Mostar and Blagaj in Bosnia and Herzegovina - Why You Should Visit: Travel Blog 2021
This travel blog explains what we had to go through to get into Bosnia and Herzegovina by land from Montenegro in 2021. It also details our time in Mostar, where we spent a week in the city without seeing anyone jumping off of the bridge! We visited the Partisan's Cemetery, the Peace Tower, the Stari Most (Old Bridge), and had the Bosnian Coffee process explained and demonstrated by a local at a cafe at the top of the Stari Most Bridge. We also went to Blagaj. This city is known for one particular picture spot that is famous on Instagram but we also wanted to explore more.
Montenegro to Bosnia and Herzegovina
Every bus station to get from city to city turns out to be a different experience. For Podgorica, we had to buy the bus ticket from the station a few days in advance. There was not a lot of flexibility either. One route, every fews days, would go from Podgorica to Sarajevo. The problem with that is that they would drop you off in the middle of the night and not even at a proper bus station. The other route, also was every few days, and that was from Podgorica to Mostar. This was the better option since at least you would be dropped off at a station and you would be dropped off during the day. So we bought our ticket for Saturday morning for the bus leaving to Mostar at 6 am.
The morning of the trip we walked from our hotel to the bus station. We arrived safely, even after being followed by a stray dog for half of the walk. The dog even followed us into the lobby area since the doors were motion censored and did nothing to allow us to escape from this vaccinated yet stray animal.
Getting Across the Border
About 10 minutes before the bus took off we got up and headed to the entrance of the parking lot. We went out into the parking lot and saw there was a mini-van. We asked if this was for Mostar and he said yes. After we loaded up we saw that there was a group of about 3 or 4 young men who came up to the mini-van also looking for a ride to Mostar. This trip was definitely over-booked because there was only one seat available.
Then we saw our driver go over to a large bus which was about 30 feet away. After a discussion these guys got onto that bus. We had a 7 and a half hour bus ride from Montenegro to Bosnia and Herzagovina that didn't take the shortest way possible; it instead took the scenic route. We thought we may go from Podgorica, up to Niksic, and then west from there to cross the border. This ride via car would only take 3 1/2 hours. The route they did take was to Budva and then up the coast to the border of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
When we got to Budva bus station, we were told to get off of the bus. Then we rejoined the young men we saw in the morning and many other people on the bigger bus which had also go along the same route. When we got to the border into Bosnia and Herzegovina we didn't know what to expect. Albania never stamped our passport, so we had some issues with the border guard getting into Montenegro due to our lack of a PCR test. This time we did have a PCR test. It was taken and recieved back within the 48 hours that Bosnia and Herzegovina required. We had our passports and our pdfs of our negative covid test results.
We went through the first station of the border which is always the quick one. Then at the second check point we all had to get out of the bus. We lined up headed to a window to show our PCR test results and to show our passports. Pretty straight forward. As someone would show their documents, they continued to walk forward to wait for the rest of the bus. When we all were done, the bus driver got in the bus and drove up some to allow us to get back into the vehicle.
Then we went to a final station. WE all got out of the bus again and showed the border patrol our documents. Here MOST of us went through successfully. For some reason a few of the young men had some issues. They were called into the area with the border police for a reason we will never know. Our only guess is that they were from a country that did not allow then to get through easily. A few minutes into waiting, we noticed one of the elderly ladies from our bus go up to some cars as they were passing through the border stop. We weren't sure what she was doing, but eventually she was able to waive down a taxi that had just dropped off someone coming from the Bosnia and Herzegovina side. She asked for her bags from our bus driver, got into the taxi and was on her way. She may have had the right idea since the wait turned out to be around 30 minutes.
Even after the wait 2 or 3 of the young men didn't get approval to continue on. We ended up getting back into the bus; driving off to never see these guys again. Hope they eventually got through!
Multiple cities in this region were affected by the Bosnian War of the 1990s. Mostar was no exception. There are plenty of videos on YouTube where you can see more on this but in this blog we will share with you the landmarks as they are in 2021 and briefly explain their significance.
First we are on our way to what Google Maps has labeled as Staklena Banka. But you may know it as the glass bank or the Sniper Tower.
I heard that this Bank was finished right before the war and was covered in glass windows. From the top: you can see the view from this building. Which is a beautiful peaceful view today. But we can't forget that during the war this view was for snipers to kill anyone they wanted; including civilians.
Bruce Lee Statue
Here we have a life sized bronze statue of Bruce Lee. I know what you thinking? Why the heck is there a Bruce Lee Statue in Mostar? After the war, citizens of this country could not agree on everything. But a group of people decided there needed to be a statue to show the country's new unity. And they decided the one thing they all had in common was Bruce Lee.
It was built in 1965 in honor of the Yugoslav Partisans of Mostar who were killed during World War II in Yugoslavia. It was opened by Josip Tito Broz, who we saw a statue of when we were in Podgorica. He was the leader of the Partisans and President of the Republic of Yugoslavia.
Each stone flower tombstone represents a Partisan killed from Mostar. In 2006 this was declared a national monument.
Peace Bell Tower
This is the highest clock tower in the area. It was built on the sight of the old clock tower and the church of St. Peter and St. Paul from 1866 which was burned down in 1992. An elevator takes you more than halfway up to the 75m-high viewing area, saving 222 of the 370 steps. The massive yet still unfinished Franciscan church below is a replacement for an 1866 basilica that was badly damaged during the war.
We originally thought the clock tower close to the Partisan cemetery was the peace tower, but when we got to the top of the actual Peace Tower we saw how wrong we were. The Peace Tower towered above the other clock tower.
Be careful when climbing this structure. There are multiple bells inside and they ring every 15 minutes. This is extremely loud when you are inside. As you walk up, it's like going through a museum as there are several information signs about the city and its history.
Otherwise known as the Old Bridge. It was built from 1557 to 1566. The city of Mostar was named after the bridge keepers, the mostari, who guarded the bridge. The bridge was destroyed in 1993 during the war. Reconstruction began soon after and was completed in 2004.
This is the most popular spot of the city. The city of Mostar is named after the bridge keepers "Mostar" who guarded the bridge in medieval times. One of the locals told us there are 93 steps on the bridge in honor of the year the bridge was destroyed.
Be careful because this bridge is extremely slippery. Use the steps and the rails to make sure you don't slip and fall!
Typically throughout the year, there are divers who hang out on the bridge asking the tourists to pay them to jump off the bridge! Once they have collected enough funds the put on a show and dive right into the emerald water! Unfortunately, on this trip we didn't get to see any divers, maybe because the water was too cold for their linking!
As we were walking the Stari Most bridge, we heard a voice from above. It was a lady who called us up for some Bosnian coffee. We walked up the stairs that take you up to the tower; but only walked to the second floor. From here you have a great view of the bridge and the surrounding cities.
An older man explained to us the ritual and tradition that makes Bosnian coffee unique. This turned out to be our favorite part of our time in Mostar. He told us that you slowly mix the coffee when it is in the copper holder (džezva). You do this to lighten it up and cause the thicker remains of the coffee to go toward the bottom.
He said that as you are stirring your coffee you are to speak to those around you. This allows you to have a great connection to discuss your day and your lives with others. This is to be done slowly. He told us of the word 'rahatluk'. This is a word from the Ottomans that means peace. As you slow down and enjoy simple things like taking your time and stirring coffee, you are able to reach a balance or nirvana that brings you peace.
He spoke of how people have clothes, good beds, hot water and plenty of food. Then when they leave the house they don't smile. With all of these amazing things, he asked how could you not smile?
After that he told us to place a sugar cube in a coffee cup. Then slowly move over some coffee with the tiny spoon into the cup. Then you can pour in more coffee into your cup and then stir and mix it in with the sugar. To the side we had a piece of Rahat Lokum or as you may refer to it; Turkish Delight. This was the local version make with walnuts. As we explored Bosnia and Herzegovina we saw that there was options with rose water, chocolate, pistachio, and more.
There is another ancient bridge besides the Stari Most in Mostar: the Kriva Cuprija (or the Crooked Bridge). It crosses the Rabobolja creek, a right-bank affluent of the Neretva River. Kriva cuprija is a stone one-arch bridge of small dimension and closely resembles the Stari Most.
The arch is a perfect semicircle. Built in 1558, eight years prior to the more famous Old Bridge, it is believed to have been built as a trial attempt for the following, more daring, construction. Destroyed in 2001 by the river ﬂooding, it has recently been rebuilt.
This city was only about 30 minutes southeast of Mostar. This city is known for the Dervish House (Tekke) that sits at the base of the mountain where the Buna River begins. We were able to take a bus out here from the main bus stop. It was the easiest and most straight-forward bus experience we have had thus far in the Balkans.
There are a few other bus stops around Mostar and they actually had routes, bus numbers, and times posted which was new for us. There were 3 routes we knew we could take. We paid the driver for the trip as we got on the bus and it was only 2.1 Marks (BAM) per person.
This city is known for one particular picture spot that is famous on Instagram but we also wanted to explore more. We started off by heading toward the Dervish House. Before you can go into the area you have to pay to enter. The fee is 5 Marks (BAM) a person.
The Dervish House is a monastery, so you have to remove your shoes and women have to have their legs and hair covered. If you do not have the proper attire, they provide long skirts and head scarfs for you to borrow before walking into the house. In this house there are rooms for prayer, a kitchen, washroom, and a room with two tombs.
After exploring the Dervish House we left and crossed a bridge to the other side. While walking, if you look to your left you can see a rushing waterfall. It is not from the mountain but still has a nice fall as the river takes a sudden drop. When you cross the bridge, there are restaurants on the other side. Past them, there are stairs and a path that takes you to the famous Instagram spot where you can see the Dervish House pressed against the mountain and you can see into the cave that is the source of the Buna River. If it was not winter, there would have been a boat that takes you into the cave for a small fee.
From the Dervish House we set out on what turned out to be a 50 minute walk to the Blagaj Fort; also known as Stjepan-grad. The last 20 minutes was the final hike from the proper parking area up the mountain. The lead up to the final hike is all up hill but it is paved. The last 20 minutes was not paved so you have to watch your step.
At the entrance there is not attendant or fee that is collected. 2 other women walked up at the same time we did; but they were the only people up there with us for about 15 minutes. Then a group of hikers who are also tour guides showed up. They were very friendly and told us the story of this castle.
You can hear the whole history of the Fort and see the area around the Dervish House in our travel vlog to Blagaj on YouTube. Out now!
We also have a travel vlog on Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, where you can hear the Bosnian Coffee process explained and demonstrated by a local at a cafe at the top of the Stari Most Bridge. Plus all of the other sights of Mostar. Out now on YouTube!
Thanks for reading our blog on Mostar and Blagaj in Bosnia and Herzegovina!
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