Week in Review: Week 18
As of this week we have been travelling Europe for 4 months! It’s a little crazy to us, as time seems to be flying by. Now when we think of our time in Scandinavia or Central Europe, it feels like a trip we took years ago. We are 1/3 of the way done our trip and we just can’t believe how many cool things we have seen already.
This week we headed to our 15th country - Bosnia & Herzegovina. We spent the majority of the week in Mostar and had so much fun walking around this small city. It’s been one of our favourite cities in the Balkans, so all of our highlights this week are from Mostar.
Highlight of the week
Sharleen: Bosnian coffee. I’m a huge coffee fan - I can never have enough coffee! So I was excited when we arrived in Mostar and saw that Bosnia & Herzegovina is known for something called Bosnian coffee. It’s similar to Turkish coffee, but I’ve never had a Turkish coffee, so I wasn’t too sure how to drink it! We found this awesome café called Café de Alma, which is THE place to have Bosnian coffee in Mostar. It was a great little shop that only sold coffee, tea, and a few homemade juices. The great thing about this café is they love coffee experiences, rituals, and education. When the coffee was ready, Sara (they lady who made my coffee) came over to our table to prepare my coffee and explain the steps.
The first thing you notice is that the coffee arrives in a beautiful copper container called a džezva. The džezva sits on a tray with a small coffee cup called a fildžan, and another small cup that has a Turkish delight. Sara took some foam from the džezva and put it into the fildžan. She then slowly poured some coffee into the fildžan. You get two small cups of coffee in one pot, but when you pour your second cup you just need to make sure you go slowly and don’t pour ground coffee into your cup.
The coffee was delicious! Tasted like a chocolate espresso. I enjoyed a few of these this week, one place in particular was along my favourite street in Mostar. It looked like something out of a medieval movie!
Darrell: Waking up early to take photos in Mostar. Now if you know me, waking up early is most definitely never a highlight, but in spite of the fact that I hate waking up before 8 on a normal day, this day was really awesome. Waking up early and getting to a place before the crowds arrive, really out weighs the comfort of staying in bed. When you are standing on a bridge, walking the old town streets, watching the sunrise over the city skyline, and there are no other people around, it really gives the city a different feel. It feels more reflective and you are able to think about the history of the place instead of how hectic and touristy it usually is. It’s really nice to be able to look down at the cobblestone streets or up at the stonewalled buildings, and not be interrupted by a stream of tourist that just got off a guided bus tour. I know it isn’t possible to see every sight without other tourists around, but when we can, it is extra special!
Least favourite part of the week
Sharleen: Back to tourist destinations. Since July 15 we really haven’t been in touristy spots. It’s been great! We purposely planned our trip to be in the Eastern/Balkan region of Europe during the summer when we hoped it would be less touristy and less expensive. During the summer months Europe gets crazy busy, so we wanted to avoid as much of the crowds as possible. We’ve been so fortunate to see beautiful sites without crowds, and discover places that are less known to the rest of the world. But now that we are moving more central we are noticing more crowds - especially in Mostar. The crowds by the Stari Most Bridge were quite crazy mid day. On the bridge people are snapping selfies, and down below the bridge everyone is trying to get an Instagram banger. Sometimes it’s funny just to watch everyone posing for pictures.
Darrell: Smoking indoors. This is something I haven’t had to experience in what feels like forever. Smoking is very prevalent in most of the places we have visited. This makes it very common to have smokers on patios of restaurants or outside, but in Bosnia, there is a surprising amount of smoking indoors. I forgot what it feels like to be walking through a mall or to be sitting in a restaurant and have your eyes water from cigarette smoke. In fact, at home I almost forget that people smoke because they have to be outside (out of sight, out of mind) and they must stand a certain distance from the building entrance. It is funny how you get used to different societal norms. When I would walk into a building at home and there was a person smoking right outside of a doorway, I would be so annoyed, but here they will be smoking at the table next to me and I don’t really get frustrated. I’m not a huge fan of the smoke in my face, and it is definitely less than a pleasurable experience, but when travelling in a foreign place it’s way easier to except things that would usually make me upset.
Favourite city/town/village visited
Sharleen and Darrell: Mostar. The Stari Most Bridge is the main reason we planned to visit Mostar. It seems silly that we would plan a full three days in a city for a bridge, and we have to admit that while we were driving there Sharleen was second guessing booking three full days here. But we are so glad we left our booking as is, because three days was perfect. We loved walking around town and exploring the beautiful cobblestone streets. Mostar might have the most beautiful cobblestone we have seen so far on our trip! The old town is covered in stone, and the patterns are so detailed. It really looks like art.
The bridge is the main attraction in the city, and we spent probably close to 6 hours walking around town exploring all of the bridge viewing places. Hanging out early in the morning to capture the bridge without anyone around was super fun. We enjoyed the peace and quite while we had the whole place to ourselves for about 30 mins.
Another thing about Mostar that we found so interesting was all of the visual history showing the scars of the Bosnian war. On many buildings throughout town you can see bullet holes on the sides of buildings. You can also see abandoned buildings that were used during the war, now full of beautiful street art. Right beside our Airbnb was an abandoned bank. The 8-storey building was one of the tallest buildings in Mostar, and was used as a sniper tower during the Bosnian war. We both really appreciated walking around the building and seeing the remenants of the scars left after almost 30 years. It made us really stop and think about what it was like for people during such a scary time. Being from Canada we are so fortunate to have never experienced anything remotely close to what this city (and the rest of the Balkans) went through.
Sharleen and Darrell: Pablo’s Special Steak. We were quite hungry after our early morning picture taking, so we decided to walk over to a steak restaurant near our Airbnb. We asked the waiter what he would recommend, and he immediately said Pablo’s Special. We both love steak, and have only had it 3 times since being in Europe, so we were excited! The steak was shocking delicious! It came out perfectly medium rare, and was a beautiful tenderloin cut (Shar’s favourite!). There was a red pepper/tomato/corn sauce on the steak that was also quite tasty. But honestly we would have been happy with a naked steak. We each order grilled vegetables as our sides, and they were perfect as well. It was a great combo and absolutely hit the spot. It seems like ever week, but writing about it now is making our mouths water!
We are enjoying a few more days in Bosnia & Herzegovina, in the small town of Jajce. From here we are heading to Croatia to explore Plitvice Lakes! We went there last year during our Croatian vacation, but only had one day in the area. One day didn’t seem like enough time, so now we have three full days to explore the area. We are suckers for waterfalls, and Plitvice is STUNNING, so we are excited to return.