Once upon a time some years ago, I decided I wanted to visit the city of Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina to see the famous Mostar Bridge. I also had another, more personal, reason for going – the location of Mostar offers the opportunity for an easy day trip to Medjugorje.
I heard the story of Medjugorje when I was a child and remained fascinated. On June 24, 1981, six children in the town of Medjugorje, Yugoslavia (today, Bosnia-Herzegovina), began to experience apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This apparition had a message of peace for the world, as well as a call to conversion, prayer and fasting. There was something magical about this faraway place and I had never imagined being in the position to be able to visit. (Medjugorje currently gets around 1 million visitors per year.)
An Opportunity Presents Itself
However, I had a work trip scheduled to visit Sarajevo. Mostar is just 2 hours away from Sarajevo. This seemed like the perfect opportunity. I utilized the chance to add on the short trip. I hopped on a bus and headed out of town (Mostar is about 2-hours from Sarajevo). Unfortunately, I was not feeling well at the time and took cold medicine on my way. I thought I had purchased a non-drowsy formula, but quickly realized even the bumps of the bus down the windy roads could not keep me awake! Falling asleep almost instantly, I was awoken when the bus came to a halt in Mostar. I juggled myself awake and jumped out of the bus eager to find my hotel in town. Finding a taxi from the bust stop was simple, and made it to the cutest, little hotel, built on a hillside – with a beautiful facade of rocks from the area. The guest keepers at the hotel sweetly welcomed me in and I settled into my room for the night. Later on I had a chance to walk around for a bit to see more of town.
Looking for a hotel in Mostar? Try the Hotel-Restaurant Kriva Ćuprija, it has a wonderful location and offers free breakfast.
The next morning after breakfast, I asked the hotel to call a taxi to take me to Medjugorje. I took a taxi because I was alone and had very limited time. I also did not want to worry about finding return transportation. The drive only takes about 30 minutes.The extra expense I spent on the taxi was well worth it! Little did I know at the time it would start raining right as we set out for Medjugorje.
Determined as I was to see the holy site, I pressed on. Driving into Medjugorje I vividly remember tour buses lining the street. I was surprised to see so many tourists here in this little town. There is a church at the base of what is called Apparition Hill. The driver parked here and we made plan for me to return in an hour.
By this point it was pouring down rain. Apparition Hill is extremely rocky and at this point was full of mud and little “rivers”. I had not packed rain gear, but was determined to make it to the top.
I did not have the right footwear on, but somehow managed to make it to the very top. Perched on the top of the hill is a statue of the Virgin Mary surrounded by a small fence. This area marks where the children were originally in 1981. Many people had brought flowers and laid them at the feet of the statue. There were two men standing on either side of the statue, silently, as if to keep the Blessed Mother company. There were also a few people nearby praying. It was an incredible site and worth what it took to get there.
I stayed for a little while and then made my way back down the rocky hillside, stopping at the church at the bottom. I popped into one of the gift shops where I purchased a few small gifts for friends and family and then went in search of my taxi driver to head back to Mostar.
Stari Most – Mostar Bridge
Oddly enough, the rain stopped later that day in Mostar and I had the opportunity to walk around town and get a wonderful view of the famous Stari Most – “Old Bridge”.
The bridge spans the Neretva river with two towers on either side and is a beautiful site. The tower to the northeast is the Halebija Tower and the tower to the southeast the Tara. The original wooden bridge was erected around 1557, and later replaced by a stone bridge by the Ottomans. The current bridge is a replica of the 16th century Ottoman bridge, that stood for over 400 years. Shelling during the Bosnian War destroyed the bridge. The new bridge reopened in 2004, with funding from The World Bank, UNESCO, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and the World Monuments Fund, as well as several other governments. The bridge was re-built with local materials using Ottoman construction techniques. Professional divers recovered original stones from the river and used them as material to rebuild the bridge.
After spending more time in town, I headed back to my accommodations for dinner. I then got ready to head back to Sarajevo in the morning having had a wonderful time here.
Traveling to Mostar offers a unique blend of history and natural beauty. You can explore the charm of old town with its cobbled streets and see the iconic Stari Most. Additionally, Mostar’s rich cultural heritage provides an opportunity to experience the warmth of Bosnian hospitality and savor delicious traditional cuisine.
Medjugorje is a spiritually enriching destination, drawing pilgrims from around the world due to its reported apparitions of the Virgin Mary. Beyond its religious significance, the serene landscape surrounding Medjugorje offers a tranquil retreat for those seeking inner peace, with lush green hills and a peaceful ambiance that fosters reflection and meditation.
Combining a visit to both Mostar and Medjugorje in your travel plan allows you to explore diverse facets of Bosnia and Herzegovina, from its cultural heritage and stunning landscapes to its profound spiritual significance, making it a truly enriching and memorable journey.
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