The bulk of our vacation was spent traveling around Croatia, but Bosnia-Herzegovina was high on our list of places to visit and we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take a day trip to Mostar. We drove a little over two hours from Split, Croatia to Mostar, and arrived just as the sun was high in the sky.
We parked our car at an idle construction site and paid the attendants, who were just a couple of guys lingering about. I’m still not sure if what we did was legit or wise, but it all worked out. Anyway, after paying the attendants, we started walking towards the minarets that marked the historical center of Mostar, looking over our shoulders multiple times to see what was happening with our car.
After hours of walking the cobblestone streets of Mostar, eating meat prepared five different ways, shopping along winding lanes, and stopping for many scoops of ice cream and frozen coffee, we found ourselves turned around and lost. At first, anyone who has visited Mostar might wonder how we managed to get lost. The Neretva River cuts through the city, creating an obstacle and an easy point of reference. Actually, it wasn’t that we were lost – we knew where we were – it was that we didn’t know where the car was. Several times we would think, “Oh, there has to be another bridge or the land will join where we parked. Well, that didn’t happen. Here are reasons why we may have thought this way:
- Exhaustion: We were on a two-week family vacation with 4 kids aging from pre-teen to toddler. Our vacation included hikes, tours, walking, and lots of kids being stuck in small spaces.
- It was super-hot. Our vacation occurred smack dab in the middle of a heat wave. By this point in the day, the temperature had reached 108 degrees and there was little shade and no air conditioning. Our sweating caused a few of the citizens of Mostar to jest at our state.
- Since we didn’t have much time, we were rushed and hadn’t paid close attention to where we had parked; we were more occupied with whether our car would still be there when we returned – wherever that was.
- Come on, everyone makes a couple of common sense mistakes now and then on vacation… right?
Anyway… Back to the trip.
Our bellies were full, our feet were tired, and my bald spot was sunburned. My wife suggested she run ahead and look for the car while I stayed with the younger kids. (Yes, I fell for it.) We used this time to find more ice cream. While we sat eating our ice cream, Muslim prayers echoed down from the minarets to the streets below. We watched people bargaining with merchants. And we also took time to really notice our surroundings. As we sat quietly and just observed, the blatant horrors of war exposed themselves. We saw bombed out buildings, bullet holes in walls, and marks on the streets created by explosives. As my kids slurped up their ice cream, my heart hurt for the people in Mostar and the devastation they had experienced.
And yet. And yet there was still hope and humour and openness all around us. Throughout our day in Mostar, I was impressed with how friendly everyone was. From the servers to the shopkeepers to the people inside the Koskin-Mehmed Pasha Mosque, we were welcomed. And I found myself wishing I had a week to explore, instead of only a day.
If you visit Mostar; eat, tour, and shop. But also take time to just be still and experience the soul of Mostar.
If you pay a diver enough money, he’ll jump off Stari Most. You can’t leave Mostar without watching (and paying) a diver to perform this feat.
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