I remember seeing, as a child, a photograph showing daring young Yugoslav men jumping from a bridge into impossibly blue water below. It struck me as very exciting and must have made quite an impression on me as I told myself that one day I would see it for myself. The bridge was in Mostar which is now in the independent country of Bosnia and Herzegovina; more specifically, it is the regional capital of the province of Herzegovina in the south west of the country. There is a bridge there today but it is not the original; that was blown up by a Croatian rocket during the Bosnian war but after the war it was rebuilt, partly using the original materials which fell into the gorge below. In the summer of 2009 I was able to visit this city I had longed to see for so many years and found a small but charming place that has so much more to offer than just this famous bridge.
Mostar was the first call on our brief tour of Bosnia; we came by bus from the Croatian coastal city of Split. As the crow flies the distance is not great but the mighty Dinaric Alps form a barrier between the two and this makes the journey duration much longer. We left Split at 6.00am which was not ideal but the journey took three and a half hours whereas the 9.00am coach journey took over five hours. Due to the geography it’s not possible to make this journey by train. If you are coming from the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, the journey takes approximately three hours. Train travel is possible but takes much longer and unfortunately we did not have enough time for that luxury.
We stayed on until the final stop as we figured we could get our bearings better by locating the bus station on the map and working from there. The bus station was only half built, or perhaps it was half demolished. Judging by our small Lonely Planet map we hadn’t been dropped at the main station. We started walking and tried to find a landmark but within minutes we were approached by an elderly man who offered us a room and he showed us on the map that it was close to the Old Town of Mostar and very close to the main bus station which would be useful for our departure. He was a Professor of Engineering at the University and he rented out several rooms in a rambling house on a quiet street. It was very basic but clean and comfortable with our own bathroom. Before we went out to explore, our host kindly made us Bosnian coffee (similar to the Turkish was of serving it) and presented us with a plate of sweet grapes from his own vines. Later we had figs from the garden too.