Listening to footsteps echo on cobblestone streets.
Enjoying a mountain view while sipping on morning’s cup of coffee.
Listening to tranquil sounds of waterfalls spill into running rivers.
Warming up with espresso and a poached apple filled with steaming spices.
Posing for photos on the world’s most well-known Ottoman-era bridge.
Cooling down with chill music and fresh draft beer.
Enjoying lunch while watching children and their parents enjoy the sun shining down on them.
Differentiating between a mosque’s call to prayer and a church’s bells ringing simultaneously.
Getting lost on streets with contrasting buildings, some destroyed, some rebuilt, some protected.
Visiting a restaurant for late lunch and receiving an invitation to the next day’s breakfast from the chef himself.
Waking up at 3am to watch the Broncos celebrate their Super Bowl 50 victory.
Shooting photos for a local bed and breakfast to include in their website.
Learning about the craft of copper stamping from a fifth-generation artisan. Wandering over bridges near a miniature Niagara Falls.
Finding a statue of Bruce Lee in the city park.
These are a few of my favorite things in central Bosnia and Hercegovina.
Click on an image to see Old Town Mostar up close:
Mostar, a city in southern Bosnia and Herzegovina of just over 110,000, dates back to prehistoric times. Its most famous entity is Stari Most: the Old Bridge. Surviving over 425 years, the bridge was hit hard by Croatian military and fell in 1993. Reconstructed from 1997 to 2004, it was rebuilt using the original stones. Incredible! It’s an outstanding piece of architecture, and a very important piece of the city’s culture. Originally commissioned by the longest running emperor of the Ottoman Era, Suleiman the Magnificent, it has recently become a tourist attraction and each year brings thousands to its side to take a true leap of faith. In the summertime, Red Bull Cliff Diving, the same event that drew me to Ponta Delgada, Portugal last July, hosts an annual competition of some of the world’s best athletes twisting and turning from above its arched walkway.
I arrived in Mostar just before sundown, checked into Elite Guest House, a family-run property, and immediately went in search of this fantastic structure. It was a quiet walk down the cobblestone pedestrian streets of the city, as traveling in off-season leaves the city ringing in near silence. Stone restaurants and privately owned shops closed for winter could have felt cold and lonely in another city. But here, they were charming. Small groups of friends and scatters of couples walked up and down the street. I was alone but couldn’t help but soak in the romantic appeal of such a place.
Click on an image to see Old Town Mostar up close:
After a time of getting blissfully lost, I found myself once again at the guest house and tucked myself in for a good night’s sleep. The next morning, I enjoyed a relaxing few hours taking in the city’s coffee culture where, like in Sarajevo, locals sit for hours on end slowly sipping on steaming beverages with little to worry or occupy their minds otherwise. Next came a lunch invitation at Aščinica “Saray”, a cafe with a patio large enough to double as a playground, perfect for a sunny day. Despite a light mist filling the air, children scramble about the space and played in the shadow of nearby Ćejvan-Ćehaja’s Mosque as their parents talked over grilled cevapi and a warm soup of begova corba. I washed my meal of Saray – a kebab with chicken, vegetables and cevapi – down with Cedevita, an exotic-sounding beverage that made me laugh as I took a sip and realized it’s simply the Balkans’ version of Tang.
To fill the afternoon, I escaped to a secluded spot 15 kilometers from Mostar. A long dirt road leads to Blagaj, a waterfall, shallow and wide, with a Dervish Tekke perched on its edge. The views are beyond picturesque with the white building situated above flowing turquoise waters and below shining Persian orange cliffs. A settlement originally inhabited in 3rd century B.C., it is was once ruled by Herceg Stjepan, whom Hercegovina is named after. The tekke, a two-story white building, is a sacred place and women and men must both dress appropriately. I covered my hair with a silk scarf and wrapped a cotton skirt around my waist. Most other visitors decided the extra dress wasn’t worth their time, and walked away from the tekke to sit at a nearby cafe. Inside, they missed discovering rooms filled wall to wall with vibrant turkish rugs, a personal turkish hammam, and several texts written in arabic. It was empty and completely quiet other than one man who say in prayer near a window overlooking the falls, and two others sauntering about.
Without joining in the coffee culture, an hour was more than enough time to see the house, relax at the falls, and take walk around the nearby village.
Click on an image to see the Dervish Tekkie of Blagaj up close:
The following day, I had a big ‘first’ – a photo shoot of the guest house I was staying at! In exchange for three delightful days’ housing with coffees, cappuccinos and chocolatey treats, I took my camera and defined their rental units through twenty images. It was too difficult to choose just twenty shots, so I minimally edited forty and passed them off to the couple on a flash drive for use on their website. Someday soon they’ll be up and used to attract visitors to stay at their lovely guest homes, where waterfalls and Stari Most views are part of each day’s back porch delights.
After passing off the photos, I went back to old town for my final Bosnian cevipcici. Just when I thought I couldn’t eat more than the tomato and cheese salad, meat and bread platter, and fresh red pepper spread, the chef of Kulluk himself requested I sample dessert. Out came a full poached apple stuffed with walnut spread and topped with fresh whipped cream. It was like an inside-out apple pie. Bite by bite I found space to take in the savory treat, and when my bowl was empty, I thought the waiter was going to have to roll me down the stairs and out the door. Patting my stomach to show satisfaction, I complimented the chef and immediately he asked when I would be leaving town.
“Tomorrow,” I replied with a shrug, “This was the perfect last meal to eat in Mostar.”
“No, no. Not last. Tomorrow I’ll see you at lunch.”
I was to leave from Mostar the next morning so the next day’s lunch would not be had at this riverside restaurant, but if I’m one day able to return, I will happily do so and will come very very hungry.
Click on an image to see the main city of Mostar up close:
Just a short walk away, I crossed over Stari Most, passed through old town, and examined the buildings of Mostar’s main city. Like Sarajevo, the city was recently struck by war and though many building have been reconstructed, there are areas within the town where structure after structure are completely gutted by fire and splattered with bullet holes. Reflecting the spirit of local citizens, nature has begun to take its course and in many spaces, flowers can be seen growing in cracks and crevices. A park near several such buildings was full of young children playing. In its center is a gold statue symbolizing happiness and unification. A person all locals agree to love and admire, despite their own religions or ethnicities is kung fu superstar Bruce Lee. A unique way to join people together, his life-size golden figure is more symbolic than any building or bridge could ever be. It shows off the special lighthearted love that defines this city.