Most SIT students require students to stay in the country they are studying in for the duration of the semester. The SIT program in the Balkans is unique in that way. We have two free travel weekends. For the first one I went to Slovenia-which I wrote about in an earlier post. Though we only had two days for the first travel weekend, we had four days for the second one since May 1st is a holiday in the region so we were given that day off and allowed to leave on Friday.
For my second long weekend I wanted to travel to the beach since it would be a little warmer but I also really wanted to visit Mostar, a town in Bosnia that has become well known because of the famous bridge that was destroyed during the wars in 1990s by Croat forces. It was later reconstructed in 2004.
After doing some thinking I decided I would go to Mostar and then Neum, the only town in Bosnia on the coast, that way I could see Mostar but also spend some time by the sea.
I went with one other SIT student, Smrithi, who also really wanted to see Mostar.
We left early on Friday morning on a bus to Sarajevo. The ride took longer than expected as we had to wait for over an hour at the border since someone on our bus did not have the proper paperwork.
Since we ended up missing the bus we planned to take to Mostar from Sarajevo we had some extra time in the city. Sarajevo is so beautiful so we spent some time walking through the old town.
The ride from Sarajevo to Mostar was beautiful. Bosnia is very mountainous and has many villages nestled between these mountains. Mostar looked very much like these town we had passed on the way, surrounded by mountains on all sides it was beautiful.
We found our hostel and headed to grab dinner. It was about 8:30pm at this point but the town was pretty quiet and not very many restaurants were open. Smrithi and I joked that Mostar comes alive at 2pm.
The next day walking around there were certainly many more people, especially in the old town. We sat and had coffee at a cafe overlooking the bridge. We actually got to see some people jump off the bridge! This is uncommon but we were a little surprised because the weather had not been that nice lately, which is probably why the jumper was wearing a wetsuit. I can’t imagine the water was anywhere near a comfortable temperature.
After a nice relaxed morning in Mostar we took a bus headed towards Dubrovnik as Neum lays between the two. There were many backpackers and tourists on our bus. It shouldn’t have surprised us since Croatia is a popular tourist destination but coming from Belgrade we were not used to seeing this many tourists.
We were the only people that got off at Neum-besides an elderly gentleman who seems to be from the area.
The town is right on the water with houses built into cliff, it was a beautiful sight. The weather was pretty nice when we arrived.
Once we found our hotel, which took some time as it was on the far end of the town, we went for a walk along the ocean. We found a nice cafe by the water for dinner. We chatted with out waiter who initially thought we were from Spain.
This is because when we approached the restaurant we tried to talk in Serbian, but we must have said something wrong because the waiter looked confused. He asked us what languages we spoke and as we both speak Spanish we said Spanish and English.
He tried proceeded to talk to us in Spanish and asked us what part of Spain we were from. When we told him we were from the States he was surprised and asked us what we were doing here. He was even more surprised when we told him we were studying Yugoslavia in Belgrade. He was really excited we were leaning about Yugoslavia, as are most people I have met in the region. It is not something people often study.
The owners of our hotel, two brothers, were equally excited when we told them what we were studying. We spent several hours talking to them about history and politics over the weekend.
Though Neum is part of Bosnia, most people who live in Neum are Croatian. It was nice to have a different perspective since in our program we don’t have much time to focus on Croatia.
It was also nice to be in a small quit town for the weekend and just relax and not worry about my independent study project.
Thou Saturday was beautiful we woke up to rain on Sunday, but this didn’t stop us from exploring. We left the hotel with out umbrellas in hand and came back very wet. We took a siesta in the middle of the after noon but ventured out again to visit our waiter friend for some ice-cream in the evening.
We had dinner at the restaurant below the hotel and meet a family from Sarajevo who was also interested in what we were doing in Neum. Before we knew it we were discussing politics with them.
On Monday morning it was time to head back. We started the long journey from Neum to Sarajevo and from there to Belgrade. We got home around 12am, tired and hungry, but overall it was a great way to spend the long weekend.