From our favourite anchorage in Zaton, just north of Dubrovnik, we did a day trip into Bosnia & Herzegovina to the old city of Mostar. It was an early start for us, not least because it is broad daylight at 5am (yes seriously) so we are wide awake anyway. The bus picks us up from a nearby hotel just before 8am and we drive north along the spectacular coastal road in Croatia, overlooking some of the islands and anchorages we have visited in ITIKI, including Mali Ston. Our first stop is a border crossing into B&H (45mins for formalities) and once in the country we stop for a quick drink. The next border crossing is out of B&H and back into Croatia where the road continues. We track inland to our next border crossing back into B&H again (30 mins this time) and we are finally on our way to the waterfalls of Kravica. The falls surround a picturesque lagoon and are very popular with locals for swimming and kayaking. It’s a quaint and relatively undeveloped tourist spot compared to Krka in Croatia, but blissfully cool on what is shaping up to be a very hot day.
We continue on through the countryside which seems fairly green and sparsely populated and we finally reach Mostar. We meet our local guide there and it’s a short walk from the bus to the old city. The old city of Mostar is quite compact and the streets are paved with rounded cobble stones, polished by thousands of footsteps over the years. The Ottoman empire had a strong influence in this area which is still evident in Mostar, with its many mosques and souk-like streets crammed cheek by jowl with souvenir shops, cafes and ice-cream parlours. Turkish sweets and shisha pipes are on offer as well. We hear about the history of the town and the importance of coffee in the culture of Mostar. Apparently guests are treated to 3 cups of coffee, one to welcome them, one to talk, and a cold one when it is time for them to leave. That may explain why Keith can’t seem to get a hot coffee around these parts…
The city’s most famous landmark is the Stari Most bridge, 16th century Ottoman bridge that crosses the river Neretva. It was famously destroyed on 9 November 1993 by Croat paramilitary forces during the Croat–Bosniak War. It was reconstructed over a period of 3 years and re-opened in 2004. The bridge is considered an exemplary piece of Balkan Islamic architecture. It was designed by Mimar Hayruddin, a student and apprentice of architect Mimar Sinan who built many of the key Sultan's buildings in Istanbul and around the empire.
Nowadays some local youths will jump from the bridge into the waters below once they have raised enough funds from onlookers to “sponsor” their feat!
It’s now the middle of the day and the heat is oppressive (must be 40C+) so we drag ourselves into a riverside café overlooking the bridge for a traditional lunch of ćevapčići, the local equivalent of a burger. Actually its more like skinless sausages in Turkish bread. Very tasty when washed down with a drop of the local brew! After lunch we manage a short walk around the rest of the town. While the ice-cream looks tempting we are too full after lunch so we drag ourselves back to the bus for the trip back, where ITIKI and the cooling water of Zaton await.