Location: Ten kilometers north of Mostar.
Conditions: Nasty headwind. Narrow road. Frightening traffic.
Realization: This is not fun, this is stupid.
Our original plan was to cycle from Mostar to Sarajevo but we ended up taking the train instead. The road from Mostar to Sarajevo is just not suitable for cycling. It’s a narrow, winding road with no shoulder and very heavy traffic. To top things off, there are multiple tunnels on the road with no bypass routes. We got about 10 kilometers out of Mostar before we decided to turn around and hop on the train instead. It’s too bad, because it would be a beautiful road for cycling but the view from the train was nice too.
The city of Mostar was great. After cycling through Europe for two months, it was a dramatic change to descend into Mostar and see the minarets dotting the skyline and to ride through the city streets while the call to prayer played over the loudspeakers.
Actually, the entire country of Bosnia and Herzegovina felt different from the rest of Europe right from the start. It seems like the entire country is under construction. Concrete and rough brick buildings are going up everywhere and it feels a little more like Southeast Asia in that way. In the first hour after we crossed the border, I saw more G-class and S-class Mercedes than I’ve seen in the rest of Europe combined. I have no idea why that is. The drivers are also a little crazy. I think the citizens haven’t decided on the national honking protocol because we’ve heard the “I’m passing you.” honk, the “Way to go!” honk, and the “Get the f**k off the road!” honk quite a bit. About half the drivers don’t honk at all. Drivers are pretty good when passing from behind, but way too many people ignore our bikes and pass in the oncoming direction while we are in the opposite lane here. I hate it when drivers do that more than anything else because I usually don’t realize it is happening until the car is right on top of me.
Mostar is famous for it’s bridge: originally built in 1556 and destroyed during the war in 1993.
The bridge was rebuilt in 2004 and there is a tradition of local guys jumping and diving off it (for money now). Here is a video we took of one guy taking the plunge. After he jumped, we looked out over the edge of the bridge and both decided we could do it too.
The old city is nice but the most fascinating thing about Mostar is the ruins of buildings destroyed during the war. You can walk down almost any street and right next to a functioning shop or office will be a bullet-riddled ruin. We spent most of our days there wandering around the city staring at the locals and wondering what they were doing during the war.
One other difference about Bosnia and Herzegovina is that it is pretty cheap. Groceries and restaurants are the most noticeably different, while camping and pensions are about the same as elsewhere (US$20-30). We haven’t free-camped due to the multitude of landmines that are still left in the country. Cheap food really makes a huge difference for us because we love to try all the local delicacies. The first thing we tried was Burek. It’s a buttery, flaky pastry sort of like a croissant filled with all different types of hearty food you would associate with Eastern Europe. We’ve tried potato, cheese, spinach and cheese, and meat and potato. The meat and potato was the best by far: nice and juicy and a little spicy. You buy Burek by the kilogram and one kilo runs about 7KM (~US$5).
Now we are in Sarajevo, visiting the museums and wandering around the city. It’s amazing how busy this city is. Walking down the pedestrian thoroughfare on a Wednesday afternoon, you wonder whether or not it is actually Saturday due to all the people out and about. The other amazing thing is how tall the young people are. We’ve noticed that all over Europe that there are a decent number of young women who are taller than me and the men are absolutely gigantic! We thought we were tall but we are beginning to feel like shrimps. We’re going to hang out here for a couple of days and then head northeast towards Serbia and Bulgaria.