Monday, September 13, 2010

Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Mostar's most famous attraction, the Stari Most or Old Bridge.

I took a bus to Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina. On the way in and the bike ride out, I really only saw parts of Herzegovina. What I saw, I am not terribly excited about. There was great landscapes. There was interesting stuff, but it did not wow me. I can't say exactly what the issue was.

This photo was supposed to be of an empty Old Town, but caught something else like the sign 'Don't Forget.'

Old Town Mostar.

I got off the bus around 10pm. I had planned to camp no matter what even if I had to sleep under a bridge. However, an old lady walked up to me as I got off the bus and offered me a bed for 10 Euros. I was too tired to resist. I was also too tired to thoroughly inventory my gear. One of my water bottles had popped out of its cage under the bus. I did not notice it was gone until the bus was long gone. (Sorry, John Bain. It traveled well.)

Deserted Old Town.

A condemned building, I assume from war damage.

Once I got squared away in my room, I walked the five minutes through downtown to Old Town. It wasn't well lit. There was garbage everywhere and when I got to Old Town, it was deserted. Anyone hanging out was in downtown. I think I saw two open bars in Old Town. No one bothered me while I was walking, but the entire scene had a little edge to it. Maybe it was the poor lighting, maybe the garbage, maybe the look of people, maybe the last few ruined buildings. I have no idea. It just had an edge. The Korean girl in my room stayed in for the night because she was scared. I didn't think it was that bad, but it was not welcoming either. Who knows. I do know a tour group came through at 11pm. It was really weird to see a mostly senior citizen bunch passing through that late at night. I wonder if they were on an overnight bus to somewhere else.

Another condemned building. I love the decorations on this. Odd hole above the sign.

Mostar's Neretva River

The mosaic work in Old Town.

After another crappy night's sleep, it was time to explore. I found breakfast at the Tepa market and headed back to town. There is a ton of Turkish influence, they still fly flags, in Mostar. This is the first place that I have seen an abundance of mosques. While walking around, I tried to avoid the Stari Most, Mostar's most famous attraction. I couldn't. It seemed like all the roads kept leading me back that way. The bridge is famous. It is the oldest single arch stone bridge in the world, or it was until they destroyed it in the 1990s. They rebuilt it.

More Old Town.

I am not sure how I feel about the rebuild. I know Japan rebuilt Kyoto's Golden Temple too. Did we rebuild them the exact same for the tourist dollar? Are they using it functionally? Part of me feels like it is a remake of a movie like Psycho. I realize it was an important part of the city or a good movie, but what about trying something new? Is the devil we know always better? The bridge was famous right from the start, but why not build something new that might also be famous? Anyway, they rebuilt the bridge using 15th century techniques, but it still looks new compared to everything around it. It will probably fit in naturally soon enough.

A mosque in Mostar.

I love this menu.

Beyond its engineering feats, the bridge is also famous because men dive off of it to prove their manhood. It is around 20m high and the men who do it get access to a Mostar Diving Club (not the band) adjacent to the bridge. The men in the club charge money for people to watch them dive. If a tour group won't pay enough, they won't jump. I saw one guy get up on the railing trying to rile up some extra cash for his jump, but I guess the group did not pay up so he climbed back off. I sat below the bridge for over an hour soaking up the sunshine and never saw anyone dive.

The diver's club just above the Stari Most.

Stari Most.

When I finally returned to Old Town, I realized why it was deserted at night and in the early morning. Almost every single shop is a tourist shop. Some sell services, most of them sell, what I would call, tourist junk. Maybe it is authentic, maybe not. I just know it was a huge turn off. After visiting that area, I was happy to head out of town.

A small village built around a mosque in rural Bosnia and Herzegovina.

A castle in rural Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The ride back to Croatia was fantastic. I followed the beautiful Neretva river valley almost all the way back. Near Mostar, I was nestled between giant mountains, but the valley opened up as I got farther and farther away. I passed small villages, more ruined buildings, and a ton of road side fruit and honey shops. When I crossed the border, I was able to skip the entire line of cars and go to the front of the line on my bike, like an EZ pass. That was wonderful.

In the less wonderful column, while I got my camera back and it does take pictures. None of the back buttons work so I can't replay pictures I just took. They want me to bring the camera up to Budapest again to be repaired. Ugh. My external hard drive also died. Double ugh.

A damaged . . . irrigation aqueduct(?).

A random town on the way back to Croatia.

1 comment:

  1. may i please have the stari most picture and the picture of the village around the mosque in the original size?