993 and rebuilt in 2004. It was made popular in Australian culture when comedians Hamish & Andy attempted a traditional bridge dive on their Euro Gap Year show.
Coincidentally, Stari Most is also at the center of most of Mostar’s tourist activity. Located in Stari Grad (Old Town), this is one of my favourite places to wander around when I want to be a tourist in my own home. The cobblestone footpaths are paired with cafes and stores that boast delicious dining, fresh lemonade, and handmade Balkan goods like art, jewelry, homewares (and football jerseys!).
You cannot come to Mostar without stopping into Blagaj, which is just less than a 20 minute drive away. It is best known for Blagaj Tekija, which is a Dervish Monstery that was built around 1520, and sits at the spring of the Buna River. The water from the Buna River is so clean that you can drink from it unfiltered. In fact, at the bottom of Blagaj Tekija, there is a small platform that let’s you try – copper bowl included.
While you’re there, pull up a chair at one of the many cafes and restaurants along the river. One of my favourite parts about Bosnia is the fact that you can order fresh lemonade just about anywhere, and Blagaj is no exception. If you love seafood, one of the restaurants will even let you pick out a fish from the river for your meal. Polish it all off with some hazelnut palacinke (thin, rolled Bosnian pancakes) and coffee, and you’re guaranteed to have a good night’s sleep.
Less frequented by visitors, Malo Polje sits beside Blagaj and is a 20 minute drive from Mostar. My auntie and uncle own a home on the river of this small village, which in 1991, had a total population of 634 people. Coming here is quiet, relaxing, and as local as you can get. Take some bread to feed the ducks and have a picnic with some homemade sudzuk and spreads on fresh baked goods from one of the nearby bakeries.
Pocitelj is located in Capljina, which is about 30km South of Mostar. This place is so fascinating, as the entire town, which was built between the 15th and 16th Century, is completely walled and sits on top of a hill. This is one of the best preserved ensembles within Bosnia and Herzegovina, and if you’re an architecture nerd, boasts mixtures of Medieval and Ottomon designs. This is a quiet place with some small shops great for knick-knacks and souvenirs and cafes. It may be worth a special visit to Hajj Alija mosque once you make your way to the top of all the stairs.
It’s been so nice sharing some of my favourite places from my hometown with you. After our trip this year, I’m sure there’ll be more stories and places to write about and I can’t wait!