The Old Bridge of Mostar

Heading into the countryside was a break from the party atmosphere of Hvar. We weren’t sure what to expect going to Bosnia. We got to the border with a car full of our belongings including a wedding dress, tennis racquets and roller blades which we had accumulated during our travels. We were apprehensive driving up to border control and hesitantly rolled down the window to be greeted by a young gentleman. The officer was in hysterics when he saw our car full of our belongings. He began laughing when he saw the Australian & American passports, and then proceeded to joke that we had a German car, were married in Croatia and now were driving into Bosnia.

We kept driving through normal roads without being able to find a highway. We arrived into Mostar and found a fairly new and quite nice apartment except for a dodgy step. We were warned about Bosnian builders taking shortcuts and found out first hand walking up the stairs of the apartment. Apparently there is one step that is higher than all the others and we both learnt the hard way. Running up the stairs with suitcases and thud, we both misjudged this one step and fell over. Bosnia 1, Traveller 0.

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 We headed into the city that night and found the UNESCO heritage listed bridge. It was built in the 16th century by the Ottoman’s and had some symbolic Islam architecture before being destroyed in the civil war of the 1990’s. It was rebuilt in 2004 after donations from a number of countries to promote Mostar as a tourist destination and to bring the city back to its former existence. The bridge is also renowned for the locals who jump off it in summer for tourist donations. It is quite treacherous with strong tides and shallow water in summer but it is the only time it can be done due to the cold temperature of the eater in winter.

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One of the wonderful things about Mostar is its cuisine, with a combination of Turkish and Balkan influences. Pictured is the dolma, a dish of stuffed vegetables with meat inside them. We finished this off with popular local desserts of palacinke (pancakes) and apple strudel.

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Our tour the next day was fascinating. Before the war, the city was split evenly with 30% Muslim, 30% Catholics & the remainder Orthodox or Jews. After the war, the dynamic of the city has changed. Schools are divided based on religious grounds and although the language is the same, the different religions speak a different dialect. Even the post offices are different based on the religion.

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The city is renowned as being the line where the east of Turkey to the west of Europe meet. It was contrasting to see the churches and mosques in the same city. We visited a mosque where women dress in colours instead of black or blue. This is to differentiate the women from the Catholic women who might be wearing black or blue. Also, the Turks did not force the people to become Muslims instead being business like and offering tax incentives for those that converted to Islam.

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Once the Austrian-Hungarian Empire took over control of the city, they were happy for the people to remain Muslim. They brought with them infrastructure and industry, building roads and bridges. Today, apart from some of the architecture, the only industry that remains is copper, which can be found all over the city.

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Mostar, a city of contrasting cultures and people is really a gem in the Balkan region.

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