One of the curious traditions of "MY" Nazaré, in Portugal, are the hundreds of bans announcing : Quartos - Chambres - Rooms - Zimmer, always in this same languages, always in the same order (Spanish, Italian, and other tourists don't count there).
Imagine the tenderness of this sight in Mostar, with the servo-Croat word Sobe replacing our Quartos. And that announce, in such building... My god!
In Mostar you do not need to change money unless you have pounds or dollars as both euro and croatian Kuna are accepted. The good thing is they don't just accept euro or Kuna but they give you the change in the currency you pay: just perfect for a day trip.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has one of the most interesting currencies in Europe. The local currency is the Convertible Mark (Konvertibilna Marka) comprised of 100 Feninga. The Convertible Mark (KM) was introduced in 1998 and at that time fixed at par to the German Mark.
As the German Mark has been replaced by the Euro in 2002, the Convertible Mark is now pegged with the Euro at a fixed rate of 1,96.
All bank notes except the 200 Bosnian Mark note come with two different designs; one for the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and one for the Republika Srpska. All banknotes are valid all over the country.
As Mostar is a popular day trip destination from the Croatian coast, many prices are stated in three currencies: Bosnian Convertible Mark, Croatian Kuna and Euro. Especially the Euro is usually exchanged at a very fair rate, close to the fixed rate of 1,96 KM.
An old tradition keeps being regularly respected: some boys, after collecting a small amount of money from the curious visitors, jump from the bridge, diving in the river 30 meters below.
Tradition says that they must hit the water with the chest and not with the head, but I couldn't confirm it: everything is so quick that I'll wait to see it in slow motion in the video. I'll let you know!
...seems to be a remarkably popular activity. Sitting at a restaurant just along from the bridge of an evening, there must have been at least six jumpers during a period of somewhat less than a couple of hours. Apparently it used to be a tradition for men who had just had their proposal of marriage accepted to jump off, as a kind of demonstration of virility, or something like that. Word is now that some people accost tourists and ask them to pay them to jump off, which is rather less poetic, but ingenious none the elss. And it is a long way down....
A marker on the Muslim side of town is engraved with the words "Don't Forget '93". The Bosnian War started in 1992 and finished in 1995. So why remember 1993?
When the war started the Croats and Muslims were natural allies against the Serbs, who subjected the town to an 18th month siege. Once the Serbs had been defeated, however, the allies turned on each other. Croatian forces started to ethnically cleanse the city, before Bosnian forces launched their own brutal counter-campaign.
The front line of the conflict still exists today, and it's easy to see just how fierce the battle was. Fighting carried on across this street for months, with massacres being committed on both sides. Today everyone mingles together peacefully, Muslim and Croat, but it's less than 20 years ago since they were tearing each other apart.
Well, when I travel by bus from Dubrovnik to Mostar many people showed and gave me options to stay at there place. I did not take any of them, because I never planed to stay over the night. So, here you can find private rooms at families and come closer to the culture. Do that instead of staying in any hotel.
It seems even a simple thing like a bottle of beer is not immune to the divisions of the past. Around the Old Town and eastern side of Mostar the beer of choice is generally down to Sarajevsko or Hercegovacko apart from the generic imported beers. However I was surprised to hear that in general, Sarajevsko Beer is not available in bars across town in the western side!!!
As a natural sceptic I had to try this and asked for a Sarajevsko in a bar in the western side of town and sure enough...no Sarajevsko. Thankfully this request was not accompanied by the expected glare of disapproval but with a cheery recommendation of Becks. This is when the glares did come out...from me....awful stuff that Becks!!!
All over the Balkans, Turkey and the Middle East the filled pastry, Burek and it's different varients, is the ubiquitous snack of choice. I have tried burek many times and have frequently used it as my cheap but filling stomach lining on my travels through this part of Europe and have to admit, the burek in Mostar and Sarajevo was the best I have tried so far, not as greasy as Turkey, Tunisia, Montenegro, Albania or Serbia. This is all down to the different methods of actually cooking Burek.
Bosnian Burek is typically of the rolled variety meaning it is baked in a coil. Technically Burek in Bosnia & Herzegovina is only filled with meat with cheese filling is actually simica, spinach filling is zeljanica and potatoe filling is krompirusa. However burek seems to be now becoming the generic term for all these fillings and I generally just get away with saying 'Burek sir' for my favourite - cheese filled burek.
In Mostar I got my first opportunity to see Burek being made in the traditional way - see pics.
Drinking Coffee is a national pass time in Bosnia & Herzegovina. All through the day, cafe's and bars are full of locals passing the time over small cups of the good stuff. On sunny days this spills out onto the cobblestone streets and is a great way of soaking up the local everyday atmosphere and of engaging in conversation with locals.
However, in the genuine coffee shops, don't expect cappucinos or skinny lattes. The coffee in a lot of these small local coffee shops is of the turkish variety, served strong and black in a turkish coffee pot and poured into small cups. If you like it sweet you can put it directly into the cup but it is more fun to do it the traditional way. Put the cube between your teeth and drink the coffee through it. Too sweet even for my sugar loving mouth but when in Rome!
BTW - Don't drink down to the bottom. The ground coffee is not filtered out so downing your coffee will result in a nasty mouthfull of ground coffee!
The people in Bosnia and Herzegovina are among the most genuinelly friendly people I have ever met. Don't be surprised if you are invited to share a coffee or some snacks with locals you get chatting to. Even in the 'touristy' areas where the locals are used to visitors you could end up in someone's home where you will be treated like royalty...the people of BiH take hospitality very seriously. It is nice to have some small gift handy to leave your host if you are the kind of person who likes to mingle with locals and engage in converstaion. You never know when you might need it. Needless to say it is not expected or entirely necessary but it is appreciated. I don't think I need to mention this but I will anyway...monetary gifts are not what I mean and will undoubtably cause offence if offered!
It is not only when entering mosques that you should remove your shoes. When entering a house in BiH it is customary to remove one's shoes. Even if your host tells you it is not necessary, it is polite to do so anyway. In our hostel we were expected to take off our shoes when entering...slippers provided! A bit awkward if you've been trudging the highways and byways all day and your feet are hot and sweaty!!!
When entering a mosque there are several things a non-muslim should be aware of. Apart from showing the obvious respect expected of all visitors to a mosque, shoes should be removed when entering (regardless of whether to asked to or not...entering the Mehmed Pasha mosque you may be told it is not necessary. You should remove your shoes anyway) Washing your hands before entering the mosque is also a sign of repsect and you should enter a mosque with your right foot crossing the threshold first and lastly as you leave.
Apart from that there are the usual things to be aware of when entering most religious temples, churches, synagogues and mosques...cover your legs and arms and women may be required to cover their heads...this will definitely be expected when entering the Dervish House in Blagaj.
One of the most popular beer brands in Bosnia and Herzegovina seems to be Sarajevsko Pivo. The brewery Sarajevska Pivara is of course located in Sarajevo, where it was established in 1864.
During our 1 week in Bosnia and Herzegovina I have tried both the light Sarajevsko Pivo and the light skimmed Sarajevsko Premium Pivo. Both beers tasted quite good, but I wouldn't say that they were fabulous.
There is no way we can pass up an ice cream here. It is a popular item and available everywhere…Its displayed so enticingly…many varieties ( many are a mystery as we only speak English) all swirled in a castle like mound.
Our favorite spot to buy it was across the street from Sadrvon restaurant. Here you can sit in the shade on an old stone wall and enjoy!!