In September UK NARIC visited Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) to deliver a capacity building workshop for the ENICs in the region of the Former Yugoslavia.
Our workshop was hosted by the Centre for Information and Recognition of Qualifications in Higher Education (the CIP). The representatives of Croatian and Serbian Centres also attended the event. This was the last of the series of four capacity building workshops prepared and delivered jointly by UK and Croatian NARICs with support from the European Commission. Over the last two years the centres met in the UK, Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina with the aim of sharing good practices and promoting fair recognition in the region of Former Yugoslavia.
With a population of only around four million people, Bosnia and Herzegovina is highly ethnically diverse, being home to Serbs, Bosniaks and Croats. This diversity accounts for the rich culture with a unique mix of Eastern and Western influences. Crossing the historical Old Bridge of Mostar over the fast-flowing Neretva river is almost like opening the gates from the West to the East with mosques dominating the right bank and churches abundant on the left bank.
Unfortunately, the civil war that broke out in BiH in the early 90s showed that diversity may also lead to destruction. Mostar suffered greatly during the war with many of its historical buildings and bridges destroyed by bombings. Luckily, several large-scale restoration projects have managed to return its pre-war beauty and charm to the historical centre of Mostar, which has recently entered the UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
In turn, the locals quickly revived the century-old tradition of diving into the Neretva River from the newly-restored Old Bridge. The competition takes place in the summer so unfortunately we did not get to witness the event. Watching divers jump into ice-cold waters of Neretva from the 25-meter bridge must be quite an experience, no surprise the competition gathers thousands of viewers!
While the narrow cobble-stoned streets in the Old Bridge area are happily bustling with tourists, venturing a bit further out from the city centre is a slightly sombre experience. We were deeply moved by the cemeteries of war victims and the numerous deserted buildings still covered in marks from bomb shells.
In addition to its rich culture, Bosnia and Herzegovina also guarantees fantastic weather with very warm summers and mild winters. We visited the country in early autumn – apparently one of the best times to visit, as the summer heat might be a bit too much! This time of the year is also perfect for sampling delicious local fruit and vegetables. The supermarkets in BiH definitely do not need an “organic” shelf, as local organic produce can be bought in many street markets scattered all around town. Meat- and cheese-lovers would also not be disappointed…
Locals are also known for their love of coffee – apparently BiH citizens drink the most coffee per capita of all the former Yugoslav republics. But don’t expect a large mug of Americano, instead ask for a traditional coffee. It is very similar to Turkish coffee and might even be served with a bite of the local version of Turkish delight.
Mostar lies in a valley surrounded by magnificent mountains. Unfortunately the tight schedule did not allow us to venture outside the city and explore the beautiful countryside. But we certainly left the country with the hope to return and to continue our work in this region.
Tatsiana Zahorskaya, October 2013