Frank Bernheisel: The View From Here
Frank Bernheisel
Frank Bernheisel
Posted 4.12.18
Just Outside Washington

All photos courtesy the authors


Visiting Slano and Mostar
Wednesday, November 1, 2017

La Perla’s course from Korcula took her southeast along the Pelješac peninsula. The peninsula is over 40 miles long and the isthmus that joins it to the mainland is five miles wide. It is part of Dubrovnik-Neretva County, the southernmost part of Croatia. The county is broken in two by a 12-mile stretch of Bosnia-Herzegovina, which provides their only access to the sea.

The lower and separate portion of Croatia is a thin strip of the Adriatic coast about 40 miles long. To join the two pieces of Dubrovnik-Neretva County, Croatia started construction of a bridge between Peljesac and the mainland in 2007 but construction stopped until shipping rights and boundaries could be properly defined between the two countries. Once completed, this bridge will physically connect all of Croatia. La Perla arrived at the harbor near Slano, Croatia at night and anchored.

Slano does not have a quay that could accommodate La Perla so she anchored out. We were ferried to shore in the ship's tender. The tender was a large Zodiac, which held 8 or 9 in addition to the two crew members.


The crew helped those of our group who were not sure-footed on the tender. While it was sunny, it was definitely a cool but short ride to the town. There we boarded our coach.

From Slano we traveled back up the coast into Bosnia-Herzegovina and then out again to Lavorje, Croatia. This traversed the 12 mile B-H coast mentioned above and took us through two border checkpoints. From Lavorje we turned north and crossed the border into Bosnia-Herzegovina again.

The countryside in Bosnia-Herzegovina looks just like Croatia; it has steep rocky mountains with fertile valleys between.


The valleys were lush with vineyards, big and small. Vegetables are one of the most important farm products. We had a short break at a wide spot in the road where there were a number of stands selling produce and snacks. Luka, La Perla's owner, bought a basket of oranges for us all to share.

Our two-hour coach ride took us to Mostar, another small, hilly city with a river running through it. The City of Mostar has a total population of 106,000, which consists of: Croats (48.4 percent); Bosniak/Muslims (44.1 percent) and Serbs (4.1 percent). It is the fifth largest city in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the cultural capital of the Herzegovina region.

During the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s the fighting in Mostar was fierce with over 2,000 inhabitants killed and many buildings destroyed including the famous Stari Most Bridge. The bridge crosses the Neretva River and joins the Croat and Muslim sections of the city.


One of the first things we noticed in Mostar was damage from the 1990s conflict, including buildings that still had bullet holes.

Because many of the streets are for pedestrians only, our coach parked out of the center on the Croat side. The town was busy with lots of tourists and both sides of the streets were crowded with shops and stands selling a variety of things, including local art and handicrafts. The Stari Most Bridge (Old Bridge) over the Neretva River joins the Croat side of the City with the Muslim side and it was crowded with tourists. We joined the crowd.


The Stari Most Bridge was built by the Ottomans in the 16th century and is a UNESO World Heritage Site. It is the most famous and recognizable landmark in Herzegovina. It was destroyed during the Bosnian conflict in 1993. The stones were taken from the river from where they had fallen and the Old Bridge was rebuilt.

The bridge steps are steep in places and walking was a bit of a challenge. The stones are very smooth. Our guide recommended stepping on the raised horizontal stones, which were spaced for walking. However, it was awkward because of the steepness of the bridge. The tower, shown above the bridge, was where guards were stationed during Ottoman times and was also used to store munitions.


This is the Muslim portion of Mostar with the Koski Mehmed Pasa Mosque, built in 1617, on the left. Several minarets are visible in the pictures.


Our guided tour took us over the Stari Most Bridge to the Muslim side. Just over the bridge is the Old Bazaar, Kujundziluk, which is named after the goldsmiths who traditionally worked along this street. The street is truly a bazaar, and sells authentic paintings and copper or bronze carvings of the Stari Most, and much, much more. Our goal was a visit to a mosque that is open to the public.

It was not very large, but very interesting. We did not have to take off our shoes because they had removed prayer rugs from a blocked-off area into which we were allowed, just inside the door.


There was a pair of running shoes near where we stood, and a young man in a corner praying. Our guide, who was Muslim, talked about the mosque, which was probably distracting to the man praying. She indicated the Muslims in the town were different in that they are pretty secular, very few women covered their heads, and drinking alcohol was permitted. The right picture below shows part of the mosque with the beautiful painted walls and the steps leading to the place where the imam stands to speak.

After the mosque tour, we had a tour of a traditional Ottoman house. We entered through a gate in the wall that enclosed a small garden area; the toilet facilities of the home were on the immediate right as we entered.


The picture shows the entrance gate and the brown door is to the toilet. On the left of the garden was a separate room that housed the kitchen. We crossed the garden to the entrance and into a room for entertaining guests. The second level had a large family room and a smaller room with windows that over looked the river. The floors were covered with beautiful carpets. The right picture shows part of the interior, our Muslim guide and several of our group.


From the Ottoman house, we went to the Urban Grill restaurant for lunch and our group was seated on the balcony overlooking the river. It was delightful to sit down after all the walking, and to enjoy the weather and the view. This is the Stari Most Bridge with the guard towers on each side.


We returned to the coach for our trip back to Slano. We were ferried to La Perla by the tender and were just in time for cocktails and dinner. La Perla set sail for Dubrovnik.