Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina. One day we were driven 10-hours to and from Dubrovnik to reach Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina. This small historic town is primarily fascinating for its unfortunate and still-evolving history. Mostar, spanning the deep valley of the Neretva River, developed in the 15th and 16th centuries as an Ottoman frontier town, then further during 19th and 20th centuries under the Habsburgs. Mostar has long been known for its old Turkish houses and its old bridge, Stari Most, after which it is named.
In the 1990s’ war, however, most of the historic town and the old bridge, were destroyed. Back then, Mostar’s battle scars were supposedly very obvious, but during our visit to the “Old Town” we didn’t see the war’s ruins. Apparently, those are further off the tourist-track. The town’s history is symbolic of so many of the cultural and religious problems that still divide Bosnia (Muslim)-Herzegovina (Catholic) and the Republic of Serbska (an “independent” province that is Serbian Orthodox). Our young guide told us how the city, before “the wars” had been mixed ethnicities. Now it is split along ethnic lines. She said that the young people do not feel the hatred and conflict but the previous generations are stuck in the past, unwilling to accept their former neighbors and friends anymore. So still there are many un-healed war wounds.
The old “Stari Most” bridge, designed by the renowned architect Sinan, was completed in 2004 after the 1990s war and many of the edifices in the Old Town have been restored or reconstructed with the contribution of an international scientific committee
established by UNESCO. The Old Bridge area, with its pre-Ottoman, eastern Ottoman, Mediterranean and western European architectural features, is an outstanding example of a multicultural urban settlement. The rebuilt old bridge and city are symbols of reconciliation, international co-operation and of the coexistence of diverse cultural, ethnic and religious communities. Despite the new Stari Most is the image of the original 16th century bridge, it does not bridge trust among neighbors.
The mostly tourist-y Old Bazaar Kujunkziluk occupies a long street that is lined with stalls that are generally filled with trinkets, jewelry, housewares, etc. that are poor relatives of what can be found in Turkey. A few stalls have locally-created products (e.g., made of copper) but it is mainly a series of typical souvenir shops. We bought carefully where our local guide recommended! And the stalls with hijab-covered, young women are mainly for show, not based on religious beliefs according to our young local guide.
Bay of Kotor, Montenegro. On another day, we were driven for 8-hours to and from Dubrovnik to Montenegro to see the lengthy Bay of Kotor, with its stunning blue- and green-colored water. It has many miles of coastline with lovely views. The town of Kotor is small but offers relaxation, beaches, water-sports, and nice hotels and restaurants.
On one side of the Bay, that was supposed to remain forested, somehow a rich group of Russians–possibly with local government “looking the other way”–literally scooped out the forest and the lower part of the mountainside. They built ugly, cookie-cutter mansions that are an eyesore. While we hope that the city officials who turned a blind eye were fired—but probably weren’t.
On our way home, we stopped at Skoljke Boke Mussel Farm for lunch. The owner and his wife showed us how they “grow” mussels and oysters, then prepared/cooked our lunch of both while we waited. The shellfish were literally pulled fresh from near where we sat on their deck. Despite limited English, the owner and wife were clearly delighted to teach us about their work and serve us delicious seafood.