Going to Bosnia and Herzegovina
Meet the new story in the “Half-Finished” column: Olya Talantova, a writer from Samara, was inspired by Kusturica’s movies and went on a trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The short but intense itinerary included the old town of Mostar, the monastery in Blagaj and the Kravice waterfalls.
Mostar is the historical center of Herzegovina, a city with picturesque views, beautiful bridges over the Neretva River and good-hearted locals (50% of whom are Croats, 40% Bosnians and about 4% Serbs). It is the fifth most populous city in the country. There are many mosques here: most of the inhabitants are Muslim.
How to get to Mostar?
Mostar is a major transport hub of the country and there are several ways to get here. The easiest way to get here is from Sarajevo: the bus company Autoprevoz-bus runs 7 times a day, the earliest – 06:00, the latest – 19:55. You’ll get there in two and a half hours, and a single ticket costs about 10 marks (€5). Train from the capital to Mostar runs 2 times a day – arrival time 9:02 and 18:27. The schedule you’ll find at the railway ticket office. You can get to Mostar from Montenegro, too: for example buses from Budva to Mostar run 2 times a day at 11:30 and 22:40. The ticket costs €24. From Tivat – Globtur Doo bus service for € 23,5.
Our trip started in Montenegro, so we took an evening bus to Mostar from Budva. If you’re planning to go back to Montenegro again – Budva bus station has storage rooms where you can leave your suitcases for € 2 for a day. The trip will take about 7 hours, and you may get a surprise – instead of the huge bus depicted on flyers a usual minibus arrives in most cases, in which stretching your legs is a real problem. At the border of Montenegro and Bosnia there is a passport control: the driver collects passports and passes them to the post. In our case, the entire process took no more than 30 minutes. The bus station (Autobusni Kolodvor) in Mostar is combined with the train station: there are several coffee shops, one restaurant and a pay toilet for 1 mark (€ 0,5). A 10-minute walk away is the old town.
“You may be in for a surprise – instead of the huge bus pictured on the flyers, most of the time a regular minibus arrives, in which stretching your legs is a real problem.”
You can pay in Bosnia and Herzegovina in both marks and euros. For the most part, only cash is accepted – we even called our trip “onlicash”. It’s worth bearing in mind that you can only pay with paper euro bills (there are no coins in circulation). If you give a large bill, then be prepared for change in local currency. In the central streets, a lot of exchange offices, which can be identified by a yellow plaque, but we did not use them: just paid in euros and got marks in change. There are a lot of apartments, hotels and hostels in the old town and near the station. We stayed at Yellow House Hostel (Marsala Tita 60) – it was more like an apartment without a kitchen and cost €22 per night in a double room.
Stores, shops, pastry shops and coffee shops in Mostar open early – many from 7 am. Some of the most popular supermarket chains in Mostar are “DM” and “Konzum”. which are open from 09:00 to 23:00. And many bakeries are located on Majdan Street and Marsala Tita: we chose Pekara Galeb and Old bridge bakkery. There are lots of tourist-oriented restaurants in the center of the old town but even there the bill for a couple will not exceed €15. Big portions, free wi-fi, picturesque views of the mountains, old town and bridges – what else do you need to be happy? Of the places that we liked – the restaurant Hindin Han (Jusovina bb) , Sadrvan (Jusovina 11) , National Restaurant Cevabdzinica Tima – Irma , Kriva Cuprija , Ascinica Balkan and many cafes on Majdan street.
The main beer of Mostar is Mostarsko Pivo and PAN. Don’t miss out on the chance to try it; it’s well worth it, and it’s served in almost all the cafes and restaurants. If you want to feel the spirit of Mostar bar life, go to local pubs Duradzik, Black Dog Pub and Mostar Pub Crawl.
The main attractions of every city are, of course, the people. And in Mostar it is the people, and also the bridges and mosques that they built. The most popular of bridges – the Old Bridge (Stari Most) . Photos of its background tear up Instagram, and the bridge itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Catch it naked (that is, without the crowd of tourists) is possible in the early morning and after 11:00 pm. In the daytime, locals like to sunbathe on it half-naked, cleverly clinging to the railing. In the evening it is a very atmospheric place: the bridge is beautifully illuminated. The second most important bridge is Kriva Cuprija. It is an arched bridge, which is a crossing over the Radoblja River (a tributary of the Neretva) and is located near the Old Bridge.
“The Old Town is all about market stalls, bridges, mosques, ruined buildings, and even a monument to Bruce Lee.”
Old Town is a landmark in itself. There are narrow cobblestone streets, market stalls, bridges, mosques, Catholic churches, ruined buildings, and even a monument to Bruce Lee in Zrenjevac Park. Some of the most important mosques in Mostar are Karadjozbegi Mosque near the Old Bridge and Koski Meshmed Pasha Mosque with its majestic minaret against the background of the Balkan Mountains. It is the background of the Old Bridge in the pictures.
Blagaj town is 12 km away from Mostar. One travels here to admire a picturesque view of the source of the Buna River and the tekke, a dervish monastery in the rock. The monastery was built in the XIX century, as far away as possible from the houses of the town of Blagaj. Nowadays, however, the tekke is a popular tourist attraction, and the seclusion is broken by the numerous cafes on the banks of the Buna. Entrance to the tekke costs 4 marks (€ 2), but you can not spend the money and just go to the free observation deck on the other bank – from there you will get one of the most beautiful views of the tekke, rocks and a small waterfall. Tourists usually limit their visits to the monastery, but there is much to see in the distinctive Blagaia as well. And on the way from tekke to town we met a small village, reminiscent of a hobbit village: no more than 8 houses with small bridges, stoves, silence and peace.
How to get to Blagaj?
There are buses between Mostar and Blagaj every 2 hours, you can buy a ticket from the driver for 2,10 marks. We took a cab for € 10: a nice Bosnian guy smiled and told us where on the mountain
Hum Catholic cross, which mosque to our right, and which population in Mostar and Blagaj. Keep in mind that punctuality of transportation (including rail transport) is not the end of Bosnia and Herzegovina. There will be a bus schedule hanging at the bus stop, but the discrepancy between the desired and the actual can be an hour and a half. On weekends, many routes are shortened or do not run at all.
Capljina – Kravice waterfalls
The next day we drove to the neighboring town Ćapljina, from which you can get to another beautiful attraction of Bosnia and Herzegovina – the scenic waterfalls Kravice.
The fastest and cheapest way to get from Mostar to Ćapljina is by train. Trains Sarajevo-Ćapljina with a stop in Mostar go twice a day (in Mostar they arrive at 09:02 and 18:27). The trip takes half an hour and costs 10 marks (€ 5) per seat in a 2nd class carriage. The bonus is free wi-fi, plug sockets, comfortable seats and a wonderful view out the window. Another option is the Centrotrans-eurolines buses. Just outside the station you’ll find a tourist information desk (easy to spot by the yellow markings), several cafes, bakeries and supermarkets – a good time to stock up on food and drinks on the way to the waterfalls.
Kravice waterfalls are located between Ćapljina and Ljubuški, near Studenci. There are buses from Ćapljina to Ljubuški three times a day. We decided, having checked the distance between these settlements, to walk 12-13 kilometers and to buy some food for our picnic. The path lay through amazing quiet villages: Ćapljina, Trebižat, Krča, Prćavci, Stubica, Studenci, Glavica, Treseljevina, Mahala Pirići, Pregrađe, Jurjevica, Ljubuški. The first 4 kilometers there are walking paths next to the road and houses, but with the disappearance of houses and the appearance of gardens and orchards paths disappear. We had to walk along the side of the road. We had to be careful – in some places it was really dangerous, because Bosnians love to speed and honk at pedestrians. But on the way we were helped by responsive locals who encouraged us “A little more, 4 more kilometers, then left, and another 4 kilometers.” Bosnians smiled broadly, greeted loudly and politely asked if they needed help. After 20 kilometers, we saw the long-awaited Waterfall Kravice sign on the road and tried to walk the remaining 4 kilometers as fast as possible. And the view of the waterfalls was worth the trip.
The entrance to the reserve costs 6 marks (€3). At the entrance there is parking for buses, cars, several apartments for accommodation, a restaurant, grocery and souvenir shops. Orientation on the territory of the reserve itself is easy: there are many maps and signs. We walked to the biggest waterfalls. Near them there are 2 restaurants with rather steep for Bosnia prices. There are a lot of tourists on the shore and a lot of tourists in the restaurants. To get to the side that is closer to the waterfalls you need to pay € 5 per person to a guy with a mustache, a hat and tights, and even with a yellow oar to take you across a stream a little over 10 meters long (and € 5 in Bosnia is a full dinner). However, you can find detours across the narrowed riverbed. The path is treaded, and the noise of the waterfalls beckons in the right direction. It’s worth spending a few hours at the waterfalls and not rushing anywhere. The murmur of the water is soothing and inspiring.
After a few hours, we went in the direction of the sign to try to return to Ćapljina by bus, but it turned out that the bus takes a slightly different route, so to get straight to the waterfalls in anything but a cab would not work. We went to the village Ljubiški (8 km), where we spent the night (the night cost € 39). The bus station was marked on the map: in fact it turned out to be a meter by meter booth and 4 dusty buses. On Sunday, transport from Ljubuški to Ćapljina doesn’t run at all, so we took a cab again – it cost € 10. After that we went back to Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina remained for us a country with a beautiful climate, majestic mountains and smiling people.
“Bosnians smile broadly, greet loudly and politely ask if they need help.”
What does a tourist need to know when traveling in Bosnia and Herzegovina?
If you’ve always been inspired by Emir Kusturica’s films, or if you’re just looking for a non-trivial destination for a tourist trip, consider Bosnia and Herzegovina as an option for your next trip.
Photo: nomadFra / shutterstock.com
Many people still associate the territory of the former Yugoslavia with the fighting. But Bosnia and Herzegovina is no more dangerous than any state in Western Europe. And it’s certainly no less beautiful!
How to get to Bosnia and Herzegovina
There are three large airports in the country – in Sarajevo, Banja Luka and Tuzla, but you cannot get to any of them directly from Russia. One can fly with a connection in Istanbul, Budapest or other European cities. The connecting flights from Moscow to Sarajevo and back start at 25,000 rubles* per person.
The bus service here is well developed, but the most convenient way to travel through Bosnia by car: to rent a car in Sarajevo on OneTwoTrip costs 3000 rubles* per day. By the way, you can also visit the country by car from Croatia or Montenegro – a great addition to your vacation in these countries.
Tourists from Russia do not need a visa to visit Bosnia and Herzegovina. You can enter the country with a passport and stay up to 30 days. But to explore the local attractions in detail, three to four days is enough. At the border will ask only PCR-test taken not earlier than 48 hours before entry. So if you arrive in Croatia or Montenegro with a Russian PCR-test, visit Bosnia and Herzegovina in the first days.
What to see in Bosnia and Herzegovina
In the southwest of the country, near the borders with Croatia and Montenegro, there are several major tourist spots.
In the 1990s, this small town saw fierce and destructive ethnic fighting in its streets. Today is no longer a reminder of those terrible events: Mostar is clean and decent-looking. However, those who have ever traveled through the Balkans, understand that this region has its own concept of grooming. In my opinion, Mostar is one of the most colorful cities of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The central point of attraction for tourists is the Old Bridge over the fast-flowing river Neretva. It is also the main tourist attraction, the calling card of not only the region but of the whole country. The best view of it opens from the neighboring Lutsk bridge, which is located just downstream, or from the rocky bank of the Neretva.
The center of the city, which is all the space directly adjacent to the bridge, is usually filled to the brim with tourists. Some come for the oriental bazaar, some for the restaurants and the local Mostarsko beer or Bosnian coffee. Narrow cobblestone streets, souvenir shops, bridges, mosques, and Catholic churches – that’s all Mostar. It was a surprise to find the monument to Bruce Lee in Zrenjevac Park. The two main mosques of Mostar are Karagöz-Beka, which is located near the Old Bridge, and Koski Mehmed Pasha with its slender minaret against the background of the mountains. This building is the backdrop of the Old Bridge on postcards.
An hour’s drive from Mostar, on the Trebizhat River, is a nature park with a cascade of picturesque waterfalls. Abundant, even in the dry season, streams of water pouring down from a height of 15-28 meters form a semicircle of about 150 meters in diameter – it is not for nothing that these waterfalls are called a fan over the precipice. At the foot of the cascades flow into a clear lake, on the banks of which local residents and tourists love to relax. Here are equipped with places for sunbathing, a few coffee shops with very noisy and very Balkan cheerful staff, rent small boats and kayaks. Despite the fact that the water rarely gets warmer than 18℃, everyone is eager to swim here.
There is a fee to enter Kravice Falls – about 10 convertible marks* (Bosnian currency). The park is open year-round, but it’s best to check the exact schedule on the website.
It takes just over half an hour to drive from Kravice waterfalls to Blagaj. This peaceful place, where at the cliffs above the turquoise water hundreds of birds flit, even before the conquest by the Ottoman Empire was a haven for the Muslim monks-hermits. It has been here since the beginning of the 16th century. The guest house and the mausoleum that stand on the cliff were built in the mid-seventeenth century and remained almost in their original form. Today inside the complex there is a kind of museum, a souvenir shop and a coffee shop with fancy tables. All tourists can enter, not only Muslims, but shoes must be left before entering.
The water cave at the foot of the Tekija is none other than the karst spring Vrelo Bune, one of the most powerful sources of fresh water in all of Europe. The Bune River, which is formed by this spring, is only 9 km long on the surface of the earth, after which it flows into the Neretva River. Along its banks there are many sightseeing coffee shops where you can drink Turkish coffee with Turkish Turkish Turkish delight or even try grilled river trout while enjoying the diversity of the surrounding landscape.
These three locations are essential for those who come to Bosnia and Herzegovina for a few days. If you are able to stay longer, be sure to visit three other Bosnian towns.
Trebinje, the city of sun and wine, is located just a few dozen kilometers from the Croatian Dubrovnik and the Montenegrin border, in a picturesque valley between hills covered with slender plane trees. In ancient times, it was part of the Roman Empire, and later was part of the Kingdom of Serbia, the Ottoman Empire, Austria-Hungary and Yugoslavia. Such a rich historical diversity of cultures has caused the unique color of this place.
The Trebišnica River divides the city into two parts, and the Arslanagić bridge, from the 16th century, connects it. Trebinje has preserved the Old Town from the time of Turkish rule. Be sure to visit the local food market and the cinematic cafe “Under Platanami” located opposite. Scenes for European and American films are regularly filmed here. Locals love to tell stories about the filming and discuss what movies they “starred” in. In general, the entire city looks like a set for a good movie. Walking around here is a special pleasure for those who are tired of the crowds and bustle of megapolises.
Visegrád is a small and world-famous ancient town. It occupies a modest 450 sq. km. amidst forested mountains between the Drina and Rzava rivers. Three men made the place famous. The first was Sokollu Damat Mehmed Pasha, who had a monumental 11-span stone bridge built in Visegrad. The second is Ivo Andric, the Yugoslav writer whose novel Bridge on the Drina won the Nobel Prize for Literature. The third is Emir Kusturica, who built the city of Andricgrad full of literary, historical and cinematic mysteries as a setting for his film based on Andric’s book.
If you are in town in the tourist season, take a boat trip on the Drina River and appreciate the bridge from the water, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The town with the culinary name of Yaice is actually considered royal. The last monarch of the Kingdom of Bosnia was crowned here. His residence was located here, and he was assassinated here as well. If you are not interested in the history of the country, you will definitely appreciate this small town first of all for the spectacular 25-meter waterfall, which is formed right at the confluence of two rivers – Pliva and Vrbas.
Of course, Jajce has everything that an ancient city should have: a well-preserved fortress wall, narrow streets, catacombs, stone arches, ruined cathedrals, watchtowers… But the main attraction is the waterfall. Few places in the world have rivers merging together and plunging down in a mighty stream right in the center of the city. It looks unusual and impressive. The Bosnian kings knew where to build their residences! However, the whole of Bosnia and Herzegovina is beautiful and makes you want to return and get to know it better.