After seeing a photograph of the Stari Most, or Old Bridge, in Mostar I decided that there was definitely no missing this town. And the old part of town was absolutely beautiful – although it looked a little different to the pictures I’d seen, those having been taken in the vibrant days of summer. My visit there coincided with a conference of rain, fog and mist, rendering the town in subdued hues, as though the colour had been drained out. Nonetheless, it was beautiful.
Of course my first priority, after settling into the hostel, was to visit the old bridge. It was raining when I left, but the skies did show some courtesy and the rain took a tea break for about twenty minutes when I got to the bridge. I’d crossed the car bridge further upriver and came around to check out the bridge from the riverbank, and was distracted initially by the ruins of a building that promised some interesting graffiti. However, within about three minutes I was rudely interrupted by a particularly creepy man. I say particularly creepy because as I was taking a picture of one of the walls, he came and stood right beside me, unzipped his jeans and started urinating on the wall. Charming, right?
I decided that was my cue to leave, and headed down to the riverbank to photograph the bridge in the rather average light. I was enjoying myself until Creepy Guy came down and stood about twenty metres away, watching me. This went on for quite some time – he would follow me, or stand in front of the only way out and just stare, arms folded. He called out to me a couple of times, trying to get me to go over to him. I wasn’t interested. I figure that a guy who introduces himself by coming up to you and taking a piss right beside you isn’t one you want to know more of. However, I started to become a little worried as the only way to get out [aside from walking through the water, and it was bloody cold] was blocked by this charming fellow. He disappeared for a minute, only to reappear with a pole that looked like a broom handle, waving it about like a crazy person. I was getting a bit sick of this by now, not sure what he wanted and not convinced that it was going to be particularly safe to just try to walk past him. He kept calling out to me to go to him, and my responses were less than polite, and after about forty-five minutes he was chased off by an older man. I’m not sure if he was all there, but I didn’t want to take my chances with creepy guy when he had a pole.
On the upside, while I was down by the river I got to watch some crazy guy jump off the bridge. My camera wasn’t quick enough to pick him up where you could clearly see him – see if you can spot the bridge-jumper!
I decided that it was a little too cold to have a go myself.
I wandered through the old part of town on either side of the Stari Most, where most of the little souvenir shops that line the streets in summer were closed, as were many of the smaller restaurants. The museum hours were limited and I was too late, and so I found a restaurant for lunch and enjoyed delicious stuffed peppers in front of an open fire. I spent the afternoon just wandering aimlessly down little streets, eating cake in cafes along the main stretch opposite a beautiful mosque, and ducking into shops when the rain got too heavy for my pathetic excuse for an umbrella. Luckily, that never lasted long.
If Mostar’s Old Town looks like it’s in unusually good condition, that’s because it’s not as old as you think. Much of the town, including the old bridge – the famous image of Mostar – was destroyed or seriously damaged during the war and the eighteen month siege following the break up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Massive restorations were completed in 2004, and in the old Ottoman part of town it’s easy to forget the tragic history among the narrow stone streets and the colourful bazaars. A bookshop beside the bridge has an exhibition of photos of Mostar during and after the siege, and it’s worth visiting to get an idea of the devastation inflicted upon the city – although perhaps not to buy the overpriced books [I’m talking years-out-of-date second-hand guidebooks priced at €30…].
I also found a few cute cats just kicking back.
It was seasonally quiet in Mostar, with a few tour groups coming through on day trips but otherwise few tourists around. I hope that I’ll be able to visit Mostar and Bosnia in general in another season – when my options of places to go and things to do are less limited, and when the weather is nicer and the country alive with colour. I loved seeing Mostar smothered in mist and fog, but it would be nice to see it in a different light.
It was lovely at night, too – the bridge and parts of the old town are lit up, and the rain just made the colours deeper and more vivid.