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Trip Report T/R: Weekend Dubrovnik, Mostar, Sarajevo (or “attempts to get coffee”)

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This is a Trip Report on our trip this weekend from Dubrovnik to Mostar and Sarajevo. It’s been years since I’ve done this, and as it was pre-war, we wanted to see how the area had been restored and understand Sarajevo’s value and practicality as a potential overnight destination from Dubrovnik.

It’s about 4hrs 30 min driving time from Dubrovnik to Sarajevo – 270km. Dubrovnik to Mostar is about a 3 hour drive.
We used the classic route Dubrovnik, Metkovic, Mostar, Sarajevo both ways. It’s the best road and you’ll see different scenery each way. There are five distinct areas/regions on the route between Dubrovnik and Sarajevo:
1. Dalmatian coastal highway to Metkovic
2. Agricultural Neretva Delta
3. Spectacular Neretva river gorge to Mostar
4. Wild limestone pass over the mountains
5. Bosnian Alps down to Sarajevo.

We loved the Adriatic coastal scenery as we drove north from Dubrovnik along the E65 – great views of the Elaphite Islands and the Peljesac peninsula. It’s a two lane highway so ia pain for local traffic but a delight for sightseeing. On the way out, stop at the famous gardens at Trsteno if you have time (it’ll probably be later in the day on your return down this road). There is only a small section that actually leaves the ocean as we cut over a peninsula, so lots of pretty villages such as Slano and great photo shots of the islands.

As you near the Delta area, you enter and leave Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) – borders on this road can be more than a little confusing.
For me, the least interesting piece is the Neretva river delta which is the critical agricultural areas of this part of Dalmatia.

At Opuzen turn off the road to Split and onto the E73 towards Metgovic, entering BiH again here as you start to head into the mountains in the direction of Mostar. This area of the Neretva river gorge is a Herzegovinian region that still has close allegiances to Croatia, so don’t be surprised at the Croatian flags flying and the willingness to accept Croatian Kuna - probably the only place in this country so remember to get BiH Marks at the ATM or foreign currency change counter. We used a bank ATM shortly after entering BiH.

Decide now if you want to take a diversion off the road to the town of Medjugorje. Since 1981, it has become a popular site of religious pilgrimage due to reports of apparitions of the Virgin Mary to six local Catholics. It’s about 30 mins off the road. Watch out for signs. If you go to Medjugorje, you will be signposted to Mostar via a different (slower) route and not come back on to the E73.

If you stay on the E73, on the way through this “Heregovinian Croatian area” of BiH, stop at the quaint old town of Pocitelj, with its beautifully restored Hadzi-Alija Mosque, Sisman-Ibrahimpasina madras and the Gavran Kapetanovic house, all of which are open to visitors. The most striking object in Pocitelj is the Sahat-kula, a silo-shaped fort that towers from the top of the hill above the town. A half an hour later you’ll enter Mostar.

We liked Mostar and its famous 16th century (sadly restored) ottoman bridge and bazaar. Follow the signs for “Starimost” (old bridge) and leave the car at the car park there. It’s a very short walk down into the old town and the bridge. Walk over the bridge to the other side for more great photo opportunities, restaurants, some nice stalls and the mosque. The photo from the Mosque grounds is a classic.

This part of BiH is clearly into “Turkish Coffee country”, and I struggled throughout to get a decent milky coffee (cappuccino, late, flat white etc whatever you call it in your brand of English). My limited Croatian normally manages this important request easily, but this was different. I got some lethal, very short espressos, with/without cream, dodged the Turkish coffee in the copper pots as I’d tried that in Egypt and Turkey – even got a hot chocolate once : ). Not the most successful aspect of this trip.
If you’re journeying on to Sarajevo as we did, get back on the E73 into the mountains. Sarajevo is well signposted – in two alphabets of course.

A great potential stop for food or drinks is the Restaurant Zdrava Voda (means healthy water) at the top of a mountain pass on route between Mostar and Sarajevo. They specialize in roast lamb which comes highly recommended. Great views here too.
After the final mountain pass, you’ll notice a dramatic change in scenery as you drop down into a very alpine landscape on the road down to Sarajevo. We stayed at the Hotel Michel, about 200 yards on the hill above the old town.

In Sarajevo, some recommended stops:
• The old town (Stari Grad) and Bazaar, a large pedestrian area of old shops, crafts, food and mosques to wander around:
o The Copper workers guild has an area in the Bazaar full of various copper a nd metal crafts with artisans working there
o There is also an indoor Bazar within the main area of the Bazaar itself with some neat architecture, impressive old metal doors, barrel ceiling etc.
• Svrzo house: a wooden house owned by the Sarajevo museum, showing how a Bosnian nobleman lived in the 18th century. Self guided tours
• Coffee or drinks at the Viennese Café “Becka Kafana” in the Europa Hotel for Austro Hungarian grandeur and people watching on the street - this is Chris “the Coffee” writing  so what would you expect on this list?
• The Sarajevo War Tunnel under the airport runway that connected Sarajevo to freedom during the siege
• Eat Baklava – with lots of water or coffee

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