So it was time to leave Belgrade and head for Mostar. Matt was gone and I was now alone.
I was traveling by bus and due to a few previous experiences I wasn't exactly looking forward to the 10 hour journey. I had chosen a bus which left early evening so that in theory the temperature on the bus would be bearable. Luckily it was and I even managed to spread out as the seats were quite spacious and there weren't many people on board. The journey went smoothly other than the border crossing. The guard was asking me for a "white card" which meant nothing to me so he took my passport away but eventually came back 10 minutes later without staying another word.
The Crooked Bridge
Turns out I should have registered in Belgrade at the local police station who would have given me this "white card" which I then pass over at the border (I think).
So I had been to Mostar before but never really as a tourist so I was naturally excited. My memories of the city from previous visits were that it was very pretty, very hot and there are nutters that jump off bridges for fun!
Geographically Mostar isn't a million miles from Belgrade yet the difference in temperature is unbelievable. In England if we hit 30 degrees then the news papers are reporting how we are in the middle of a heat wave and we are banned from using hose-pipes! Belgrade was around the 32 degrees mark when I was there so I was nowhere close to being prepared for the Mostar heat which ranged from 38 - 42 degrees depending on who you spoke to.
Stari Most (Old Bridge)
It was at this point that I was very grateful that I had paid for a hotel room with air-conditioning. I was staying in a beautiful hotel called "Hotel Kriva Cuprija" which translates to "Crooked Bridge". The hotel is named due to its location next to the Crooked Bridge which flows over the river Radobolja. The bridge was constructed under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. Despite suffering damage during the war (1992 - 1995) it remained standing until 31st December 1999 when it collapsed as a result of winter floods. It was rebuilt in 2002.
The hotel is probably one of the prettiest I have stayed in. Everywhere you look you see something different and interesting.
The hotel was situated in the old town part of Mostar which also happens to be the Muslim side of the town.
I am not entirely sure of how things were before the war but since things calmed down the town has been split into two sides. On the Eastern side of the town it is predominantly Muslim whilst on the west side it is predominantly Croatian (Catholic). The town is now split geographically by a road which divides east from west and was the confrontation line during the war. This road is called "Bulevar" and it was quite strange to walk along knowing the history. This road seemed to suffer alot of damage and even know there are alot of buildings (including schools) which look like they are about to fall down. It is just a constant reminder.
During my stay in Mostar I had arranged to meet a fellow TravBuddy member called Marija (Track8).
Confontration line (Bulevar)
I am normally rubbish at meeting new people and normally seem to avoid such situations. Random meetings are fine but I can't seem to cope with arranged meetings. Luckily Marija was lovely and it wasn't long before I felt comfortable and we were chatting random rubbish. Other than meeting someone who I hope to stay in touch with it was also great to speak to someone who 1) Had a first hand experience of the war and 2) showed me areas of the town which never seem to get mentioned in the guide books.
All of the guides to Mostar I read seem to talk predominantly about the Old Town which means most people spend most of their time over the Eastern side and they don't get to see the Western (Croat) part of town. Marija kindly took me over to the western side and it was really strange how different things were compared to the Eastern side.
The "King" of Mostar & friend
I know it is all down to beliefs and religion but to think that a 5 minute walk out of the old town is almost like stepping into a different world. The Croatian side of Mostar is alot more like a small town you would see in England. The clothes that are worn by people on the streets. The number of bars is massive in comparison to the Eastern side. The things on sale in various shops all point to the huge differences in beliefs & opinions of this divided town.
As mentioned earlier Marija was in Mostar during the war. She was a teenager so remembers most of what happened. She described how for a while she lived in a neighbours basement to stay safe from the constant enemy fire but after a while this became impractical so eventually resorted to going back to normal ways and returning to the family home and basically just hoping for the best.
Me with the "King" and friends
It was really good to hear these stories from someone who has actually lived through them.
I spent 3 days/nights in Mostar and basically just took it easy. It isn't a huge place so it is very easy to walk around and just take everything in. I just relaxed, ate and drank which is my idea of a good time :)
The food in Bosnia is not that different from Belgrade - Lots of meat! I ate yet more steak as well as a traditional dish called a "Herzegovinian Plate" which was lamb, rice and potatoes. Tasted good and was huge!
The nightlife in Mostar does exist but as I was there Monday - Wednesday things were fairly quiet. I spent the first two evenings with Marija which involved lots of chat and sensible amounts of alcohol.
Tom with the "King" and friends
The last night I spent alone so I decided to watch the football. I settled down in a bar called "Marshall" (as in the Amplifier company - Same logo and everything) to watch the game when I heard a couple of Australian accents. They belonged to a brother and sister (Tom & Peta) who were traveling together and had spent the day in Mostar. We got chatting and after the game Tom & I went for a few drinks. We started off in a bar called "Sky Lounge" which was a rooftop bar, 5 floors up with a great view of the town. We then headed to another bar whose name escapes me. It was right next to the river and instead of chairs people sat on huge cushions on the floor. It was empty but we got chatting to a few locals.
There was one guy flanked by two women whilst sipping cocktails. Tom & I christened him the "King of Mostar" which he seemed to quite like! :)
Now it was time to leave I really didn't want to - The place was so relaxing (if you avoid the heat) and I was curious to see what the place was like at the weekend. Oh well, Sarajevo beckons (via another bus journey...)