Magical Mostar

A town deeply steeped in history, one that traces its origins as far back as the Roman empire and once stood at the crossroads of the Christian and the Ottoman empire, such is Mostar. A town whose striking architecture is a delightful amalgamation of the two  distinct yet such complementary styles, something you will be hard pressed to find elsewhere. Mostar, the erstwhile capital of Herzegovina, is one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse towns in Europe and even though it suffered huge losses in the Yugoslav conflict, has rebuilded its magnificently and is a must see destination in SE Europe.

The Neretva river flowing through Mostar

But why Mostar, one may ask, in the Baltic states, where there is such known beauty as the Croatian coast, and the alpine wonderland of Slovenia. Mostar, and in general Bosnia & Herzegovina (B&H) was heavily bombed post the breakup of Yugoslavia and not much is known about visiting the country. During the initial planning my SE Europe roadtrip, I had never thought of visiting B&H or Montenegro (will be covered in a separate post). However, as I began charting my route through Slovenia and Croatia and i realized how much the geography of that region had changed since I had last studied a map of that region seriously (probably in middle school). So I got digging and reading about these other countries bordering Croatia and was hooked. These were as off the beaten track as you can go. A slight sense of foreboding and a feeling of adventure beckoned. Plus, the fact that having a multiple entry Schengen visa, you can travel freely within these four countries is a big advantage.


Reading up on limited information on different blogs and guides online, I felt that the cities of Kotor (Montenegro) and Mostar (B&H) were within striking distance from Croatia and could be covered without too much of a detour. I gave Kotor a night halt and decided I would drive through Mostar enroute from Kotor to Zagreb. This would give me 3-4 hours to spend in Bosnia and get a chance to drive through the Bosnian countryside. I would have loved to go to Sarajevo, but it is too far in the interior and would require another night halt and hence an extra day, something I sadly didn’t have (drawbacks of corporate life). So I picked Mostar as my Bosnian pit stop. Plus I had read in places that roads in Bosnia were sketchy in places and some areas were not so safe at night. So I thought it prudent to get in and out of B&H in the daytime.

The namesake bridge reimagined artistically

Historical Significance:

Mostar is named after the mostari (bridge keepers), who guarded the stari most (old bridge). The old city of Mostar and the Stari Most are a UNESCO world heritage site, and the entire area is a excellent example of a multicultural urban settlement with its unique blend of Ottoman, eastern european, mediterranean and western european architecture. The old bridge straddling the Neretva river is the most famous icon of Mostar and has a very interesting story. The original old bridge was completed in 1566 and was hailed as one of the most significant architectural achievements of the Ottoman empire. The bridge was designed by a student of Mimir Sinan. Sinan was the most famous Ottoman architect and apart from the Old Bridge of Mostar, his students have gone on to design the Taj Mahal and the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. The arch is a perfect semi circle and the two towers were used to store ammunition during times of war. Unfortunately, the stari most and the old town was heavily bombed and destroyed during the Bosnian war in the 90’s. The old bridge and much of the old town was however reconstructed post the war with huge support from international communities and UNESCO. In 2004, the construction of stari most (as a replica of the old bridge) and the rebuilding of the old town of Mostar were completed and stand as a symbol of reconciliation, international co-operation and of the coexistence of diverse cultural, ethnic and religious communities.

The Stari Most over the vivid waters of the Neretva

Getting back to my trip, I reached Mostar after crossing into B&H from Montenegro and following the M20 highway through the delightful Bosnian countryside. Buildings marked with shell fire from the war occasionally make an appearance and a grim reminder of the conflict that only recently ended and brought peace to this region. But the narrow, winding roads amidst the greenery covered hills are a pleasure to drive through. Most of it looked like rolling wine country to me, though I’m not sure if the trees were actually growing grapes or some other fruit.

Once you reach Mostar, find a parking spot close to the old town and wander around eating a gelato (or two) and admiring the quaint old town with its narrow cobblestoned streets. I’ve walked through dozens of towns with cobblestoned streets in western europe, but Mostar is striking different because the architecture is such a diverse combination of Ottoman and European influences. It is strange yet refreshing to see ancient churches next to equally ancient mosques. Make your way to the old bridge and you’re transported back to the 15th century as you admire the striking green color of the Neretva river gushing down below. Since Mostar hasn’t been on the tourist radar (probably because of the war), it is not overrun by hordes of tourists (yet!), and you can actually enjoy your walk across the bridge without being jostled by an army of selfie-stick toting tourists. I sincerely hope it stays that way. I have read that you can find members of the Mostar diving club jumping off the old bridge into the waters of the Neretva, but sadly they were not there they day I visited.


Cheese and meat are an integral part of Bosnian cuisine, so be sure to grab lunch at one of the many cafes dotting the old town. Freshly baked bread with cheese and local spices are delicious and extremely cheap and so it the coffee. I also tried a pizza slice, very tasty and there is something different about the cheese they use that makes it unique. English is not that common amongst locals yet, but deciphering and ordering from a non-english menu, and explaining what you want to the your server is a great cultural experience and highly recommended. I washed down my lunch with another scoop of extremely delicious (and did I mention cheap, 2 scoops for less than an Euro) gelato while strolling around the old town center.

The cobblestoned streets of Stari Grad

Mouthwatering Gelato

Four hours flew by in a jiffy, and soon it was time to hit the road again, as I wanted to make it to Zagreb that night. Had I known how charming Mostar was I would have gladly spent the night there. There are paths to make your way down to the Neretva river, which allow you to photograph the Stari Most from an unique angle, something I wish I had time to do! I’m so glad that I decided to stop at Mostar, it was one of the places I was not expecting anything out of, but turned out to be one of the most mystical and serene places I’ve ever visited.



I of course was driving through South-eastern Europe, and reached Mostar via road from Kotor (via the M20). It is a 3 and a half hour drive taking into account the border crossing and some stops for picture taking. The border crossing is painless while entering B&H, but there may be a line while crossing back into Croatia. However it also connected via bus to most major cities, though departures are not that many. I would highly recommend renting a car if possible, its cheap and gives you a lot of flexibility allowing you to explore a lot more in a short duration of time.

A cheese and meat based pastry (similar to a calzone) and excellent pizza

The currency of B&H is the BAM (no idea how they came up with that acronym, but its 2 BAM to a euro) and things are much cheaper here than in Croatia and Slovenia. Most places however gladly take Euros and Kuna and if you’re lucky some might also give you change back in Euros/Kuna if you tell them you’re headed back to those countries.

An all star football team shops here perhaps!?!

All images in this post are copyright and cannot be downloaded, copied or used without permission of the author.

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