We’d met a few people on our travels who had expressed how much they loved Bosnia and Hercegovina, so I was excited to see what all the fuss was about. We spent a couple of days in Dubrovnik and then headed up to Mostar, mostly famous for its stunning bridge, Stari Most. We looked at the picture in our Lonely Planet book and thought that it must be photoshopped – it didn’t look real, but it really was. That photo is real and it does look that beautiful in reality. I was beginning to see why people loved this country so much.
As much as we can talk about the beauty of Mostar, it’s very important to talk about the history that comes with the town. During the break-up of Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Hercegovina suffered some of the worst war and fighting. Mostar was being attacked by the Croats while in the capital of Sarajevo the Serbs were fighting for rule of the city. The war in Mostar lasted for three years and scars still remain in the town, buildings with bullet holes, stones saying ‘never forget,’ and that stunning bridge that all the tourists come to ogle at, the bridge that had been there since 1566, was bombed and no longer there by 1994. The version we saw was the re-built version after the war. The stark reminders of the war are contrasted by souvenir shops around the bridge and restaurants buzzing with tourists.
As I walked around the town I was faced with the reality that anybody aged 20 or over would have lived through the atrocities of the war. Those very old will have faced two wars in their lifetime, something difficult to comprehend when I think of the war-less 24 years of my own life.
Our hostel owner was 15 years old during the war and had many stories to tell us, keen to inform us about all that happened. One thing he told us was about a statue of Bruce Lee they have in the park. He explained that Bruce Lee is somebody in films who never uses violence with weapons and is not aligned to any political party or country in his movies. For this reason, people like him and see him as somebody to look up to in a certain way. We checked it out and had fun doing some poses with him.
I loved Mostar but we decided to head to Sarajevo as we needed to be swift to make it to Budapest on time for our volunteering work. Our hostel owner suggested to get the train there from Mostar as the scenery along the way is supposed to be superb, it was also slightly cheaper than the bus – our main method of transport on our trip so far. The view was lovely as we crossed the country, much of it filled with snow. Our time in Montenegro had been sunny and starting to warm up, Bosnia felt like plunging back into winter as we were greeted with snow and low degrees.