Getting the Most Out of Mostar

As is par for the course, I am already behind!  Seeing as I took my sweet time setting up this blog, we’ve now had a multitude of experiences that are begging to be shared!  So, in no particular order, I am going to begin my most frequent game… Catch-up!

A few weeks ago we decided that we’d had enough of Sarajevo for a day.  We had been here a solid two months and never left the city.  That might not sound like a big deal to most.  After all, Sarajevo is a capital city, so it must be huge.  Not so.  There are amazing discoveries to be made here, but it is more like a really large village than a city.  And after two months of sitting in this bowl, we needed to get out.  We needed a break from the horrendous pollution and the dreary winter weather.  It was time to stretch our traveling legs.  So, we all piled in our car, and left for a day trip to Mostar.

But, in order to truly torture our kids, we had to stop along the way!  We had been told about an amazing furniture shop in a town called Konjic on the way to Mostar.  Rukotvorine didn’t disappoint.  Not only was the craftsmanship mind blowing, the man that was working the floor was about the coolest guy ever!  His English was about as good as our Bosnian, so we definitely had to rely on our trusty sign language to get our point across.  He did his best to show us around and explain how the furniture was made and what it all symbolized.  The boys were interested for a solid 3.5 seconds, so we spent a lot of time reminding them to look with their eyes and not their hands!  You’ll hear me say this a lot over the next couple of years, but one of my favorite things about Bosnians is their love of children.  You might be thinking, ‘Oh, I love kids too.’  But you’d be wrong.  You might love kids, but Bosnians LOVE kids!  All kids.  Big ones, little ones, babies.  And it isn’t just the women who love them.  The men are just as enamored with our little people as the women are.  Oh, and even the kids love kids!  You should see the attention Lyla gets when I am at either boys’ school.  But I digress.  So, this guy was no exception to the Kid-Love rule.   He cooed at the baby (and held her by the end of the visit) and rustled the boys’ hair.  And then, he did something that caught me by surprise.  He offered to take us back to the room that the furniture is made in.  Heck yeah, we want to go!  So, we all walk back to this little, sawdust filled room to see about a half dozen men, some sitting, some standing, all creating works of art.  Then, one of the men patted his leg and invited Wyatt to come sit on his lap as he whittled away on a piece of wood.  And wouldn’t you know, my super shy guy went right over.  Not only did he get to see these creations being made first hand, the gentleman let Wyatt do the work.  Here is what it looked like.

I'd say Wyatt was pretty thrilled!

I’d say Wyatt was pretty thrilled!

His hands seem so little next to this craftsman's.

His hands seem so little next to this craftsman’s.

After Konjic, I knew this was going to be a great day!  We hopped back into the car and headed south to Mostar.

Here are some important facts about Mostar.  

It is one of the largest cities in Bosnia.  One of the most recognizable architectural landmarks of Bosnian culture is in Mostar: Stari Most.  This bridge was built in the 16th century by the Ottomans connecting two parts of the city over the Neretva River.  It was breathtaking.  But more importantly, it was of the utmost cultural importance to the people of Bosnia.  So, during the war, the Serbs knew that it would be a devastating blow to the morale of the Bosnian Muslims (not to mention their supply line) if it were destroyed.  And destroyed, it was.  But, if there is anything I am learning about the Bosnian people, there isn’t much that will keep them down for good.  So, with the financial help of a few other countries, Stari Most was rebuilt using as many of the original bricks as possible and reopened in 2004.

Stari Most

Besides the bridge, Mostar has an amazing “old town” paved with cobblestone (not the most stroller friendly, in case you’re wondering), and lined with vendors that sell everything from touristy trinkets, to pashmina shawls, to one-of-a-kind artwork.

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During the war, for about 9 months in 1993, Mostar was under siege.  They were cut off from food and electricity.  Constant shelling and snipers kept people in their homes all day and night, leaving only to get water.  As an American, it is incredibly difficult to imagine life like this.  It goes against everything I know.  Yet, walking the streets of Mostar (just like in Sarajevo) there are constant reminders that in my own lifetime, there were people being killed, tortured and raped daily for the “crime” of being ethnically Muslim.  It is eerie to see so many cemeteries all over the city with one glaring detail in common… the death dates all say 1993, 1994, 1993, 1995, 1994… It’s disturbing to say the least.  But, I’ll get into the real grit of the war in a future post.

Mostar is just one of the places that you have to see.  It has character, culture and quality that can’t be found anywhere else.  It also has crazy people that jump off the bridge for fun!  The boys thoroughly enjoyed that!

This was just the first of what I am sure will be several trips to Mostar.  Here are some other pictures of our day there.

The boys on Stari Most

The boys on Stari Most

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One day, the kids will appreciate the places they’ve been.

This scraggly guy was napping on the bridge.

This scraggly guy was napping on the bridge.

This is the delivery vehicle for the little cafe we had lunch at.

The delivery vehicle for the little cafe we had lunch at.

This is a long video,  about 45 minutes, but if you are at all interested in seeing what Mostar looked like during the war, I highly recommend it.  I think it’s important to remember what this country has gone through.  While I was playing volleyball and getting my hair done for school dances, Bosnians were literally fighting for their lives.  And not just soldiers.  Kids, teenagers, grandparents.  Sometimes, when you’re American, it’s easy to forget what the rest of the world is going through, because, well, it’s easy to live in America.  Really easy.  Take a moment to read up on the news around the world.  I promise you, where the President vacationed or who marries whom won’t seem like such a big deal anymore.

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