Sarajevo to Mostar

Trip Start Nov 09, 2007
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Trip End Feb 03, 2008


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Monday, December 10, 2007

I had read that the train trip from Sarajevo to Mostar is a 'must do' experience because of the magnificent scenery. Unfortunately in winter there are only two trains a day making this trip. One leaves at 6:20 at night, well after dark so kind of pointless from a scenery point of view and the other leaves at 7 in the morning. After consulting with our hosts at Halvat, they advised that the bus trip was just as scenic and the buses leave every hour or so. So we took the bus.
We took a taxi from the guest house to the bus station because it is way out of town - about 6 kilometres from our guest house. The taxi driver grumbled about the suitcases and then demanded an extra 5 km for the luggage. I objected but he insisted so I had to pay him. The bus ticket for the journey was 14km for Jess and I and half price for the girls. Interestingly, it was another 1km for each piece of luggage that we stowed underneath so that put the total of the trip up to about 48km (around $42).
The bus trip starts out fairly mundane, heading through Sarajevo and outlying towns. It seemed to take ages to get to the countryside. After we did though, the trip began to get more interesting. We seemed to be heading down a long gorge that lasted most of the trip. Every so often the valley would open up a bit and a pretty mountain village would appear. These were dotted along the course of our journey. A river accompanied us for the trip, first heading back towards Sarajevo, so I knew that we must be still climbing (that and the increasing snow cover gave it away).
Then we went through a long dark tunnel and the trip took on a new dimension. We were now in a narrow gorge with enormous peaks surrounding us. We could look out of the bus window almost straight up to see snow capped mountains all around. The river, which was more of a stream again, was now running in the opposite direction towards Mostar so I guessed that we had stopped climbing and were now heading down.
Passing through towns such as Konjic and Jablanica, I saw a series of dams that had turned a fast flowing mountain river into a series of lakes. This has created a number of lovely lakeside villages. The hills surrounding the valley were extremely steep, craggy and barren, creating an eerie atmosphere that was added to by the mist that shrouded them in secrecy.
As we came out into an open valley and the number of dwellings and businesses started to increase I realised that the ride was nearly over and we would soon be in Mostar. On arrival I rang the Kriva Cuprija Motel where we were staying as they had offered to come and pick us up from the bus station. It was just as well, because once again the bus station is quite a long way out and it would not have been a comfortable walk.
The Kriva Cuprija (crooked bridge) is a small stone bridge that crosses the river Radobolja which at this point is a raging torrent. The motel itself is a converted mill and the water flows all around it making a deafening roar as you enter. Jasna, one of our hosts, had picked us up from the bus station and now showed us to our room which was lovely. We dropped our bags and headed out in the last light of the day to check out the old town. Our motel is just about as close to the Stari Most, the Old Bridge, as you can possibly get.
We wandered along the cobbled streets noticing the extent of the war damage that remains. Jasna had explained to us that things are being fixed up but it takes a long time to undo the damage that has been done. 'Ten years is not enough.' The old bridge itself was destroyed in 1993 and has since been rebuilt. Opened in 2004 the new 'old bridge' is an exact replica of the original. What stuck us most poignantly though was the utter mindlessness of destroying something so beautiful.
Travelling through a beautiful part of the world that war has ravaged so recently tells you something. War is stupid. If you didn't know that already, come here and take a look at homes with bullet holes strewn across them, walk past the bombed out shells of buildings that had once been beautiful, witness the new graves covered in flowers from grieving relatives and you too will realise it. War is stupid.
To their credit, the reconstruction process had achieved remarkable things in the decade or so since the end of the war. We walked back to our motel in the evening air and enjoyed the lights illuminating the old buildings.
For dinner, one of the highly recommended restaurants in Mostar is the Konoba Taurus. This place just happened to be less than 15 metres from the door of our room. It's an old stone cottage build right beside the 'crooked bridge'. We entered to find an inviting log fire and lots of laughter. The meals were good, and very big serves. Jess and I enjoyed a carafe of the house red wine (very big), and the laughter in the restaurant increased, except now most of it was coming from our table. The music was good and the atmosphere friendly. Sadly, just as we were ready to enjoy a tasty treat for dessert the waiter informed us that they didn't have anything for dessert. Oh well, we probably didn't need it anyway. We went to sleep with the soothing sounds of the water surrounding us.
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