“The bridge is like a rainbow arch soaring up to the skies, extending from one cliff to the other. …I, a poor and miserable slave of Allah, have passed through 16 countries, but I have never seen such a high bridge. It is thrown from rock to rock as high as the sky” – famed traveler Evliya Çelebi
One of the most beautiful cities I have visited and a amazing example of Ottoman Architecture, Mostar’s Old City (near the Old Bridge) was added in 2005 to the World Heritage List. Mostar was built in the 16th century during the Ottoman empire as a frontier town on the edge of the Ottoman empire’s boundaries. It has great examples of Ottoman houses and architecture centering around the Old Bridge (Stari Most). The town itself is named for the guards of the bridge who watched over during the Ottoman rule. Spanning the teal blue waters of the Neretva river it a cultural gem of the south and one of the largest cities in present day Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The UNESCO Site
The entire area is beautiful and historic and named as part of the UNESCO heritage site. The bridge is by far the center of this area and the most famous icon. However the bridge sadly is not original. During the war in the 1990s it was destroyed from fighting. During the war, many of the beautiful monuments, churches, and mosques of the city were destroyed. The bridge was also destroyed when it was targeted by intentional artillery fire. Some say it was of strategic importance and others a cultural victim to a war between the different sides.
History of the Bridge
The bridge was commissioned in 1557 by “Suleiman the Magnificent” and built by Mimar Hayruddin a student of the famed Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan. It was at the time one of the world’s great architectural works and even today it is amazing how they created a bridge such as that at it’s time. But after over 400 years of standing in a tumultuous corner of the world through wars, revolutions, and various kings, it at last found its end in 1993 in the waters of the Neretva. It was said that even the river cried the day the bridge fell (it may have even looked that way due to the minerals in the bridge stone).
In 2001 the bridge began it’s reconstruction process through the concerted effort of many different international organizations and individuals. Finally in 2004 the bridge was reconstructed to the best of their ability. The first photograph is of the reconstructed bridge and was taken during my travels through the Balkans.
The city is a beautiful stop for a day or even a few days when traveling through the Balkans. Many folks in town were traveling from Dubrovnik on day trips (they will accept Croatian Kuna in addition to the local Bosnian KM). Be sure to check out the divers from the bridge who every summer dive into shallow waters of the Neretva. This tradition spans hundreds of years and is incredibly dangerous so it is not recommended for tourists to try. The divers know the waters and the depth well. They usually stand at the top of the bridge awaiting tips from the crowd before leaping from nearly 80 feet above the waters.
There is a museum located nearby the bridge that details the story of the bridge, it’s reconstruction, and also about the divers themselves. Worth a visit if you have spare time. Be sure to visit the nearby Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque for a stunning view of the bridge. There are many different churches and mosques in the area to visit and the crooked bridge (seen below) is also a nice little stop along the walk around the area. The old city is very compact and easy to visit during your time there.
If this is your first stop in this region, make sure to taste some Bosnian Ćevapi and also some Burek (comes in many varieties). You can also wash it down with some local soda “Cockta” which dates back from the Yugoslavian era when western sodas were not available.