Plan for the day
Our plan for the day was to drive all the way to Vrelo Bune. We would pass Mostar before reaching Vrelo Bune our first sightseeing destination. After Vrelo Bune we would return to explore Mostar, our second sightseeing destination. For the night we would be staying at Mostar.
The drive to Vrelo Bune would be a long drive of about 3 hours, along the way we planned to stop for coffee breaks and meals. We were not sure if there would be any interesting stops and sights enroute to Vrelo Bune.
By the end of the day
We left Jajce Youth Hostel in the morning and drove south toward Vrelo Bune. In less than 1 hour we reached Bugojno and it looked like a delightful town to stop for breakfast. After breakfast we continued our journey and made an unexpected stop at Jablanica when we saw a town gathering/festival/celebration. By the time we we reached Vrelo Bune it was close to 3 pm. Vrelo Bune though was crowded was very scenic and did not disappoint us. We finally arrived at Mostar at about 4.30 pm and had a wonderful time exploring this historic old town.
We left Jajce at 9 am, since none of us were hungry we continued our drive southward keeping a lookout for the next town to have a nice breakfast. After about 45 minutes of driving we reached Bugojno. From Tripadvisor we found that Restoran Babilon had very good reviews so we were heading there. Unfortunately we were not able to find it despite driving a few times around a triangular loop where the restaurant was supposed to be located. It was either google map showed the incorrect location or the restaurant had relocated.
By then we were getting pretty hungry so when we saw some empty car park lots we quickly parked our car there. In front of the car park was a cafe but on walking closer we saw that it was closed. We had no choice but to explore further. We came to an intersection and saw that a paved road across the intersection had restaurants, cafes and shops on both sides. This paved road was “Sultan Ahmedova” and it was “no entry for car”. We walked passed several cafes which did not looked “inviting” before we chance upon Restoran City.
There was a huge red menu poster hanging just at the entrance of Restoran City. It served cevapi, pite which looked like local food. So we went into the restaurant. City restoran was on the 2nd level. Its interior was pretty modern, bright and comfortable. We were the only dine in customers as others just packed their food and left.
We ordered beef pite, and cheese pite, grilled chicken with chips and beef goulash with rice. Pite was just thin dough skin wrapped around meat or cheese, it was made like a long sausage that were then coiled into a flat pancake. Each serving of a pite was a quarter of the pancake. The beef pite tasted a bit like our Singaporean roti prata with meat in between.
When it came to paying the bill, we were stunned by the bill amount. The entire cost for the food and drink came up to on 18 BAM (SGD$13.5 or €8), so unbelievable inexpensive!
After the meals we strolled about the street and saw a flea market selling interesting stuffs, some of which were MADE IN CHINA! We left without picking up anything.
With a full stomach it was difficult for us to sit for long in the car in our forward drive toward Vrelo Bune. Just about 1 hour into the drive from Bugojno we were already feeling very sleepy and were dying for another break to stretch our legs. Our route took us into a town, Jablanica, and we eagerly looked out for a nice cafe to stop for another coffee break. Interesting the town was very busy. There were cars and buses everywhere. We could not find any parking spaces near those cafes that took our fancy. Just when we gave up and were on our way out of the town that was when we spotted a huge green field with many people, tents, cars and buses. Oh a town CELEBRATION!
In many of our DIY trips we would look out for festivals and joined in the celebration. So all the more reasons to stop at Jablanica. We renew our effort and found a car park space between all the other vehicles in a big field nearby. It was fun walking among the locals, there were many pretty girls dressed in their traditional costumes and we could not resist requesting them to take a photo with us. In not so many English words we gathered that it was a festival to celebrate the end of some fighting during WWII (Battle of Neretva) which took place near this town.
As we walked among the locals, many of them were very curious about us. It seemed that Chinese looking people was a rare sight in this part of the world. We moved from one makeshift food store to another, smelling the delicious food aroma but not buying any as we were still full from our heavy breakfast. Many locals were picnicking and some even brought along music instruments to entertain others.
We left Jablanica at about 2 pm and again continued our drive toward Vrelo Bune. We still had another 60 km to go. For three quarters of the journey the road was beside Neretva river till we passed Mostar from there we went eastward for another 15 km to Vrelo Bune
Vrelo Bune had more visitors/tourists than we expected. The road that led to Vrelo Bune was packed with cars. Along the road we saw many visitors walking toward Vrelo Bune. Should we park our car (if we managed to find a space along the road) and walked like every body else or should we still drive forward? We drove on and came to a road barricade where several men were collecting 4 BAM for car entry. It was still about 500 m to our destination so we paid up and drove past the barricade. Our car inched slowly forward after the barricade as both sides of the road were packed with souvenir-store-carts and people weaving among these carts. Finally when we were very near our destination we saw some empty parking spaces and quickly parked our car.
We walked forward toward Tekija u Blagaju (Blagaj Tekke), a 600 years old Dervish monastery. Just before the monastery was a bridge crossing a wide river (Buna river). On the other bank of the river were many restaurants and cafes. These restaurants and cafes were probably located on the opposite bank because they faced the more scenic sights of Vrelo Bune.
We crossed the bridge and walked through a few restaurants, went up a slope behind another restaurant and came to a slope directly opposite the monastery. The sight of the monastery built directly below a tall cliff, just beside Buna river that flowed out from a cavern at the bottom of the cliff was very beautiful. The combination of a man made structure in this rugged natural environment enhanced their individual beauty.
Tekija Blagaj was first founded during the height of Ottoman empire. It was damaged in the past due to rock slides but was extensively repaired and stood looking mostly as it did in the past. From my perspective, I felt that Tekijia looked more like a dwelling house than a monastery with its white walls and balcony that extended out over the river.
Vrelo Bune actually meant “source”, the water (karst spring) coming out of the cavern below the cliff was the source of the Buna river. This river was about 9 km long, starting at Blagaj meandering through villages and joined Neretva river at Buna village near to Mostar.
We were back at Mostar at about 4.30 pm and drove straight to our accommodation for the night which was at Guest House Goa Mostar. From the balcony of our quad room we could see the Old Bridge (Stari Most), the star attraction of Mostar.
Once we settled our accommodation check-in procedure, we were out to roam the old town of Mostar. From our guesthouse we walked toward the direction of the old bridge. Before the old bridge we did a right turn and went down a slope to the river bank just directly below the bridge.
Like us, a lot of people had also found their ways to the river bank. Looking up we could see many people on the bridge too. On the bridge there was some sorts of a steel railing that barricaded the visitors from sitting on the bridge ledge. We noticed a couple of guys walking on the ledge outside the barricades and in my mind I branded them as daredevil tourists. A while later we heard commotion on the bridge and everybody on the bridge came to a standstill. There was man in body swim suit, standing at the apex of the bridge. Then he jumped off the ledge with a dive “knee” down into the water. It was a huge splash followed by much clapping. Wow! we were definitely at the right place at the right time. Lin Ying even managed to tape the JUMP!
A dive to be forever remembered
The town (Mostar) on both sides of the old bridge (Stari Most) was very picturesque. This old bridge that spanned across Nerekva river, was built by the Ottomans in the 16th century and was one of the most recognizable landmarks of Bosnia & Herzegovina. It was considered one of the most exemplary pieces of Islamic architecture in Balkans. This beautiful old town around this beautiful old bridge was listed as an UNESCO site.
Mostar was the most heavily bombed city during the war following the breakup of Yugoslavia some 25 years ago (1992-1995). Airstrikes destroyed many historical and cultural buildings and Stari Most was also hit. 11 years after the conflict, the old bridge was restored and many other buildings rebuilt. With such a destructive war in its history, we felt very amaze to see the old town basking in such a vibrant and colourful atmosphere today.
The town was swamped with tourists, it was no wonder that the streets on both sides of the bridge were packed with colourful souvenir shops and restaurants. We crossed the bridge and walked on the cobbled stone path along the river. Looking back we could see the old bridge and it looked stunning on either side of the bridge.
We walked all the way to Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque. Exploring the mosque compound was free but going up its minaret to view Stari Most was 10 BAM (SGD$8 or €5) per person. We were fine with looking at the old bridge from the ground of the mosque and since the balcony in our room provided us a fantastic top down view of the old bridge we did not want to pay the fee to climb up the minaret.
On the way back to our guesthouse we stopped at SADRVAN for dinner. This restaurant was recommended by the teenage son of the owner of our guesthouse. So we presumed it must be good.
We ordered three meals for four of us and the entire bill came up to 43 BAM (SGD$33 or €22), a relatively pricier meal as compared to other Bosnian towns. We were in a hurry so we had to forgo dessert as we want to be at the balcony of our room to take sunset shots of Stari Most.
After the sun set and the sky turned black, Yat Thong and I returned to the river bank at the bottom of the old bridge. Surprising at 9 pm, the river bank was packed with people. There were many young people sitting, laughing and having a good time down at the river bank. Similarly the open terraces of the cafes on the slope beside the bridge were lighted and laughing sound could be heard. Who could have imagined that 25 years ago this same place was full of heartbreaks and miseries?
Accommodation for the night
Our stay for the night was “Guest house Goa Mostar“. I booked a room for four with a balcony view of Stari Most at 128 BAM (SGD$96 or €64) a night from Booking.com. The price at this guesthouse was relatively more expensive than the other guesthouses in the vicinity, considering that it did not have an ensuite toilet in the room. I was willing to pay the higher price because I wanted the balcony view of Stari Most.
Our room was on the 2nd level and there were four bedrooms. Our room was the biggest and the only one with a balcony. The room had two single beds and a double bed and was comfortably sufficient for the four of us.
There was only one toilet on the 2nd level to be shared by guests from four rooms. Though the toilet was just a couple of steps from our room door, It was rather inconvenient to arrive at the toilet to find it occupied. The worst part was the hot water heater was not good enough to cater for all the guests. The water heater was huge, but after three persons had taken a shower, there was no more hot water for the rest and it took forever to heat up the water. The water heater switch was also faculty!!
Yat Thong had a huge shock bathing in icy water when the hot water supply ran out midway during his soaping. I ran down to ask for help and the lady of the house just shrugged her shoulders telling me in broken English that she could not control how other guests before Yat Thong used the hot water. In the end, the male owner came up and jabbed the heater switch hard to turn it on. But it was of no help to Yat Thong as it would be hours before the water in the heater turned hot.
I was pretty annoyed with the owner for not telling us that even when the heater switch was in the “ON” position, as long as it did not light up the heater had no electricity. We should jabbed the switch very hard until the light came on! Actually the owner should replace the FACULTY SWITCH!