Mostar and Bosnia-Herzegovina

I paused mid-chew as I realized in horror what I had just done. Moments ago I had picked up a dirty Bosnia-Herzegovina mark coin from the ground with the very fingers that now tore apart my deliciously  greasy chevapi and plucked the food into my mouth.

For a moment I longed for my western-world hand sanitizer, and with it the free wifi, credit card acceptance, and the plastic silverware I have grown so accustomed to. After a pause, I shrugged and continued eating. After all – this is real backpacking. Sitting in a dirty bus station, eating greasy chevapi with a fresh refill of tap water in my worn non-BPA free plastic water bottle, waiting for a bus to Croatia in 90 degree heat that was already 30 minutes late. And I’d be lucky if the bus had AC.

Mostar and Stari Most Bridge

I had just finished my two day visit in Mostar, whose Old Town and Stari Most Bridge was said to make one feel as if they were in a living fairytale.

Mostar did not dissapoint, with vistas and scenery that were shockingly beautiful. Ancient mosques appeared as common in Bosnia-Herzegovina as churches are in New England, their long, round towers thrusting into the Mostar sky as declerations of Muslim influence.

Most main cities and towns in Eastern Europe seem to have an old town, with coffee shops and restaurants scattered along crumbling towers and alleyway ruins of a different time. All Old Towns are charming initially, but once you’ve seen a few, you’ve basically seen them all. We get it, Europe has lots of old stuff. In America, something that has stood for 100 years is ancient. In Europe, that’s not even worth a low quality picture on your 50GB SD card.

While in Mostar I stayed at a lovely little Pansion run by a woman named Tanya. Tanya was an eager host, more than happy to help her guests. Tanya (and others in Bosnia-Herzegovina it seems) had a manner of speaking in which she would call girls “lady”. As in, “lady, lady, you can come sit over here,” or “lady, it’s OK, do not worry about it lady.” Super hilarious. I would have enjoyed it more had she called me “Lady Megan” Downton Abbey-style, but that’d be spoiling me a bit too much.

When I first arrived at my hostel, I asked Tanya if I could arrange to go rafting that morning. I had purposely taken a very early bus to make it in time for rafting, but Tanya shot down those dreams, informing me it was too late.

Just for the record, I had e-mailed the hostel the day before asking if I could do rafting, what the price would be, a description of the tour, what time I would have to arrive, and some transit questions. The response e-mail only read (verbatim), “RAFTING IS @ 9:00 a.m. so only tour you can take. From where you arrive, I can wait you at the bus station” so I had a feeling these plans would fall through.

Tanya informed me that I could sign up for a tour of the Herzegovina region instead. It would be lead by Tanya’s husband, who would take me and three other girls around in his car. Tanya’s husband, whose name I never learned, was a man of few words. Then again, maybe he was a man of many words – the problem was he didn’t speak any English whatsoever. So we were being given a tour by a man who was basically mute for all intensive purposes.

Our mute-man took us to a number of areas around Mostar. We visited:

  • Blagaj: A small town known for its Dervish monastery. What is a dervish you ask? I was wondering the same thing. Apparently a dervish is a sufi muslim devoted to a life of simple living. I keep reading that and thinking “surfing muslim,” but I’m pretty sure those only exist in California. Or nowhere. We got to walk through the surfing muslim monastery, which was situated right on the beautiful Buna river.
  • Pocitelj: A cool old city with fortified medieval walls that was an important strategic spot. I’ve been reading the¬†A Song of Fire and Ice series throughout this trip, so I keep running around old castle ruins and think “The Lannisters are attacking, man the turrets!” or “release the wildfire- we’ll burn those stinking lions to the ground,” making old castle stuff ridiculously fun and entertaining.
  • Medugorje: Hilarious because I had just left Medugorje that very day, and somehow I ended up back there. I did get to see the Jesus statue that apparently has miraculous oozy oil coming out of it’s knee (it wasn’t oozing when I was there), which I had missed the first time around.
  • Kravice Waterfalls: Really amazing, beautiful waterfalls that poured into a little pond you could swim in. I’m very proud of myself because I saw not one but TWO water snakes and still went in the water. If that isn’t brave, I don’t know what is.

The places we went were great, but I thought it ended up being quite the rip off: 30 euro just to have some mute dude drive us around. But I became fast friends with the hilarious Netherland girls who were doing the tour as well. The four of us went out to dinner, where I had Dolma Japrak, a dish of minced meat wrapped in soft peppers – delicious. Of course anywhere in Europe, no meal is complete without gelato!

I spent the next morning trying to buy souvenirs by awkwardly haggling. I always like to imagine myself as some sassy, smart-talking street-wise gal from the hood who talks down street vendors with ease, but I’m actually terrible at haggling. Usually my bartering efforts go something like this:

Me: How much is this?
Old Bosnian Lady: 5 euro
Me: Ohhh…would you do 3 euro?
Old Bosnian Lady: No.
Me: Um. OK. Here you are *hands lady 5 euro*

Even worse was in Thailand, where whenever I tried to haggle, the ladies would say “Please, I have to feed my family!” and then I would feel so guilt-ridden as a terrible-evil-demon-thrifter that I’d pay them more than they wanted. Haha, no. I just ran away.

Mostar – you are like an historic theme park of magic and wonder, but without green slime or giant mouse costumes. I will miss you sorely. I don’t hear much talk about Mostar, but it truly is the most beautiful place I’ve been so far in my trip. If you are in the area, it’s a must see!

P.S. I never quite got the hang of saying “Bosnia-Herzegovina.” Usually I just would say “Bosnia-Herz…a..gov..”*mumble* Usually this sufficed.

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