California Globetrotter

Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina - California Globetrotter

To Go or Not to Go?: Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina

18 Comments

Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina - California Globetrotter

Prior to our road trip through Croatia, I was trying to convince Hans to drive into Bosnia-Herzegovina for an afternoon on our way from Split to Dubrovnik. It would only add about an hour and half to our drive down south, so I thought, “What’s the harm!?” We had made no official plans to go until we were sitting in our hotel room in Split seriously contemplating whether or not we would make the extra effort.

We had done the research. The war between Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina had been over and finished for two decades. Croatia has successfully joined the Eurozone, while Bosnia-Herzegovina still has some ways to go, but it is their desire to join the EU. The future is upon us and bitter tensions are still simmering between the two countries. We were going to have to pass through the Bosnian passport control through a 5 mile coastline of Bosnia just to reach Dubrovnik anyways. We might as well go into Mostar! I just couldn’t resist passing up this opportunity!

After all, Lonely Planet has Mostar’s Stari Most bridge ranked as the 113th best travel destination on the planet, so therefore it MUST be worth visiting, right?

But the safety regulations clearly stated:

Landmines remain a problem in Bosnia and Herzegovina. As of 2014, there were still numerous minefields and an estimated 200,000 active land mines and unexploded ordnances throughout the country. Excessive flooding and landslides in May 2014 shifted or washed away many mines throughout northern Bosnia and Herzegovina and many are still unaccounted for at this time. Since 1996, approximately 16,830 people have been injured due to mine accidents, of which almost 600 people died.

Other important information before visiting Bosnia-Herzegovina!

So the question was still, was it safe enough to go? I’m not going to lie, I BADLY wanted to go to Mostar just to see the famous bridge, Stari Most. But was visiting a bridge enough to justify risking Hans’ and my life? No, definitely not.

But…

I am a wanderer at heart and grew up traveling with my family even in the worst of times. A week after 9/11 happened, my family and I were still on that plane headed for London. We each had an entire row of seats to spread out on. Two weeks after the London Underground bombings happened, guess where we were? On the plane still headed to London. We have never ever let anything stop us from traveling. We always believed, that if it’s our time to go, it’s our time to go. And at least it would happen while doing something we loved. Traveling.

So, I sent a message to my mom, giving her an update on our plans. She asked if she should be worried, and I said, “No, I don’t think so. As long as we stick to the main roads, don’t get out of the car, we will be fine”. She would write me later begging me not to go, but I have to be honest again. I was selfish in my pursuit of going because something told me I had to discover for myself if Bosnia was safe or not. After all, I had read plenty of blogs of other travelers who made the trip without any hindrance to their excursions. The only terrible thing I had read was that no one spoke English. Big whoop.

So, we slept on the idea of going. Finally, in the morning we decided we wanted to do it. We routed out the best possible route to get us safely to and from Mostar.

We took the A1 south towards Dubrovnik, eventually following road signs that lead us in the direction of Mostar. We crossed the border and got a stamp in our books at a deserted passport control center.Since 1995, tourism has increased steadily but still many people are hesitant to come here, so it wasn’t surprising that it was empty. We were asked for our car registration as well as our passports. They will also make sure that the car is internationally insured.

Having no problems, we set out on our way. Only to loose our navigation guide in our car as the roads and streets in Bosnia have not been mapped out yet. We had to rely strictly on road signs guiding us in the direction of Mostar, which to be honest was not a problem. Even if at times, the sign to Mostar was X’d out, we followed the sign anyways because there was no other option.

IMG_4414As we finally began to reach the outskirts of Mostar, we were a bit alarmed to see so many buildings still left abandoned and destroyed from the war with bullet holes leaving much to the imagination. But, having already driven through some of the back roads of Croatia and seeing this already, we weren’t at all put off by this.

Once directly in the city center, we followed the street signs clearly guiding us to the Stari Most bridge. We found parking easily for 5€ for the entire day. We were worried about leaving our car sitting out full of our luggage, but there was a lady standing at the ready to collect our money to make sure we paid for parking. This we felt, made us feel better that she was clearly watching over her parking lot.

The walk from the parking lot was only about 5 minutes before reaching the touristy shops, cafes and restaurants lining the walk way leading to the bridge. I immediately saw the mosaic lamps and knew I was going to end up buying one! They were just so pretty!! Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina - California Globetrotter

Now, to the best part of the trip!:

IMG_4401The Stari Most bridge that is currently standing there is actually a reconstruction of a bridge that had been built by the Ottomans which previously stood there for 427 years before being destroyed in 1993 by the Croats during the Croat-Bosniak War. The bridge was rebuilt and opened again to the public in 2004.

It has become a national image of Bosnia as it represents one of the finest examples of Islamic architecture in the Balkans. It is a small but steep bridge that rises high above the emerald green Neretva River. I had never before seen a river of such stunning colors and our pictures hardly do the beauty justice!

Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina - California Globetrotter

While here, we had the chance to see a small group of three men, advertising themselves for money, that if given enough money, they would jump off of the bridge and drive into the flowing river. I had previously read that they wouldn’t jump for less than 30€. Knowing this, I paid a 1€ hoping to encourage them to jump sooner so we could get out of the heat. They would tease the crowd and work us up, anxiously waiting, standing at the ready to snap a picture of them leaping from the bridge before doing a perfect dive into the water. After some time, one would finally jump. While there, we got to watch two of the guys jump with their arms soaring behind them.

It was very interesting to see the small old town of Mostar built high up along the cliffs hovering over the river.

 

After watching this spectacle, we meandered though the small walkways enjoying looking at one souvenir shop after another. I don’t normally buy souvenirs other than stickers or postcards for my scrapbooks, but today, I bought two souvenirs. I felt the need to splurge a little on an adventure that turned out to be well worth the effort of going! I bought a hand crafted mosaic lamp as well as a traditional copper painted coffee pot. They were just so pretty!

It must have been the heat! The heat was so extreme the afternoon we were there. I have never sweated before so much in all my life just from standing in the sun. The heat was at least 40*C/100*F+. I was dying and desperately wishing I had bought one of the parasols in Split! It was unbearable!

IMG_4420Eventually, we made our way towards the end of the small walkway and we found a little Bazaar which we went inside and looked around. It was here that we also saw a sign that signaled for the best view of the bridge in the whole town. However, in order to check out the best view of the whole town, you had to buy a ticket first which gave you access both to the view and inside the mosque for 5€.

We took a quick peak inside of the Koski Mehmed-pasha’s mosque which had been built in 1617 along the rocky cliffs of the Neretva river. This was definitely a first for me to visit a mosque and I wasn’t sure really how to behave in the mosque. I assumed no different than any other church but I didn’t stay long as I wasn’t sure if I would offend anyone by showing my shoulders. This was the first time I had ever visited a country which was predominantly Muslim.

Afterwards, we sat for a while along the wall which was behind the mosque. It was here that you could enjoy the best view of the bridge. I was losing my patience with the heat so we didn’t stay for very long before we headed back towards the bridge.

Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina - California Globetrotter

We decided to go down to the river and get a view of the bridge at a different angle. Again, we waited and waited for a guy to jump and not being able to stand the unbearable heat anymore, we walked the few steps up to the bar/café that was built into the cliff below the bridge and sat in the shade drinking ice cold water before the man jumped.

Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina - California Globetrotter

Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina - California Globetrotter

After that, we hauled butt back to the car where air conditioning and more ice cold water in our ice chest sat waiting for us. We gulped down a bottle of water each before getting back on the road and headed to Dubrovnik.

We would have to go through the Bosnian-Croatian border two more times before reaching Dubrovnik. So my passport, being the non-EU citizen received many new stamps which made me a happy traveler as in Europe, I almost never get stamps. However, at the border right after Bosnia’s only beach resort town, Neum, we had to wait an hour in traffic to get through the border control. Apparently, more people go into Croatia than go into Bosnia.

Overall, I was really glad we went and discovered for ourselves how it was to visit Bosnia. I’m sure the safety regulations of people is very real in Bosnia, but you never know when and where a terrorist attack might hit. And while the idea of unknown, un-detonated landmines was a scary thought, it’s really no different than living here in Germany and still discovering un-detonated WWII bombs. Just a month prior to our vacation, the very town that I live in found a large WWII bomb that had to be carefully removed. Last year, a street I take to get to work every day was roped off and surrounded by cops only to find out later that 5 un-detonated WWII bombs had been found.

Now, I will never specifically put myself or anyone else directly in harms way, but knowing that Bosnia very badly wants to join the Eurozone, I felt that it had to be somewhat safe considering there are many regulations a country must follow before they can join the Eurozone.

Mostar was surprisingly a very touristy little destination and the service here was great. You can tell that they desperately want the tourists to come. In fact, it is projected that Bosnia will have the third highest tourism growth rate between 1995-2020. If you build it, they shall come, right? Mostar is even ranked the 113th best travel destination by Lonely Planet in the world, therefore it should NOT be missed!

Tourists are the livelihood of countries struggling to make a foothold in this world. If the tourists will come, the economy will get better and the living conditions of people will get improve. While I was never worried about myself of Hans while we were in Mostar, there were people, especially women and children begging for money. This, I did not see as a threat or danger to our visit. It only made you want to help them.

Tips before visiting Mostar:

    • Don’t leave your house without your passport & car registration!!
    • If you don’t have Bosnian money, you can pay the toll with your Credit Card!
    • In Mostar, they accept Euros!
    • From Split to the border, the toll was 49 Kuna/6.49€
    • After the border, another small toll was 1.20 KM (Bosnian)/.80cents €
    • Bring a paper map!! Your navigation system won’t do you good!
    • Follow the road signs which will lead you to where you need to go!
    • Stay on all main roads! Do not go on any back roads!
    • If you go in the summer, bring plenty of water, a hat and umbrella for shade!

Check off your Travel Bucket List with Lonely Planet’s ULTIMATE Travelist book which ranks all of the BEST locations on the planet! It makes for great home decor or a conversation starter!

Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travel: Our List of the 500 Best Places to See… Ranked

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you click on one and make a purchase, I might make a little extra spending money, at no extra cost to you. As always, all opinions are my own and these products/services have been found useful during our travels and come highly recommended to you from yours truly!

For more blogs about Croatia:

Plitvice Lakes National Park

Zadar

Krka National Park

Split

Dubrovnik

Zagreb

Be sure to check out other blogs from this adventure:

The “Alpine Pearl”: Lake Bled, Slovenia

The Land of Dragons: Ljubljana, Slovenia

Liked this post? PIN IT FOR LATER!!

img_7473

Save

Author: California Globetrotter

At 14 I started traveling the world with my parents and was hooked! By 21 I was studying abroad in Heidelberg, Germany. By 26 I sold all of my belongings and bought a one way ticket to Germany to teach English. Little did I know, I'd meet the love of my life and end up traveling to the most romantic and idyllic towns in Europe and becoming a long-term expat in Bavaria! My name is Lorelei and I'm just your typical CaliGirl, Sunset Chaser, Fairytale Dreamer, Dress Lover, Traveloholic, Beer Drinker!

18 thoughts on “To Go or Not to Go?: Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina

  1. Loved your Pictures they where amazing. Looks a great place to visit
    Mark

  2. I’ve seen many photos of Mostar and it looks very pretty and worth the detour to visit! well indeed if you stay on the main roads you have no fear of landmines…I guess it’s expensive to comb an entire country for bombs and then again I take those warnings with a grain of salt!

  3. Hoping to make it to Bosnia next time I’m in Europe, as my family is from there. Its good to be aware of your surroundings, but it’s fine if you stick to the main roads. People worry about mines in Bosnia, but most of these people probably don’t know that there are land mines in remote parts of Plitvice! Nice photos🙂

  4. Pingback: Diocletian’s Palace: Split, Croatia | California Globetrotter

  5. Pingback: The Glory of Krka National Park, Croatia | California Globetrotter

  6. Pingback: A Brief Encounter with Zadar, Croatia! | California Globetrotter

  7. Pingback: The Heart of Croatia: Plitvice Lakes National Park | California Globetrotter

  8. Pingback: The Land of Dragons: Ljubljana, Slovenia | California Globetrotter

  9. Pingback: The “Alpine Pearl”: Lake Bled, Slovenia | California Globetrotter

  10. Why you felt that Bosnia was dangerous, I really cannot understand….a bizarre outlook! As you say, the war has been over for more than 20 years. To visit Bosnia and only stick to the main roads means you’re missing so much – and this won’t make yourself any safer. Roads – even small ones – were the first places to be cleared of land mines. Yes, some inter-communal tensions do exist but foreign visitors are certainly not at risk.

  11. Pingback: The Pearl of the Adriatic: Dubrovnik, Croatia | California Globetrotter

  12. Pingback: YOL-2015-O | California Globetrotter

  13. Pingback: The Hipster Capital of Croatia: Zagreb! | California Globetrotter

  14. Pingback: Superlatives of 2015 | California Globetrotter

  15. Pingback: What are your travel souvenirs? | California Globetrotter

  16. We were in Mostar last year. Such a beautiful city but yet still obvious signs of the war. Felt totally safe and it never crossed our minds. I did go off the path up at the cross on the hill. Probably a dumb idea but it turned out fine. Our phone uses a GPS called copilot that worked awesome there. Would love to go back.

    • This was the first time I had ever spontaneously just went to a country without knowing much about it. I knew the war has been over for a long time but didn’t know how safe it was and I had heard that it could still be dangerous and the US department had the statement, but I wanted to go so badly we went and it turned out fine! Would love to explore more too!

  17. Pingback: A Taste of Europe Bucket List | California Globetrotter

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s