I visited Bosnia and Herzegovina while spending a week in Dubrovnik. My only real knowledge of the country was that it had recently been at war (the war ended in 1995) and I was curious to see how it had affected the country. I took a Viator tour and after a two and a half hour journey, we crossed the border and arrived in Medjugorje, an important pilgrimage location for the Catholic world. I’m not religious, so there wasn’t much of interest here for me. Thankfully, we were soon on our way to Mostar. Our first stop was the Old Town and I was quite taken with the Crooked Bridge as it looked like something out of a fairytale. This bridge was a trial run for Stari Most, the Old Bridge (Mostar’s most famous landmark) and it was thought to have been first built in 1552. However, the bridge was destroyed by flooding in 2005 and was subsequently rebuilt – albeit, a little clumsily.
The Crooked Bridge, the Old Bridge and the Old Town together are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Stari Most, The Old Bridge is an incredible structure to see in person and it is also considered one of the most exemplary pieces of Islamic architecture in the Balkans. Originally built in the 16th century, it stood for 427 years before being destroyed by Croat forces during the Bosnian War in 1993. Later, after the war, a project was put in place to rebuild it and the rebuilt bridge was opened in 2004.
The Old Town was a charming place to wile away an afternoon, a bazaar full of shops and stalls selling all manner of metalwork goods, copper jewellery, local crafts and Made in China (probably) souvenirs. The buzzing atmosphere made me think I would be accosted by pushy shopkeepers, but it was quite the opposite. Bosnia is still struggling economically (unemployment is high in Mostar at 40%) and I heard one shopkeeper announcing they would accept any currency – Dollars, Euros, Pounds, anything at all. I did my bit for their economy and purchased a copper plate and sampled a traditional Bosnian dish, ćevapi.
The next stop was the village of Počitelj, situated on the bank of the Neretva River and another UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s home to a fort and a couple of mosques and you can climb to the top, which of course I did.
Hopefully in time Bosnia and Herzegovina will shake off it’s “warn torn” image as there is clearly so much more to this beautiful country. Sadly, bouncing back from the destruction hasn’t been quite so easy for Bosnia and Herzegovina as it has been for Croatia (due to ongoing political disagreements; unusually, the country has three presidents for its three constituent nations: Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats). However, tourism is on the increase and I’m glad to have played my part. Don’t miss Mostar if you are in the area!
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