WIKI says that Mostar is the most important city in the Herzegovina region. It also says there are no official border distinguishing the Herzegovina region from the Bosnian but it is generally accepted that the borders are Croatia to the south west, Montenegro to the east, the Maglic mountain to the north east, and Ivan planina to the north. So there you have it, a country without official borders.
I had heard from several travellers that the 3 hour train journey to Mostar (instead of the bus) was one of the most scenically spectacular journeys they'd been on so naturally I listened and was game. Except this so-called 'must-do' journey started somewhat uncomfortably for me...
So that morning at 7.15am, myself, my Singapore friend Edmund and Dutch friend Ilse boarded the train to Mostar. Except it was a Saturday. Doh. Can you guess the problem yet? Seating. Or lack of. Therefore behold a new experience for me - not having a seat on a 3 hour train journey. I kid you not! Not nice believe me. It started off OK but as you can see that didn't last long.
That was my spot for the majority of the journey (eventually 2 hours later seating would thankfully become available). With my music readily available and switching between sitting and standing, I managed to alter my original mindset and subsequently these two hours managed to pass fairly quickly even with minimum air circulation (hardy any windows that could be opened) and locals 'sparking up' on the train. The only distressing part was that I wasn't really in a position to be able to enjoy the scenery as I would have liked to.
Thankfully though from this point forward things only got better. I checked into the hostel with no difficulty and was shortly out exploring the town on my own (the two I travelled with were residing at a different hostel 25 mins away). The only thing I had to contend with was the weather. Don't get me wrong it wasn't raining here - in fact quite the opposite as it was super-hot in the mid 30s! Relatedly I'd heard from a couple of people there was a distinct difference in temperature between Sarajevo and Mostar and they were right as it was noticeably more hot and humid down here. Still I braved the skin-burning sunlight in search of Mostar's calling card: The Old Bridge. Here it is in the distance:
Mostar's old bridge (Stari Most) was built by the Ottomans in the 16th century and is a UNESCO protected site. People jump off this bridge into the Neretva river - for a small fee of course. An obvious way to pull in some tourist money from adrenaline filled youngsters wanting to show off their bravery to their friends.
Did I have a go? Now folks, who would look after my camera equipment!? Clearly that's the only reason I didn't give it a try. *cough*
Devastatingly though, the Mostar bridge you see above is a reconstruction as the original (built five centuries ago) was blown up by the artillery of the Bosnian Croat army in 1993 during the War. I can only imagine that to have been crushing if you'll excuse the pun - particularly for historians. It was eleven years later and after the war that the Stari Most was rebuilt. As for the rest of the surrounding area, there are plenty of market stalls that stretch on a couple of hundred meters and of course, mosques as I've come to expect. Again, each market stall likely to be in direct competition with the other but the atmosphere and people remain as friendly as ever. The Balkan people really are a lovely bunch on the whole as I've discovered these past two months.
Sadly though amongst this normal looking and normal functioning town, you don't have to look far for visions of the past in the form of bullet-ridden properties and abandoned buildings.
And that was that. I spent the next couple of hours wandering and I grabbed a bite to eat.
That evening, and at around 23:00pm when I was about to call it a night, a conversation with my dorm-companion that I had met quite literally fifteen minutes prior when he semi-stumbled in would completely alter my plans for tomorrow! (Not that I actually had any). But for better or worse? (as you married folk say). Fine out tomorrow...