Partway through the ride to Sarajevo, my bus stopped for a short fifteen minute pit stop. I hopped off for a breath of fresh air and was immediately approached by a man who’d been milling about the platform. It was the usual traveler’s chitchat – where are you from, where have you been, etc. When I asked him where we were, he said I was in a town called Mostar, about two hours from Sarajevo – and one of the most interesting destinations in the country.
I actually had heard the name before; I’d noticed it while skimming over the BiH chapter of Lonely Planet. Its description sounded pretty interesting, but I always just assumed I wouldn’t have time for a stop due to an ambitions Croatian itinerary (most of which got cut in favor of heading farther South to Dubrovnik). But now here I was, by total chance, standing in Mostar bus station.
“You should really stay a day or two, I’m sure you’ll find it really interesting” the man told me.
“But I already have a ticket all the way to Sarajevo, and my bag is locked in the bus luggage compartment.”
“Well, would you like to stay? I’m sure I could arrange something.”
“Well sure, but…”
“Don’t worry, I’ll be back in a sec.”
A minute later he returned, having arranged for me to sell the remaining leg of my ticket – from Mostar to Sarajevo – to someone already planning to buy the same. He asked the driver pull my backpack off the bus, and in the blink of an eye I was standing in yet another unexpected destination.
As it turned out the man actually was sort of a tourist tout – working with a number of hostels in the area – which did a lot to explain his nearly flawless English. Still, I feel like I shouldn’t classify him as such because he really didn’t behave like a tout at all. He was extraordinarily friendly, helpful, not at all pushy, and never asked me for a penny. He just seemed like a guy who genuinely wanted to share his love for his town with as many visitors as possible.
Once the bus had shut its doors and started on its way to Sarajevo, the man offered to walk me to a nearby hostel. This did pique my suspicion a bit, but when I confirmed its name as one of the “recommended” lodgings in Lonely Planet I decided it couldn’t hurt to follow.
Good thing I did, because the middle-aged woman who worked there didn’t speak even one word of English. Without him to translate, checking in would’ve been immeasurably more difficult.
Villa Sara turned out to be more of a Bed and Breakfast than a hostel, a three-story house whose rooms had been converted into guestrooms of various sizes and shapes. After the man translated my wishes he excused himself and returned to the station, after which the woman and I spent nearly half an hour tinkering with the WiFi until I got a satisfactory connection. Despite our communication difficulties, she was incredibly sweet and helpful – eventually moving me to the top floor just so I’d have closer access to the balcony, kitchen, and WiFi. Because the place was so quiet, I ended up in my own private 3-bed room.
By the time I’d checked in, gotten settled, showered, and notified my family of my new whereabouts it was starting to get dark. My energy was unusually low, partially due to the fact that I’d spent the first half of the day wandering around Dubrovnik.
But just outside I once again heard that unmistakable thump of an outdoors party…