Welcome to this week’s Postcard From – the feature where I chat to some lucky explorer about their recent travels. If you would like to take part please get in touch – firstname.lastname@example.org or @em_luxton – I would love to hear from you!
This week, I’ve been chatting to two lovely bloggers on an epic journey. Sarah and Kris are Jetsetting Fools! In love with new places, people and cultures, they travelled as often as their work schedules would allow them, but in April 2014, they put their careers on hold and left on a ‘Round the World journey. Ten months into their trip, they’ve travelled to South America, across the Pacific Ocean, Australia, Southeast Asia, South Africa and Europe. They don’t view travel as a destination, but as an experience. It doesn’t always go to plan, so they aren’t intent on setting plans, but rather live life flying by the seat of their pants.
Hi guys! You’re on a pretty epic trip at the moment. Where has been one of your favourite places so far?
In our travels, we have visited many cities; some are picturesque, some historic, some engaging. The treat is to find one place that includes all of the elements and we found it in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina. The focus of the charming UNESCO World Heritage historic city lies on the Old Bridge, with cobblestone lanes stretching from both sides and draping itself along the riverbank where the cyan water rushes below. However, the bridge is a replica. The original bridge was destroyed in the Croat-Bosniak War in the early 1990s. Other evidence of war dots the town: hollowed out buildings and cemeteries filled with markers all dating to 1993.
Sounds lovely – and fascinating! How was the weather there?
We travelled to Mostar in the spring and we enjoyed the cool days filled with sunshine.
Perfect! Did you have somewhere equally lovely to stay?
We stayed in an apartment we found on Airbnb. Located on the east side of the river just a short walk to the center of town, the home was typical of the area. We entered into a private courtyard through a gate on a side street. Complete with a garden and outdoor furniture, we’re sure it is lovely to enjoy in warmer temperatures. The apartment had belonged to our host’s grandmother, so it felt like we were staying with a family friend. We were fortunate to have such a welcoming host who was willing to share his time and stories with us.
Wow, that sounds fantastic! I always hear such good stories about Airbnb, think it’s about time I tried it for myself. So, what did you get up to in Mostar?
Most tourists only stay in Mostar for the day – we were there for seven days. We took our time to get to know the city, not just the sights. We visited the Catholic Church and the Koski Mehmet-Pasha Mosque. We walked the historic lanes of the old town, which have been impeccably brought back to life and we strolled through the surrounding neighborhoods that still show signs of the recent war. We lounged for hours at cafes sipping cappuccinos or the local Mostarsko beer mesmerized by a fantastic mix of locals and tourists.
Our host spent an afternoon with us in the nearby town of Blagaj to visit the Tekija House, a Turkish Dervishes monastery that was built in 1520. It sits at the base of a sheer cliff next to a cave where the Buna River beings its flow. The setting was peaceful and serene.
It all sounds really interesting – and quite ‘off the beaten track’! What was the best bit for you?
The highlight was probably less about the sights and more about the people. Spending time with our host was an amazing opportunity to better understand the people of Mostar and how the town has changed since the war.
I don’t know much about the cuisine in Bosnia-Herzegovina. How was it?
Experiencing the local cuisine in Mostar was a real treat, especially since the region is known for grilled meat. We dined on savory platters of cevapi (sausages), japrak (grape leaves filled with meat and rice) and shish kebabs (skewers of beef and lamb). Grilled mushrooms with thick sour cream, burek (a flaky pastry filled with onion and potatoes) and somun (Bosnian pita bread) rounded out our meals.
The riverside locations were impossible to pass by, but we also dined at more intimate Konobas (family run restaurants) outside of the tourist zone. Surprisingly, it was some of the most affordable dining we’ve seen since Southeast Asia…and it was delicious!
Were there any particularly memorable moments on the trip?
The most striking moment we experienced was when we wandered into a bookstore on the east end of the bridge and watched a short film on the Croat-Bosniak War. The footage of the fighting, people scurrying across the bridge to avoid gunfire and then the moment the bridge fell into the water was heart breaking. When we walked back out into the sunshine and vibrant old town, it was difficult to put the two realities together.
Do you have any tips or advice for anyone headed to Mostar?
Our best advice when visiting Mostar is to stay longer than an afternoon. The historic center is quaint and can be covered in a day, but getting into the neighborhoods, enjoying the food and talking to the people made it a more meaningful experience for us.
And did you pick up any useful phrases in the local lingo?
The words Hvala (thanks) and Dobar dan (good day) are useful, but for an understanding of the relaxed locals sipping coffee, we liked the word: merak, meaning enjoyment, specifically amongst friends.
And finally… What do you love most about travelling?
We love seeing the world with fresh eyes. We notice everything: how a place looks, how it smells, what the people sound like, how they act. We don’t need to understand their language to get a feeling for the culture. It is fascinating to take note of the similarities and differences and relish in them.
NB – all images are owned by Sarah and Kris