detour: mostar

It’s likely you’ve never heard of Mostar, a 16th century Ottoman city located in the Herzegovina region of Bosnia and Herzegovina. I certainly hadn’t before I ended up there this past summer, the result of a necessary detour on the way back to Dubrovnik from Sarajevo. Turns out, however, Mostar is the fifth largest city in the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the cultural capital of the Herzegovina-Neretva Canton. The city is popular with tourists too, many of whom take a day trip there from nearby Dubrovnik. Once we arrived in Mostar it was easy to see why the city is an attractive choice for travelers looking to escape the hoards of Croatia’s white-walled tourist capital.

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Intersected by the Neretva River, Mostar is a picturesque remnant of the grand Ottoman Empire who built the city in a series of dramatic archways, towers, cobble-stoned streets, courtyards and impressive bridge work. Overall, an exemplary example of high Islamic architecture. Six of the original 16th and 17th century mosques remain, as does a charming Old Town- a collection of low stone and wood shops that now sell typical souvenir fare. The Ottoman style bridge, Stari Most, is the city’s main attraction however, set in an idyllic crux along the emerald green Neretva.

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There is not an overwhelming list of attractions to see in Mostar. I spent a few hours there and felt like I pretty much got the gist of the place. On the other hand, a couple days spent in the city would be a relaxing break from modern reality. Well connected to most major cities in the region including Dubrovnik, Split, Sarajevo and Belgrade, the detour to Mostar is an easy one to make. For those who do decide to make Mostar their base, there’s plenty to do in the surrounding area including a trip to the Kravica Waterfalls, one of Europe’s most stunning natural attractions.

On the Sarajevo to Dubrovnik route, Mostar is the perfect stop- about halfway between the two cities and a world away from both in essence. For me what was most attractive about the city is that Mostar served as a reminder of the pleasant and unexpected surprises one finds along the traveling way. Sarajevo was my destination and I had never planned to stop in Mostar, but I left the absorbing city with a different impression of the ex-Soviet block country.

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Originally I imagined Bosnia and Herzegovina would be an incessant stream of cement towers and gray skies- the media has not exactly projected the most attractive impression. The shells of bombed out buildings still exist, the war in the country and the fighting in Mostar did not happen all that long ago. The city however, defies every expectation of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s and instead showcases the county’s rich history and beautiful geography.

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For those who have never been, the beauty of Bosnia and Herzegovina is almost unimaginable. A detour to Mostar is the perfect place to let the country change your mind.

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