Mostar is the capital of Herzegovina, which is the “H” in “BiH” (Bosnia & Herzegovina). Mostar has the largest population of Croats in BiH which is why, during the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 90s, Mostar was an extremely violent place as Croats and Bosniaks fought for control over the city. During the war, the Croats blew up the famous Ottoman bridge, Stari Most (the Old Bridge) which has since been reconstructed. The family we stayed with continued to refer to it as the New Old Bridge. Outside of the charming old town, there are signs of war and destruction all over the place, woven harshly into the fabric of everyday life.
Like much of Bosnia & Herzegovina, the architecture of Mostar is influenced heavily by its two conquerors – the Ottoman empire (1468-1878) and the Austro-Hungarian empire (1878–1918). The immediate area surrounding the Old Bridge abounds with tourist shops, white cobblestone streets and restaurants with patios overlooking the scenic Neretva River.
From one of those restaurants we spotted half a dozen minarets reaching skyward, where from all over the city we could hear the Islamic call to prayer throughout the day.
We had driven to Mostar from Montenegro through the rugged and desolate territory of Republic of Srpska. Once we crossed the border there were roadsigns that warned passers by about active mines in the rocky hillside – another trace of a recent war.
Adam had read many a crazy thing about the train ride from Mostar to Sarajevo, so after a day in Mostar we ditched our car and boarded an ancient, rickety, smoke-filled train which lurched ever so slowly through stunning mountains in the direction of Sarajevo.