During a recent trip to Croatia, my friends and I decided to take a day trip to the stunning city of Mostar in Bosnia & Herzegovina. It's been on my list of places to see for a long time now, and as Mostar is only a two hour drive away from where we were staying in Split, we decided to seize the opportunity.
Driving through Bosnia was like being transported to another world. As we traveled along the winding rural roads, we passed through sleepy villages where locals sold vegetables and homemade olive oil from dilapidated roadside stalls. We also encountered some pretty interesting characters along the way:
When we arrived in Mostar, we headed straight for the town's main attraction: Stari Most (Old Bridge). Built of a local stone called tenelija, this famous bridge stretches over the Neretva River and reaches an impressive height of 24 meters (78 ft 9 in).
The bridge which stands today is actually a recreation of the original 16th-century Ottoman bridge which was destroyed in 1993 in the Croat-Bosniak War (part of the larger Bosnian War), after having stood for 427 years.
If you're feeling particularly adventurous, you can pay the local dive club 25 euros to hurl yourself off the bridge. Sound like a good time? If you said yes to that you're probably nuts, but hey, who am I to stop you! Just make sure you do it properly rather than hurling yourself over the edge when no one is looking. For the aforementioned 25 euros, the Mostar Diving Club will train you up and ensure that conditions are safe for your jump (as safe as throwing yourself off a bridge can be, that is).
After taking in the beauty of this marvelous sight (and petting a few stray dogs along the way), we decided to do some more exploring. Mostar's historic Old Town is actually very small, but it isn't difficult to see why it's been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As we wandered down the quaint cobblestone streets of the Old Bazar Kujundžiluk, we were greeted by a mix of snack bars, craft shops and memorabilia of every imaginable kind.
By this point, I was officially in love. Mostar truly is a place of extreme beauty and intoxicating old world charm.
At the same time though, the still-visible marks of the Bosnian War are a heavy reminder of the hardships this resilient city has endured. Efforts to rebuild the town are ongoing, with many buildings still sitting in a state of ruin following the intense shelling and fighting that occurred here only 22 years ago. It's an incredibly sobering reminder of how recently this all happened.
As the sun began to set, the time came for us to begin our journey back to Croatia. It was with great reluctance that I left Mostar, with its beautiful cobblestone paths and other-worldly charm. If ever you find yourself nearby, I would definitely recommend paying a visit to this utterly magical place.