Our second day in Mostar. The weather report has been predicting rain, but luckily it has stayed away thus far. I don’t know how long for though! There are some very threatening clouds overhead. In fact, until now, it has been a really warm day. I have peeled all my layers off and sitting in a t-shirt.
Now for my first impression of Bosnia and Hercegovina. In fact, Mostar is in Hercegovina, so we aren’t in Bosnia at all!
Mostar is a city of contrasts. When we arrived yesterday by bus, the was devastation was clearly visibly. In fact it is so evident, it evokes all kinds of emotions: wondering what it must have been like to be here during the war, amazed that people could hate each other so much to want to destroy both friends and family who just happen to share a different religion, but also such a beautiful old city, history and architecture. I certainly struggle to get my head around it. How do people survive such adversity?
It is truly beautiful – especially the area around the Old Bridge and the river, which is the centre of Mostar’s tourism. The fast-flowing river forks and has been channelled into little mini canals, cascades and small falls. When you’re near the river, you clearly hear the sound of water. Just a pity that all the fountains don’t work – that would add to the magical feel.
The areas around the river are filled with little bridges, paths, steps and multi-tiered terraces with beautiful views of the Old Bridge. It is necessary to mention that the Old Bridge is in fact a new re-built bridge as the original bridge was destroyed during the war. Of course it was built in the old style, but you can clearly see that it is in fact newly built!
It is quiet in spring. We don’t see too many other tourists: the odd group of Americans and French thus far. Everyone vies for our custom. Things are quite cheap: a bit like Croatia was 10 years ago. I’d say on average about 50% cheaper than the UK.
The local currency is the ‘mark’ and the exchange rate is about 2:1 to the pound and/or the Euro. (They ignore the fact that the pound is still a wee bit stronger than the Euro). These are the cost of things we have purchased:
· Side Salad 3-5KM
· Mushrooms and salad dinner 7 KM
· Chicken schnitzel 12 KM
· Beer (330ml) 3 KM
· Big bottle of water (in shop) 1 KM
Other random things I noticed or experienced:
· I nearly fell into a very big and deep (about 1 metre) hole in the pavement whilst admiring a mosque! They aren’t very big on health and safety.
· Smoking is still allowed in restaurants. Yuck. We are just not used to that anymore. But it does seem like a very large portion of the country smoke. It is rare to find a table where no-one smokes.
· Most buildings that weren’t destroyed still have bullet and/or shell holes visible.
· There are quite a few feral cats, but doesn’t seem to be as big a problem as in Dubrovnik
· Tourists restaurants aren’t much more expensive than local restaurants
· The city is predominantly Muslim, but it doesn’t seem like they’re very strict.
· 3G doesn’t seem to work here. My Blackberry doesn’t seem to work at all. (It does work in Croatia). My answer phone on my mobile doesn’t seem to work either – but that could be a problem with Orange as it did work in Croatia too.
· The most common car in Mostar seems to be the old style VW Golf. I would say about 50% of all cars are VWs.
· All the touristy artefacts look like Turkish wares
· As a woman, I don’t seem to be treated quite the way Tim is – all change from purchases is given to him as well as instructions and any official matters are directed to him.
· All dinners are served with potato, spinach and/or cabbage!
· I had my own personal bomb experience whilst crossing the bridge. A bunch of teenagers threw something at me (I think I was just in the way, because they apologised profusely) that exploded. I got a bit of a fright, but still don’t really know what happened.
· Some of the calls to prayer from the mosques sound very screechy, whereas other sound quite nice and melodeous.
We are staying at the Muslibegovic House, which is a Museum that has guest rooms. The only problem is that the Museum is closed for another 2 weeks, so we don’t get to see it in spite of being on the doorstep! It costs around 70 Euros per room B&B to stay, but was recommended by Tim’s Bosnian friend Nina (who now lives in Australia!).