The counselors at Camp California were given 24 hours off each weekend. We were split into groups and would all book an Airbnb together in random Croatian towns where we could tan, relax, and see as many Eastern European ruins as possible. Before one of our weekends off, our friend Kevin suggested that we attempt to cross the border and see Bosnia and Herzegovina. He briefly mentioned some place called Mostar, but it wasn’t really on anyone’s radar and we kind of agreed just to mark another country off our list.
Kevin, Maz from South Africa, Fab the Aussie, Rory, and I all squished ourselves into tiny rental vehicle and drove 3 hours through the Croatian countryside until we hit border control at the Bosnian border. We were stopped by some very stern looking police officers who just grunted at us as we practically tossed our passports at them in fear. Unfortunately they didn’t give us a stamp, which bummed us out, but we made sure to ask for one on the way back.
After a couple more minutes in the car, we finally found our Airbnb in the middle of a beautiful little town with red shuttered roofs and cobbled streets. Fab almost wrecked the car trying to park it in the very old and very small parking spot, but he managed it just fine in the end. We headed through two big wooden doors onto a patio with some flowers, lots of pots, and clothing hanging on lines. It looked like a scene out of Mamma Mia! Our Airbnb had this beautiful balcony that overlooked a huge cemetery. The Airbnb hosts told us that the graveyard used to be a park, but it was turned into a massive gravesite during the devastating Bosnian war in the 1990’s. The building next to us was still in ruins from the war and there were buildings in the distance that looked like massive chunks of them had been bombed. It was a bit eery to know that we were standing in what was once a warzone.
After changing into our fancy outfits, we headed down to the downtown area of Mostar. On the way, we stumbled upon a magnificent mosque and got some great pictures of Rory and Kevin’s bromance. They were basically attached at the hip after being co cabin counselors for a session.
We ended up walking through these narrow cobblestone streets with white washed walls everywhere and marketplaces lining the pathways. The whole city was buzzing with tourists eating, drinking, and buying at least 10 textile rugs – which I wanted to get, but Rory surprised me with a beautiful woven blanket instead. It was such a warm and happy environment to be around and we had a ball walking through all the stalls and chatting up the locals.
This side of Mostar had a hint of Morroccan influence, so there were a lot of Morroccan rugs, textiles, golden tea sets, and coffee everywhere. Bosnia has the BEST coffee!
We ended up walking all the way up to another gorgeous mosque called the Koski Mehmed – Pasha Mosque that was humongous and looked like it came right out of Turkey. We weren’t allowed in with our flip-flops and exposed shoulders, but we were more than happy to admire it from afar.
The mosque was situated right next to the famous Stari Most Bridge, which is the crown jewel of Bosnian tourist destinations. The stones leading up to the bridge are super rickety and have shifted over time, so it was very hard to walk up and over them. Otherwise, the view from the bridge was spectacular! It was an amazing sight to see and we even got to witness some daredevils jump off the bridge into the river below.
We ended up eating at a nice Turkish restaurant right near the bridge and talking the night away. We ended up with some hilarious inside jokes, laughs, and amazing memories from that night. After finishing up, we grabbed some burek for breakfast in the morning. Burek is a traditional Bosnian food that tastes a bit like a croissant with meat in it. I was skeptical about it, but it ended up being really yummy!
In the morning, we packed up all our things, left a thank you note, and headed back towards the Croatian border. We took a pit stop at the Castle Kosaca right on the outskirts of the city, which turned out to be this huge castle that lay in ruins for miles and miles up the side of a hill. We hiked all the way up, took some pictures, and then found the best croissants IN THE WORLD at the bottom of the castle. Now Rory can vouch for this – when I say these were the best croissants in the entire world, I am not kidding. They were melty magic and basically made me cry tears of joy.
On the way back, we were able to get our passports stamped (Yippee!), but it took quite a while to get through border control. We ended up being almost late for our call time at camp, but we literally ran back onto the resort as fast as we could! It was terrifying, but at the end of the day, we had so much fun rushing back together. I’m so glad that I ended up going to this beautiful city, because it ended up being way better than anticipated. If you are ever offered an adventure, never hesitate to take it!