Monday, August 9, 2010

Mosying around Mostar

One thing that still completely strikes me is how many people are surprised when I say that I'm willingly going to spend my holidays in countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Balkans. These country's beauty and charm I guess doesn't attract everyone, for the same reason probably that the French Riviera doesn't attract me.

Want to know where I'm heading this time? Mostar.

Famous for its Stari Most (Old Bridge), Mostar is one of the most important cities in Herzegovina today. More than 15 million dollars has been spent on restoring the city after the end of the major part of the war in the mid-1990s. Most of this money when to rebuild the city's famous bridge and the surrounding area. Today it's as charming as it was before and the rehabilitation efforts are noticed within minutes.

The bridge connects the two sides of the cities, which were very much divided before the war with the Bosnian Muslims libinvong on one side and the Croatian catholics livingon the other. It was built originally by the Turkish in the 1500s.

The Ottoman Quarter, named Kunjundziluk became famous for its coppersmiths and artisans. Today its streets are filled with artist studios, cool cafés and shops where you can buy locally crafted jewellery and ornaments. Both sides of the river have something unique to offer. The eastern side in particular is known for its old 16th and 17th century houses built in Turkish style.

What really strikes me about this city? That although you can still spot traces of war, the locals are determined to keep things light and fresh. Take this outdoor café for example (there's no one sitting outside because the photograph was taken just after a hail storm!), I can imagine it's a popular hang out place for the city's twenty-somethings and thirsty visitors.

 As for my trip, I'll be taking the train from Sarajevo to Mostar (an infrequent service to say the least) and I've already found a really cheap hotel with a view of the bridge (so they promise) using a travel search site, Looks useful for finding the cheapest hotels in Europe and just about anywhere else in the world!

Have you ever used it? What other kinds of sites to you use to make your travel plans?