Bosnia and Herzegovina is “a country that defies every expectation,” said Jillian Keenan in The Washington Post. Currently enjoying a long surge in tourism, it still shows the scars of the war that cleaved the population in the early 1990s, but those scars coexist with “moments of perfect beauty” that make history’s echoes seem more profound. Perhaps nowhere is this truer than in Mostar, the cultural capital of Herzegovina and one of the region’s biggest tourist draws. Nearly a generation ago, this picturesque city of about 70,000 endured more bombings than any other in Bosnia. Its rebuilt Old Town may look “eerily pristine,” given its recent defacing, yet it’s undeniably charming—“a seemingly timeless slice of Europe’s multicultural past.”
Riding a bus into Mostar from Sarajevo, “I couldn’t tear my eyes from the scenery outside my window.” Dramatic green peaks towered above clusters of colorful homes whose walls were often pocked with bullet holes; the imagery evoked “a fairy tale thrust into brutal reality.” Even coming upon Mostar at night, when dim streetlights illuminated its cobblestones, I could make out the bullet scarring. In the following days, I wandered into cemeteries where gravestone after gravestone bore the year 1993. But there are plenty of other things to see throughout the city, and not far outside it. One day, I took a half-hour taxi ride to Kravica Waterfalls, whose 328-foot span makes it “one of Europe’s most stunning natural sights.”
I could list various attractions in Mostar, but all of them “pale in comparison” to the city itself. The beautiful Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque offers visitors “a fascinating look at Mostar’s Ottoman heritage,” for instance, but I valued it most for the 360-degree view from its riverside minaret. Walking the city’s streets, stopping here or there for a thick coffee and cheese-filled burek, I had one of Europe’s prettiest cities nearly to myself. During one walk, I steered toward Mostar’s most famous reconstructed landmark, an elegant stone bridge that had stood for 427 years before the bombings, and found myself sharing it with only two other people: lovers, standing at the apex, kissing under an umbrella.
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