Local currency - Convertible Mark
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As the German Mark has been replaced by the Euro in 2002, the Convertible Mark is now pegged with the Euro at a fixed rate of 1,96.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.
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Local beer: Sarajevsko Pivo
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.
- Beer Tasting
This is something that is a little personal to me, but might be of use to others as well. I tend to stay on the Muslim side when I visit Mostar, and thus there are many Muslims in the street. Some of the women do cover their hair and dress conservatively and because of that i try to be respectful of their culture. It is not a town that I would feel comfortable wearing short shorts in or extremely lowcut tops or anything that revealed a lot of skin. I like visiting the mosques and feel that dressing like that would be disrespectful, even though I am not of that religion.
Entering a mosque
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.
Take off your shoes!
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!!!
Snack on Burek
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.
Choice of Beer
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!!!
Have a gift handy!
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!
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!
Mezarje - Muslimansko groblje
Mezarje is Bosniak name for cemetery, and is usually located near the mosques. Unlike the Christian graveyards it can not absolve the fence, unless specifically cemetery where are buried the Muslim priests and dignitaries.
Mezar is name for the grave, which is marked with "nišani", upright tombstones in white color.
Turbe is mausoleum, usually of richer or well known person of the community....
Restaurants with the view
Maybe these restaurants in the pictures are not the best in Mostar, but their location is just perfect and provide the most attractive view of the Old Bridge and the River Neretva. They are located in the immediate vicinity of the bridge, on the left and right banks of the green river. Thick greenery around terraces creates a special atmosphere and relaxing peace that disrupts only the murmur of the river nearby...
stone paved walkways
It is known that in war, besides people, cities are the biggest victims. War commanders, who issued orders to hail the places where people live, with all destructive weapons from the earth, water or air, are nothing but monsters and war criminals. I was witness, in my own country, of destroyed houses, schools, churches and even hospitals and war chiefs have tried to justify that it was all a military targets.....
At its inception "medresa" was a private secondary school, usually located in the home of donors who had a right to dictate the curriculum and courses that will the teach in the school. Over time, as the number of students grew, the private houses became too small, so they started to built medrasas within the mosques. Nowadays medresa is an integral part of the mosque. Medresa is Arabic word meaning "place of teaching".
Medresa offers religious and general education, with the emphasis of the moral education of the students.
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!!
- Budget Travel
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Sunny days in Old City
Even in October, whole Herzegovina, including its capital Mostar, has lot of sunny days. Young people "flooding" coffee bar in whole city. Having coffee and chat with a friends in some coffee bar on the Neretva bank is such an adventure. Or, find some cookie-house and try some of oriental sweets such as "salep" or "tufahije". I don't want to explain you what is that. Trust me and try it.
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