Saturday, 24 August 2013

WAR!! what is it good for? Part 2 - The Mostar Chronicles

Reading Cat's last post I feel pretty sorry for her. She is the travel operator & expedition coordinator on this thing but anyone could of made that mistake & to go this long without a hiccup is no mean feat. As we arrived in Mostar we headed to the bus station's info point. With so many different companies it is very difficult to get accurate & reliable coach information on line. Within a few minutes we learnt of a direct route to Montenegro! No more travelling back to Dubrovnik & then onto Montenegro. The lady at the bus station told us about a bus that will go directly from Mostar to Herceg Novi in Montenegro. Then it will be a 1 hour bus to Kotor. This saved us roughly 5 hours travel time & cost around half the price. Thanks bus lady!

Mostar was arguably even more ravaged by the war than Bosnia. The place was pretty much levelled. Similar to Bosnia in that lots of destruction remains & again randomly selected buildings have been left or renovated but here is where the similarities end. I found the whole place much more uplifting & vibrant. The locals were extremely helpful & polite. On more than one occasion a local passing us helped with directions without even being asked. Leaving Sarajevo & entering Mostar was like visiting a whole new country. Our accommodation was fantastic. Very clean private room with an excellent shared bathroom & kitchen. The bathroom had this really cool 1960's style green bathroom set with a huge corner bath tub. We both had a bath. The first in almost 6 weeks. The couple who ran the hostel were very kind & generous. On arrival we were given lemon cakes & were offered coffee every other hour. "CO  FEE"? the lady would ask at all hours. We both loved her. Red lipstick smeared across a huge smile.

Mostar is most famous for its bridge. Stari Most (Old Bridge). The bridge stood for 427 years before it was destroyed on 9th November 1993 by Bosnian Croat forces. 

Just before its eventual destruction by tank fire
A temporary rope bridge was constructed after its destruction

After the end of the war, plans were raised to reconstruct the bridge. Various world organizations & countries came together & funded the project. Experts oversaw the design and reconstruction work. It was to be rebuilt as similar as possible to the original. Using the same technology and materials. Divers even recovered stones from the original bridge from the river. Reconstruction commenced in 2001 & completed in 2004.

From the time the bridge was first built people (crazies) have been jumping from the bridge & into the river. This is a 24 metre drop & only 3 metres deep! The local divers will walk up & down the bridge collecting money from tourists.  Once he is satisfied with his donations he will stand on the other side of the railing & begin to act like WWF's Ultimate Warrior. Clapping and really laying on the tension. Many thrill seeking tourist also jump the bridge, Usually Australians.

Ultimate Warrior


The sniper tower on the front line

This was originally a bank. Some excellent graffiti adorns the walls, floors & roofs but is inhabited by junkies. It was a bank until snipers used it as a tower in the war. In England this would probably have been destroyed by now or at the very least cordoned off but not here. Here in Mostar you can just walk in & look around. A lot of guided tours come here as there are still bullet cases everywhere amongst half burned banking documents and it is 8 storeys high so you get a good view so we thought we'd have a look. We went in and it was pretty cool but eerie, we were taking pictures of what used to be the revolving doors and the graffiti, Cat was looking at some empty lift shafts & just about to walk upstairs when a junkie comes round the corner, freshly jacked up removing his tourniquet. Luckily just before he got to us some other tourists appeared & he started talking to them. He totally set off my spidey senses so we were out of there & sadly we didn't see the rest of it but we did get some cool pictures.

You can see where the revolving doors used to be

More buildings from the front line

On the right hand side of the front line
Directly opposite on the left.

Apart from eating, drinking & shopping there didn't seem to be loads to do in Mostar but because it is so nice we were happy just walking around taking photographs and just having a good time. We stopped for a beer & I found a guitar in a room next to the bar. I probably shouldn't have been in here but who cares. Oh man how I miss my guitar.

"What is this? a trolly for ants? It has to be at least...three times bigger than this"
If you have no idea what the above means then shame on you & go watch Zoolander. Later I realised that its not just the trolley that's tiny. The aisle & shelves are minuscule too. 

We found a Muslim cemetery where almost everyone died in the war in 1993 or 94. The youngest victim we saw was aged only 14.  The average age was around 30 years old. I learnt later that the cemetery occupies a plot of land that was a park before the war. The dead were buried during the cover of night to avoid snipers. 
The human victims with the physical devastation in the background.

I realise that this post has covered a lot of the war & maybe doesn't paint Mostar in the greatest light. I can honestly say that Mostar is a really nice place & the locals are warm & friendly. It's a bus ride from Dubrovnik, so if you are there on a 2 week holiday why not book a few less nights in the hotel & book a few in Mostar. Bosnia is a quarter of the price as Croatia & you get to see a lot more of the area you are visiting.

No comments:

Post a Comment