Mostar: Tourists in Old Town

Mostar is a tourist town. The slippery stone streets of Old Town are lined with trinket stalls and clogged with huge tour groups. “Why are there so many people walking here?” Squirrel asked time and time again as we passed crowds of older folks slowly following a person waving a placard or umbrella.

When we dropped off the rental car the first evening, we mentioned to the agent that we might go on to Dubrovnik or stay here. “Go to Dubrovnik,” he said without any hesitation. Even the driver we hired for a day to go outside of town was hard pressed to tell us how to spend a day in Mostar since we had seen almost everything. I’m a little hard pressed to say what I like about this city because I haven’t been able to figure out how to live here like a local.

As a tourist, the thing to see in Mostar is the Old Bridge, of course. Built in 1566 by the Ottomans, it was the largest bridge of its kind and it spanned the Neretva River until 1993 when it was destroyed by Croatian forces during the Croat-Bosniak war. There was no strategic reason to destroy the bridge, other than destruction of a cultural artifact that represented unity between different ethnic groups. The pieces of the bridge were retrieved from the river and it was rebuilt and reopened in 2004.

The kids immediately loved how slippery the bridge was with its incredibly smooth stone and steep angles. I think a few people were amused at how much the girls exaggerated slipping on the bridge and going “whooaaaaahh” on every “step”. Others were more worried about breaking a hip.

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Stari Most headed into Old Town

So we crossed the bridge and took pictures. Now what? If you happen to find yourself in Mostar, I highly recommend finding a way to get to one of the many restaurants lining the river for a more relaxed view of the bridge as well of any divers who make their living getting tourists to pay them to jump. We found a very nice restaurant that was empty, and while the food was delicious, and the place offered a great view, Squirrel was extremely disappointed that no one jumped off the bridge during our meal. I was too.

I did take the girls to a few museums during our stay in Mostar. I should mention that museums here are pretty small — they used to be houses, or in the case of the Muslibegović House, a museum and a working bed and breakfast. The Muzej Hercegovine started with a woman who ushered us into a theater where the kids and I watched a five minute video that showed the bombing of the Old Bridge and then its subsequent reconstruction. The video made quite an impression on the girls who, after all their MagnaTile builds, I think could appreciate what it took to make the “Famous Bridge” as they call it. And the fact that it had to be made twice.

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The bread and breakfast that was also a museum.

And this is where I really miss having a home to go back to rather than suitcases with their contents overflowing on the floor. If we went home after a weekend here, I’m sure the kids would have spent less time yelling over who put their feet on the other, and instead would have worked together to try to recreate the famous bridge with blocks and MagnaTiles. As I write this post, Goose wants to look at the pictures of the “famous bridge” and keeps telling me that they fixed the famous bridge by putting stones back together. Squirrel, however, is whining that she’s bored. This is the point where she’d tell Google home that she wanted to hear the My Little Pony soundtrack and then dance around the house and make up words to Sia’s “Rainbow”. Instead, we struggle to learn new things — read new books, work on reading, and make lessons out of questions about bats and weather and insects.

But, then there are the moments where no one fights or whines and we get to try something new as a family, like when we went back to Old Town for dinner and stumbled into Divan, mainly because they billed themselves as a wine bar (Clearly I was choosing the restaurant that night!). We had a fairly private table on the river that was only accessible to the waiter and a few stray cats. Yeah, try to eat a meal here without having a cat watch you — I dare you!

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The view from our table at Divan!
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Dad pointing out the bats to Squirrel

We ate cevapi, stuffed peppers and some other delicious meats. The girls watched the whirlpools in the river and we heard the Muslim call to prayer. As the evening fell, we got to point out bats and swallows to the girls as they swooped amazingly close to us.

After dinner, we found a way to get to closer to the water and take the obligatory postcard shot of the Stari Most. It seemed almost perfect and worth the hassle of traveling with the kids.

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Postcard view, complete with happy, romantic childless couple!

But then again, perfect may work for postcards, but it doesn’t always work for families with small children. It took several hundred shots for us to get a decent picture with the bridge, as well as some whining to which child was being held by whom. But, as I tell the kids, perfect is boring. And our life right now is anything but boring.

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