June 4, 2016
This is the other Rick Steves highly recommended road trip out of Dubrovnik. While we thought this was a fun and fascinating glimpse into Bosnia-Herzegovina, we found Mostar rather touristy and more a reason to take a road trip than a great destination.
We again rented a car from the Hertz agency just outside the Buza Gate. See the previous post.
On a gorgeous clear morning with puffy clouds, we decided to take a different route up the coast and through the mountains rather than the route recommend by Rick Steves. It’s the route that Google recommended and although we weren’t sure that we could actually cross the border in the hills above Slano, it worked out perfectly and was great fun.
Take route 8 north to Slano and then the 6232 in the hills above town to the border.
The tiny road is not really wide enough for two cars to pass, but we never encountered another car until we hit a larger road in Bosnia. At the boarder the two “guards” were more interested in their yard work than us and just waved us through. On the other side of the border we woke up an officer sleeping in his car as we drove past.
Other than the guards and the sleeping officer we saw very few people or towns in the green Mediterranean hills of Bosnia-Herzegovina. It was a little spooky, just Don and I driving through the hinterland with next to no one else around.
As we got closer to the main road, Rick Steves’s backway in, the landscape became more developed crossing a large fertile agricultural basin.
We then followed the Rick Steves Stolac route the rest of the way in stopping at this great little necropolis outside of Stolac with 15th century Bosnian tombs.
Passing through more beautiful Mediterranean hills and valleys we finally reach Mostar, about 3 hours with several photo stops and the stop at the necropolis.
The parking situation has changed since the 2013 guide book. Now there are people everywhere trying to look official and get you into their small parking lot. We headed where Rick said the public lot was supposed to be. A couple of guys with city parking badges directed us to a parking space. We’re still not sure it was legitimate as they charged us 100 Kunan – about 15 USD, which seems very high for this town. If you know the real scoop please leave me a comment.
On a beautiful sunny Sunday the town was filled with tour groups. I’m not sure from where but I heard less of the typical, American, French, German and Chinese.
Despite the myriad tacky shops, the town does have a magical setting surrounded by rugged Mediterranean hills and with a beautiful blue green river running under the famous Old bridge. It’s been rebuilt since the original that had survived for 500 years was destroyed in the recent Bosnian conflict.
The town does seem to be changing fast, but you can still see evidence of the war that tore this town apart, pock marked abandoned buildings and the new cemetery where everyone buried there died in the mid 1990s.
The river divides the town’s Muslim population and the Serbian Christian population. The highest towers are actually the Christian bell towers which look similar to minarets. The town’s Muslim population for the most part blends in. Very few head coverings are worn and you can easily order beer with your lunch. Other than the minarets that rise above town you would hardly know that it’s predominantly a Muslim town.
If you are planning on visiting this area I highly recommend reading some history of the town and region. The Rick Steves’s guide book has a good easy write up that outlines the horrors these people faced just two decades ago.
Lunch at Hindin Han – a Rick Steves selection – Good food, huge portions, inexpensive, friendly and a lovely setting along the river, albeit no bridge views. Don ordered the river trout. . He was served two whole fish grilled to perfection and served with parsley potatoes. I wanted a lighter lunch and ordered the omelet and a tomato and cucumber salad. They served me a huge bowl of cucumber and tomatoes – very fresh and tasty. The omelet, too, was gigantic and filled with prosciutto, cheese and mushrooms and served with French fries. I ate about half the omelet and none of the fries. Their bread, soft and springy, is also a cut above the typical.
On the drive back to Dubrovnik we took the Rick Steves Stolic route stopping at Blagaj. I was intrigued by this Muslim monastery’s setting, at the base of an impressive cliff along a pretty river. It’s worth the stop if you have the time.
Although the 15th century monastery itself is not that interesting -small rooms with rugs on the floor – on this Sunday afternoon the place was filled with local tourists looking for an excuse to get out and enjoy a gorgeous day. This river walk lined with restaurants seemed to do the trick.
Continuing on to Dubrovnik traffic was relatively light until we hit the mountain border above town, a very slow crossing taking us about 30 minutes to get through with only about dozen cars ahead of us. Great views heading back down into town.
Heading back to the car rental agency gas stations can be hard to find on the coastal roads. You can find one on the island where Vladamira Nazora loops around.