The historic city of Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina is both charming and complicated; idyllic and evocative. The first sight of the centerpiece bridge makes visitors swoon – but seeking out lesser-visited corners of the city can result in an everlasting love. When we visit Mostar, we like to dig into the history, venture into nature and connect with locals. Since we’ve spent more time in Mostar than most tourists, we’ve devised a list of 21 things to do in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina to help other travelers experience the city.
Throughout our journey, there have been certain places that have captivated us – Mostar is one of them. In so many ways it resembles the other fairytale European cities we’ve visited, with the quaint historic center so appealing draped across the Old Bridge and down both sides of the Neretva River. But with the recent war and differing religions, it felt oddly foreign for Europe. As our mini-van bus rolled out toward Split, Croatia, we reflected on our week in Mostar and were glad we spent more than the average half day most tourists give the city.
It would be impossible to visit Mostar and not notice the co-existing religions in the small town, as both churches and mosques are part of the landscape. Historically, Serbian Orthodox Christians, Bosnian Muslims and Croatian Catholics – and even a few Jewish families – resided peacefully throughout the river valley. The Croat-Bosniak War in the early 1990s not only damaged the city, but also changed the harmonious intermingling of Mostar’s religions, but even today we can hear the church bells keeping the time and the Muslim call to prayer.
Historically, Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina was a model city for citizens of differing ethnic and religious backgrounds to peacefully co-exist. The Croat-Bosniak War in the early 1990s shattered that notion. We aren’t going to pretend to understand how the war has affected the people and city of Mostar today; we can only imagine that it isn’t the harmonious place it once was.
From our observations as week-long visitors, we don’t see or feel any tension among the people, but the remaining physical evidence is quite apparent. While the historic center has been restored, the area around it is in various stages of reconstruction. Several buildings barely still standing are left in ruins; a daunting, daily reminder of the recent war. Since I feel as if I’m failing to accurately describe it in words, I will let the pictures tell the story.
We’re continuing our stay in the Balkan region, this time spending a week inland in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina. I regrettably admit that my knowledge of this area is based on a weak recollection of high school social studies – and suffice it to say that isn’t getting me very far. We are learning as we go, reading as much history as we can, while getting a true history lesson just by walking down the street. So far, we’ve had a great introduction to Mostar.
An introduction to Mostar: The Old Town
The historic old town, a UNESCO site, sits prettily along the banks of the swiftly moving, green colored, Neretva River with mountains rising around it. Taking in the panoramic view, we see a soaring church bell tower and several mosque minarets throughout the city nestled in the valley. At first glance, the entire scene evokes thoughts of a pleasant, idyllic town.