The distance to Mostar is only 105km from Sarajevo but the driving time from is 3 hours because there are no highways to travel on, just secondary roads. Our local guide told us if there was a highway it wouldn’t help because the local mentality is “slow – take your time”.
It only rains in Mostar a few times a year and today was one of those days – temperatures in the summer can soar to over 50C… so we couldn’t complain too much about the rain.
When we arrived in Mostar we met our guide – Jasmine (a mans name here). I was SO impressed with this young man. His English is spoken better than many North Americans and he can easily change his accent to a convincing British one. He has never travelled outside of his country.
We listened to his impression of the war and in Mostar region the war was much more about religion. There is a main road in this town and he referred to it as the imaginary Berlin Wall. The Muslims live on one side and the Bosnian Croats who are Catholic live on the other side.
There is a very famous bridge in this town which sadly needed to be rebuilt after the war because it was destroyed. It is recognized as a UNESCO site and attracts thousands of tourists each year. The bridge re-opened in 2004 and that historic ceremony was attended by many dignitaries including Prince Phillip. The divide is so strong between the two sides that some residents have never crossed the imaginary Berlin Wall in order to see the towns famous bridge.
Jasmine has no issue spending time on both sides. He explained that the willingness to cross the imaginary line has nothing to do with a younger more accepting generation but it has to do with family upbringing.
We ventured to the Alma Coffee house which opened a few months before the war. The professional grinding machine that was installed for the business shows marks of the shrapnel that hit it during the war.
Alma Coffee house is a trendy place – small and intimate. It’s run by Jasmine with help from his parents. Jasmine is quite the young entrepreneur.
Jasmine demonstrated how Bosnians make their famous coffee. His presentation was truly fascinating. There is a huge coffee culture in Bosnia.
Drinking coffee in Bosnia is a “Ritual in Time”. There is a real art to brewing coffee and at least twice a day locals sit down and enjoy one – you never order a “coffee to go” – that does not exist. One sits and savors their coffee and leaves worries behind. If you are invited to someone’s home you are served coffee. Bosnians join friends at coffee houses. Before a business meeting a coffee is often served.
The Bosnia Coffee is similar to the USA Cowboy Coffee but a finer ground is used.
The Bosnians use a special coffee pot (wide base/narrow top) and a “rule of thumb” dictates how much ground coffee is put in the bottom of the pot – the width of your thumb – you then fill the rest of the pot with hot water and slowly stir the mixture not from the bottom of the pot but the top until a film forms (like a cream) which is skimmed off. A cup of water is served with the coffee so one can cleanse their palate. When drinking Bosnian coffee you take a slip and then often dip a sugar cube in the coffee and then enjoy the taste of the coffee on the cube – you never drop the cube in the coffee and stir like we do in North America – we were also served Rose Flavoured Turkish Delight Jelly Candy which is also intended to be dipped in the coffee.
What an interesting and fun experience!
After taking pictures of the famous Mostar bridge we enjoyed an awesome 3 course lunch in a local restaurant – home cooking at its best.
We then continued our journey to Split. There is only 5km of toll freeway in Bosnia and we traveled that distance and then needed to clear the Bosnia border once again as we were leaving the county – after that we were in line with 3 other coaches to re-enter Croatia – took an hour before we were on our way…. – this border situation can be a royal pain for tourists – I feel the tourism bureaus in these affected countries need to get their act together and lobby to get this improved – in high season when there are thousands of tourists crossing these borders the process will take MANY hours – our motor coach driver told me sometimes 5 hours!
When we crossed back into Croatia the skies were blue once again – what a beautiful day. The freeway continues in Croatia and is state-of-the-art, absolutely beautiful. The best part is there is next to no drivers using it – I expect because its a toll-road, its unaffordable by most – we saw mainly luxury cars on this highway.
Once again the scenery was spectacular.
When we stopped for our break at a highway rest area, just as Jasmine said drinking coffee was a relaxing event there. No take-out paper cups are available – coffee is only served in a mug and there are areas to relax with your friends before returning on the highway – a much more civil custom than ours – don’t you agree?
Our wonderful hotel in Split overlooks the sea – we all are enjoying ocean view rooms. The view from the pool deck is amazing. We’ve all laughed at our hotel room “challenges”. It’s been “interesting” trying to figure out how the elevators works, how to turn off and on the lights in the rooms (switches are all over the place) or how to work the shower (even with directions right next to it on the wall)…. Our current hotel is locally owned but very North American like – we can easy figure this one out, even though the elevators are a bit of challenge! It’s also the first hotel we’ve stayed at with face cloths in the rooms so they obviously cater to North Americans.
A delicious 3 course seafood dinner was held a short walk from the hotel at a busy restaurant right on the pier. The main course was fresh cod with mashed potatoes – its a tradition for locals to eat this same entree on Christmas Eve. Often they only get to enjoy it once a year.
Early tomorrow morning we board a ferry and sail for 2 hours to a very famous island – we are all excited!