Thursday, December 31, 2009

Mostar, Bosnia

As usual, Ashley and I woke up bright and early the day we went to Mostar. We had decided the day before just to go for a day trip instead of spending the night due to the previously mentioned horrendous Spanish steps of Dubrovnik and the large amount of luggage we would have been required to carry up them...mostly Ashley but I had some too. We spent some time in the morning taking pictures of Dubrovnik without the crowds around, then we caught the bus for the 3 hour drive to Mostar. It involved entering the little strip of Bosnia in a town called Neum, which required a passport check at the border.

We then got back on the bus after our quick stop, left the tiny strip of Bosnia to re-enter Croatia, with another passport check then about 30 minutes later entering Bosnia for the final time, requiring a 3rd passport check. And after all that, I didn't even get a stamp from Bosnia!

The Drive was lovely with lots of mountains and greenery.

Until 3 hours and some tiny naps later, we finally arrived in Mostar. This is what we saw:

I felt a bit concerned. All the the buildings were basically shells of buildings that had been bombed during the Civil War in the 1990's. Plants were growing inside the buildings and they were basically still bombed out and never restored. It was really surreal actually.

There was a cemetery at the first mosque we saw and almost every person there died during the Civil War. It was a little weird because some of the headstones had pictures of the people on them

So that showed that the town was getting a bit nicer, and it gradually did so the buildings looked like this instead:

Until finally we saw this!

We then proceeded to walk through the town, which was absolutely beautiful!

While walking through the city, we bought some souvenirs, which were everywhere and you could use dollars, Euros, Kuna and marks in the city. We found this cute restaurant to eat at while wandering. The owner was an incredibly nice man who made delicious chicken kebabs, rice and potatoes and freshly squeezed juice (we literally watched him squeeze it) on ICE, which if you don't know, is incredibly rare in Europe and it was only cost 6 euro. The ice made my day, because Mostar was not on the water like Dubrovnik is and it was incredibly hot and humid, but still beautiful.

So after walking to the end of the town, we saw this, realized we were at the end of the restored part of the city and turned around

From the end of the town, we walked to the river bank and looked at the Mostar Bridge from the ground. It was completely destroyed during the war and rebuilt during the 2000's. It is very tall

After looking at the bridge, we proceeded to the photograph museum, which showed Mostar before the war and after before the restoration. It was amazing to see how destroyed the city was as late as 1995. It was almost completely destroyed. We then went to the Tower Museum, which was literally in a tower, with these incredibly steep and narrow staircases.

It had a miniature door we were required to walk through.

The museum hadbits and pieces of the old bridge, warfare and the Old Town. From the top of the tower was a beautiful view of Mostar. We spent a lot of time looking at the view

And then we saw this guy jump from the bridge into the water. For Fun. Yeah right I would never do THAT!

Following the tower museum, they lead you through the mini-exit

Along the path of metal grating into this underground tunnel where Ashley and I were SURE we were being sold into slavery, due to the sketchiness of the entrance.

But rather than being sold into slavery, we entered the archaeological museum, which housed the foundation of the Old old Mostar bridge (14th century) and various things like the holes for steaks to hold up the bridge and incredibly high up platforms that you could see right through to the ground. Actually, I was fine until Ashley asked, "Are you the one that's afraid of heights?" which meant I immediately looked down and then felt like crawling across the grating would have been a better choice.

After the terror, we watched a video on the rebuilding of the bridge which explained it was built with some of the original stones exactly as it was before-even making mistakes intentionally to follow the mistakes in the original bridge (really the 2nd bridge). Apparently people didn't want them to rebuild the bridge, but they finally agreed when the builders explained they were making it as a monument to the first bridge. The result being the very beautiful, slippery bridge where people in flip flops slide around and people jump, risking their lives, just for the thrill of it.

After the museum, we walked in the other direction through Old Town

and found a 14th Century mosque where you could visit inside. It was my first mosque. It was quite beautiful on the inside. We could walk in as long as we remained on the carpet covering the prayer rugs.

The cemetary was a bit older the the first one we saw walking into the city slash town.

There was also this cool fountain where they let you refill your water bottles.

After visiting the mosque, they let us walk to the back and look at the amazing view, which was quite amazing.

We then got some ice cream and watched more people jump off the bridge and jump off the rocks under the bridge.

I asked for the caramel ice cream and they gave me "sexy" flavored ice cream.

After watching them for a while, we headed back to the mosque to sit and people watch while waiting for the bus, because at this point we had visited all the museums and mosques we could and had run out of things to do except enjoy being in Bosnia!

At the mosque we saw a cat

A beetle

A lizard

and the largest cricket/locust I have ever seen in my life

About as much nature as I saw in Plitvice Lakes National Park...the 2nd most biodiverse region in the world...It was all quite pleasant. We then headed to catch the bus, went back through the first cemetery we saw, noticing the faces on the headstones.

The bus back was uneventful, except for the lady telling the police to not stamp her husbands passport because he was a military man and only had permission to go to Croatia. I was wondering why exactly she would say that to the police?? He didn't really understand English, luckily for her, and someone on the bus pointed out he'd be getting a Croatian stamp anyway. They stamped everyone who had a red passport but of course not ours. We know because they took all the red passports and stamped them, but not ours. hmpph. We stopped in Neum again then came back to Dubrovnik. We moved into a new hostel for the evening, same price but we had our own room. Tiny but it was our own room, with a shower upstairs. It was interesting. The roof was slanted so you had to hunch at a 90 degree angle or crouch and the water wouldn't move from the faucet to the shower head. That was when I realized what the bucket was for. So my shower consisted of me pouring water on my head and clambering out since the tub was about 4 feet off the ground. The joys of European showers.

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