While I am writing this blog on the sunny terrace of one of Mostar’s cutest coffeeshops, a few things about the funniest things I noticed in Mostar, and about “Mostarians”, come together in this very moment: music, coffee, sun and village vibes.
We have now entered our 8th month here, so it’s time to start writing down some of these observations. Before you know it, we are so used to it that we do not notice it anymore. By then, they have become “our new normal”.
So here we go, my 10 most funniest, fascinating or interesting observations about Mostar and the Mostarians – seen through my own unique lens (and I apologize in advance if I happen to offend anyone here, not my intention ☺️).
1) Eighties music, always and everywhere… Well, maybe not everywhere. But in many places they seem to have an appetite for the good old eighties. Even at this very moment of writing this blog, I am listening to the oh so familiar tones of “ I won’t let you down” from Ph.D. ⏯
2)95% of Women’s names ends with an A. I had not noticed it until my Bosnian language teacher, Fatima, pointed it out. Thinking of all the women I met here I must conclude that indeed, most names end with an A… Iva, Stella, Draga, Mirzetta, Ivana, Jasmina, Kristina, Nina, Marina…. Just to name a few. I guess it has to do with the fact that in the Slavic languages the “a” is considered feminine.
3)Coffee as a way to the heart. Coffee is probably one of the most important ways to get to connect with Mostarians. Invite them for a coffee and their eyes just lit up. Morning, midday, evening or night; there is always time for a Kafa. It’s the ultimate way to connect.
4) Fashionably elegance with warm feet. During winter I often smiled at the way women tend to dress super elegant and fashionable while at the same time being pragmatic enough to keep the feet warm and dry with sturdy boots. Essential, as rains can be heavy and winds tormenting. So, I got myself some warm, sturdy boots and can tell you: lovely.
5) Sun = Outside. The moment the sun is out, even in the middle of the winter, you will find the terraces full with Mostarians sipping….yes, Kafa. This is more or less comparable with the Dutch, who also love a good dose of sun. But somehow in Mostar they seem to be taking it to the next level. There are moments where I wonder…is anyone at work at all?
6) The first statue of Bruce Lee…? In Mostar! I was quite surprised to come across a statue of Bruce Lee in one of the parks. That is not a statue you get to see every day. And there is, of course, a story behind it. In a divided city as Mostar (more on that in a later blog) it can be difficult to choose a hero that everyone can rally behind. It turned out that Bruce Lee, who symbolizes Loyalty, Friendship Skill and Justice was a childhood hero everyone could live with. And so, Mostar was the first place in the world to have a Bruce Lee statue. His hometown Hong Kong revealed one exactly 1 day later.
7) No matches to be found. In a town where so many people smoke literally everywhere (and I mean literally everywhere: bars, restaurants, malls, airports and even in office kitchens I was told recently) you would expect that every supermarket sells lighters and matches. Bingo for the lighters. But matches are just simply nowhere to be found. It’s a true machstery to me.
8) Confident drivers in tiny little streets. In the part of town where we live there are many tiny little streets winding up and down. I have been quite amazed by the confidence with which most of the car drivers are making their way up or down these streets, veering past pedestrians like myself, just missing my elbow or bag by an inch. While to me it feels sometimes as recklessness, I decided to look at it as sheer confidence in their own driving skills. And, in all fairness, so far they have never hit me. It just gets really annoying when there is heavy rain….
9) Mostar has village vibes. Mostar, even though well sized with a population of 100.000, managed to keep her village vibes. Whenever I walk down to the shopping area along the riverside, I can count on it to hear: Cao! sta ima! (Hi! what’s up!). Neighbours, friends, acquaintances... they all run into each other on the streets and what follows is often a lively and enthusiastic exchange of greetings and the latest gossip. Well, that’s what I imagine, because despite my efforts to learn the language I am still stuck on hello, thank you, goodbye. But it gives a pleasant “everybody knows your name” vibe.
10) Tough on the outside….but with a big heart. One thing that I noticed quite soon after arriving here, is that many people tend to be negative about their town, their country. It’s as if they cannot believe any living creature in their righteous mind would ever freely choose to live here. They ask “what do you think about Mostar?” in a way as if they are preparing to hear a load of complaints, to which they then will wholeheartedly agree. Anything negative to say? “Yes…this is Bosnia Herzegovina….”.
But…. I discovered something else, something that has fascinated me since. Because when I share all the funny, amazing and nice things that I have encountered in Mostar, you can see their faces brightening up and they swell a bit with pride. I found that underneath the initial skepticism there is actually a layer of love and compassion for their city.
And I would say, rightfully so! Because with all her greatness and imperfections, it is truly a unique place to live.