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The Hostel Life for me – a retrospective

It’s been a month since my last blog post and it really is about time I posted again. Not being able to think of something to write about, I found this old unpublished post in the vault, whilst doing a routine clean-up of PDAs, phones, and memory cards. I’d written this just after I left Mostar, Bosnia, and started on into Montenegro. It has been tirelessly restored by a dedicated team, and is reproduced in its full form, here for you.

Excluding the quick 10-15 minute power naps on the bus this morning, it’s now hour number 33 since sleep was my nearest and dearest friend.

After the tour pretty much wiped out any energy I might once have owned, we left the hostel en masse for the nearest alcohol we could find… Small twinges of bad ideas probably began around to be realised around that 30 minute argument between the police and the bar owners over whether they should close the bar, since it was well past last orders.

Or perhaps it all started before that, when Aaron convinced me that the 7am bus to Budva, Montenegro was a really good idea. Riches lie there. Milk, honey, that sort of thing. The alternative was a stop at Dubrovnik, which I was a little opposed to having already spent a couple of nights there back in 2004.

Although, the point it all started spiralling into the pit of really bad ideas, actually, if I’m completely honest with myself – was probably around the time we all decided that ending the evening by visiting Mostar’s only nightclub was a really good idea..

This is a weird travel-circuit – there are very few hostels, and there are very few directions in which interesting things lie. Split, Sarajevo, Mostar, Dubrovnik, Budva. The only choice most travellers in this area have is whether they’re going North or South. Both Montenegro and Albania only have 2 “real” hostels in the whole country, I’m assured. The others are clearly mere pretenders. Not hostels at all. 5* hotels masquerading as traveller meeting points, with golden bunk-beds stuffed with goose feathers from paradise, I would assume.

Most people I’ve spoken to about my holidays have asked me if I wouldn’t prefer travelling with other people instead of on my own. If you’ve never stayed in a hostel or you enjoy the opportunity to meet with large groups of complete strangers with very different backgrounds. Now’s the time to try.

What I’m trying to say is… It probably all went wrong, when I went clubbing.

I’m not much of a dancer. The best places to drink only really serve beer, they have warm fires, a pet cat, a quiet jukebox lightly humming any number of rock classics, they’re often found on the back of a mill. They most certainly don’t have bubble machines. See, there are two types of people in this world. People who love clubbing, and the people like me. Fortunately I wasn’t the only person like me in our group, as quickly became apparent after a few beers. “What the fuck are we doing here?” asked Welsh Alun. “You’re right, I hate clubbing”, I replied. Our separatist group quickly grew in numbers, as we all stubbornly stood near the bar enjoying ourselves clubbing only through the act of collectively hating it. Still not leaving, of course.

And so it turned out to be quite a memorable night. We got back to the hostel in the very early hours. Others helped me to stay awake so I could catch my bus at 6am, including a trip into Mostar so I could actually see the place “by day”. Before it becomes hour 34, and the hallucinations get stronger – I think I should probably go and find my golden bunk bed, and catch a little sleep.

Mostar – The Old Bridge

The first of my catch-up posts written way back, but just now ready for public consumption (I have a stringent post approval process, as I’m sure you can tell). At least I can add pictures 😉

The (New) Old Bridge

I’m now in Mostar, one of the front lines in the Bosnian/Serbian war of the 90s, and one of the worst hit architecturally.

It was attacked by Serbian and Montenegrin forces in 1992 with an onslaught of heavy bombardment lasting 6 months. In May 1993 (just over 15 years ago, remember) – Bosnian Croat forces within the city attacked the Muslims living there. They were taken from their homes, moved to detention camps, dividing the once united city into two distinct halves.

There is a strong emphasis in Bosnia to never forget, through leaving some destroyed buildings as a monument, to simple plaques alongside rebuilt areas. “Forgive, yes … But never forget” says Bata. It seems a healthy way to be, but undoubtedly a lot easier said than done.

Don't Forget '93

The Old Bridge in Mostar once stood for 500 years, and was visited by people from all over the world throughout its lifetime. It’s the symbol of Mostar, and regular diving traditionally takes place from the highest 21m point into the freezing river below. Everything seems to be built around that single central point which draws the focus of the town.

Once it was gone, everything the bridge had stood for in the city went with it. Christians, Muslims and Jews became divided. After the war, it was replaced with a wooden bridge before being rebuilt to be identical to the old bridge and reopened in 2004. This meant using stone from the same quarry, as well as using the old methods with no modern technology. It’s said that the original Turkish architect fled to the nearby Dervish monastery after it was completed the first time, through fear that it would collapse once the scaffolding was removed. I like to think the same tradition was held to this time around, and if you stay real quiet, and watch very closely – you can still find that man hiding out amongst the pigeons in the caves below.