After a very successful daytrip to Kotor, we were keen to check out another Yugoslavian country: Bosnia and Herzegovina. We left early to try to avoid long lines at the border, and we definitely succeeded, though maybe because the car navigator sent us through some mountain roads where the border wasn’t even manned. The drive was quite scenic, so we didn’t complain, and we made it to Mostar in less than 2 and a half hours.
Even though we had seen more than our fair share of historic towns over the previous week, Mostar still managed to surprise us. The old town is perched over a river, the streets are paved with cobblestones, and many buildings painted in different colors, giving Mostar a very distinct character. The Muslim influence is pronounced, and the whole east side of the river is basically a big bazaar. After a quick stroll in that area, we walked over to the main attraction: Stari Most, the old bridge that gives name to the city. Built by the Ottomans in the 16th century, it was destroyed during the Balkan war, rebuilt in 2004 as a symbol of reunification, and soon after added to the UNESCO World Heritage list.
We crossed the bridge and walked down to the water, to get a better perspective, and wait for one of the locals to do one of the famous bridge jumps. We also walked further to the new bridge to get the best panorama of the bridge and the area. As we walked back, we checked out the crooked bridge, the “never forget” stone, and some of the buildings that remain riddled with bullet holes. The historic load of the city should have made for a fascinating if eerie visit. But unfortunately, I couldn’t get over how touristy and dirty everything was. Every stall at the bazaar was packed with the same cheap souvenirs, and they had dared to build a bar and a boat tour pier right under the Stari Most, ruining the view forever. The riverbank was full of trash, and it felt like everyone was smoking everywhere.
We left the city without even eating lunch and headed toward Kravica, hoping for a nature cleans. But the situation was even worse there. They had built two restaurants, a bar, and several boat tour businesses right under the waterfalls. The landscape could have been gorgeous, a miniature version of our beloved Plitvice Lakes. Instead, it looked like a packed waterpark. We grabbed a bite and left without even getting in the water. On our drive back to Dubrovnik, I couldn’t stop thinking how tourism policy can make or break a country forever, and how much I appreciated the sustainable approach Croatia had taken.