After a few amazing days in Croatia, we were back in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Mostar, the largest city of the Herzegovina region, was in our itinerary since the very first moment we started planning the Ultimate Balkan Road Trip. It was founded in the 15th and 16th Centuries by the Ottomans and its most famous attraction is the Stari Most, the old bridge over the Neretva River.
Reaching Mostar wasn’t very difficult, the road is not in a bad shape, and the southern part of Bosnia and Herzegovina is actually nice to drive in. Unlike the northern part of the country, gas is more expensive on the southern regions, but it’s still cheaper than in the surrounding countries.
Throughout our entire journey, we used Booking.com to find accommodation in the Balkans. Pansion Most was our pick, it was rated 10/10 and the location was perfect. The owner was an amazing person! He suggested a restaurant where we could have dinner and gave us a map where he drew the perfect route to explore the city and its surroundings.
The room was very simple, a cozy bed and a clean bathroom with air conditioning and Wi-Fi included. For the fair price of 40 Bosnian marks (20€) we couldn’t ask for much more. It seemed like a good deal, even for the standards of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Trying local gastronomy is a must. Cuisine in Bosnia and Herzegovina has influences from both Western and Eastern Europe and also from the Middle East. Mostar offers a wide variety of restaurants located within the old town. The owner of Pansion Most recommended Šadrvan, an old traditional restaurant with an incredible environment.
Šadrvan became immediately one of my All-Time top restaurants. Located just a few meters away from Stari Most, it offers plenty of options to choose from. The quality of the food is incredible, the staff members are very nice and the environment is amazing. The night was warm and we sat at the terrace that overlooks the cobblestone paved street leading to the old bridge.
It was by far one of the best meals I had last year. We paid a little bit less than 20 Euros for both, we had some Rakia on the house and in the end we were given two postcards.
The Old Town
The historic city of Mostar was definitely one of the most amazing towns I visited during our Ultimate Balkan Road Trip. The influences of the Ottoman Empire make it very different from what we’re used to see in Europe. The architecture itself, is very different from the rest of the Balkans, and the cobblestone streets located within the old town, which the locals name “Kaldrma”, give a special touch to the city.
The most famous attraction is the Stari Most, the old bridge over the River Neretva. It was constructed centuries ago and destroyed on the 9th of November 1993 during the Bosnian War. It was only in 2004 that the rebuilt bridge was opened. The city holds the title of most heavily bombed city of Bosnia & Herzegovina.
The view from the bridge is incredible, but even more incredible is to have a look at it from the river and witness daredevil divers plunging into the cold river. Sadly, no one jumped from the bridge while we watched.
Not far from Stari Most, you’ll find the Crooked Bridge. A small bridge which was built 8 years prior to the Stari Most and used as a prototype for its construction. Just like the larger version, it was also damaged during the war in the 90s and later collapsed during a flood in 1999.
The bazaars of Mostar are astonishing. If you love souvenirs just like I do, I’m pretty sure you will lose your mind and buy as much as you can carry. It reminded me of Baščaršija in Sarajevo. A lot of copper and silver items, Yugoslavian antiquities, clothes, fridge magnets and once again bullet-made souvenirs just like the keychain that I bought in Sarajevo, which two months later was confiscated at Lisbon International Airport.
Due to Ottoman influence, Islam is the predominant religion in the country. That explains the number of Mosques found in the old town of Mostar. Built in the last decade of the 16th Century, Karagöz Bey Mosque is the city’s largest mosque. Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque, the city’s 2nd largest is also one of the most visited ones and it is located at only five meters from the Neretva River.
Bosnia and Herzegovina was the only country in our itinerary where we didn’t visit a single museum. Not only Mostar but the whole country has so much to offer, but time was so little, that we didn’t bother with visiting any of the museums. On my next visit to Mostar I wouldn’t mind visiting Museum of Herzegovina that according to many reviews, seems quite interesting and deserves to be visited.
Španski Trg and Park Zrivnjevac
The main square of Mostar is named Spanish Square. It is one of the city’s gathering points, located at the end of the Bulevar. In the surroundings you’ll find several points of interest just like the United World College of Mostar, also known as Mostar Gymnasium. An orange building different from everything else you’ll find in the area, with a blue fountain at the main entrance. Kim Han-sol, nephew of the Supreme Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, studied in this college between the years of 2011 and 2013.
Another building of major importance is the Sniper Tower, a former bank building that was transformed during the Bosnian War to hold city under siege. Unfortunately I didn’t pay much attention. I ended up ignoring the building and reading about it when I came back to Bulgaria.
Nearby is located Park Zrinjevac, where you can find a bronze life-sized statue of martial arts legend Bruce Lee. It was designed by Croatian sculptor Ivan Fijolić and it became the first statue of Bruce Lee unveiled in the entire world. Of course we had to shoot plenty of funny photos with the statue, just like the one below.
The small village of Blagaj is definitely one of the places to visit in the Herzegovina region. Located just within a few kilometers from Mostar, it is a mystical place, home to the sacred Blagaj Tekija, a Dervish monastery under a 200-meter high limestone cliff.
Vrelo Bune, which translates to “Buna Spring”, just like the name says, is the source of this short tributary of the Neretva River that flows under the Stari Most. The caustic cavern, beneath the cliff, from where the river flows produces one of the cleanest and coldest waters you can experience. We had been told at Pansion Most that we should try to drink this water, and that’s what we did.
On the embankments of the river you’ll find some restaurants, located just within a few meters from the Sufi monastery. We even made a new friend here, a small dog who kept following us everywhere!
Walking towards Blagaj Tekija you’ll see several signs written in Arabic script. As soon as you approach it, and in order to have access to it, an entrance fee of 4 Bosnian Marks (2€) is charged. At the main entrance we were requested to take off our shoes, and my girlfriend who was wearing shorts that day had to cover her hair with a hijab and her legs with a long skirt.
Surprisingly, photographs are allowed inside. The floor, in the greater part of the building, is covered with carpets, most of the rooms are very empty, there are a few pieces of furniture that seem of Turkish origin, some frames on the walls with quotes from the Quran in Arabic scripts and the sacred book itself found in different shelves, with covers of different colors.
There’s a small balcony overlooking the cave at the source of the Buna and right outside a few steps leading to the river. If you’re brave enough you can try and swim these cold waters until you reach the cave, or, just take a boat tour into it.
In my opinion, the best view of this amazing place, is the one you can get from the other side of the river. So just walk back, cross one of the bridges to the other side, go through one of the restaurants, and follow the path to the river spring. The photo below proves my point.
We traveled to Blagaj with the intention of visiting the Dervish House and nothing else, but there are other historical landmarks that you should bear in mind when visiting this village. A fine example is the medieval town-fort of Blagaj, Stjepan Grad, constructed during the 10th Century, on top of the cliff above the Buna River’s cavern.
The old town of Mostar is incredible and the beauty of Blagaj is astonishing, but nothing beats Bosnia & Herzegovina’s best-kept secret, Kravica Falls, which keep being erroneously called “Kravice”.
According to many people on the Internet, the last destination in our Bosnian itinerary isn’t that easy to find, even when using a GPS. For us, it went smooth. I wrote the location on my GPS and we arrived safe and sound in a short time.
We parked the car in the large parking lot, we paid the fair admission fee of 4 Bosnian Marks (2€) per person and we hiked down to the lake in the base of the waterfall, carrying only our cameras and our snorkels. As we approached we could listen to the sound of the water dropping from a height of 25 meters.
At the base there’s a restaurant and a large area for sunbathing. There is also a small boat connecting both sides of the lake, which I had considered taking, until the moment I found out how much it did cost. 5€, per person, for a quick ride, when I had just paid 2€ to visit the waterfalls? No way! I would rather jump in the water and swim, which was actually what many people were doing.
I don’t do well with cold water, so I was just standing by the lake, with my feet in the water, almost ready to jump when I saw a snake passing right next to my feet. At that moment my hopes of swimming in Kravica were destroyed. I’m not really afraid of snakes, but even so, the thought of jumping in the water and actually touching one gives me the creeps. For my surprise that snake was not the only one inhabiting the lake, there were more, many more, I wonder how many.
I told my girlfriend about it, and she was like, “Oh don’t worry, it’s fine, water snakes are not venomous, they’ll probably run from you”. As soon as I saw another snake I called her to see it, and that’s when the little guy jumps from water to come and greet her. Now she was scared to swim in those waters, and so was I, but that didn’t stop me from doing it. You don’t get to see such amazing scenario every day, I had to seize the moment, and that meant diving in the cold waters of Kravice waterfalls and swim with the snakes.
Our visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina was now over and it was time to get back on the road. The country provided us amazing views and excellent experiences. Our ride to Sarajevo had been insane but we made it safe and sound. Mostar’s beauty is something we cannot deny, I totally fell in love with the city and its surroundings. Both the village of Blagaj and the astonishing waterfalls of Kravica should be on everyone’s bucket list. As for Počitelj, I’m sad we drove past it without paying a visit, but once again, a long drive was still ahead of us.
Our Balkan adventure was still just halfway through and we were now heading back to Croatia to discover the medieval city of Dubrovnik, which serves as King’s Landing, the capital city of Westeros, in the television series Game of Thrones.
Stay tuned for the next part of The Ultimate Balkan Road Trip