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Your Guide to Mostar Bridge, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Mostar and particularly the Mostar Bridge, or Stari Most as it’s known locally is one of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s major tourist attractions. In fact, most people visiting Split or Dubrovnik in Croatia will take a day trip to Mostar to see the iconic bridge. So what makes this bridge so special? I think it’s a combination of it’s striking Ottoman architecture, the beautiful blue Neretva river it crosses, the divers who leap from the bridge into the depths of the river and it’s long history which has seen it destroyed and then restored from the rubble.
Earlier in the year, we decided to visit Mostar and experience the place for ourselves. The Little Donkey absolutely loved the bridge, and we decided to sit at one of the little cafe’s that overlook the bridge and observe it in all its glory. Interestingly the old bridge area is just as fascinating as the bridge with its Ottoman buildings which house cafe’s, restaurants and souvenir shops. It’s easy to forget you are in Bosnia and Herzegovina. One thing is for sure; everyone needs to pay a visit to Mostar and walk across the UNESCO inscribed Mostar Bridge and experience if for themselves.
Mostar Bridge – Stari Most
The Mostar Bridge, or Stari Most, is the shining light in Mostar, a city where the Neretva River snakes its way through the picturesque Mostar valley. Built in the 16th century and designed by Mimar Hajruddin, Mostar Bridge took 9 years to build and is an excellent example of Ottoman bridge architecture. For its time the bridge was technologically advanced for a single span stone bridge.
The bridge stretches for around 29 meters in its full length and is around 4 meters wide. It has two towers which historically housed the Mostari (bridge keepers). Despite its gentle appearance from afar, do be aware that the bridge is a little slippery and has an incline, so be prepared and wear appropriate footwear.
How to Get to The Mostar Bridge
Bus – There are two main bus stations in Mostar, and they are both within walking distance of each other. You will find that buses run between the capital and Mostar regularly, every hour, and the scenic journey is around 2.5 hours in length.
Train – The train ride from Sarajevo to Mostar is probably is an experience in itself with picturesque landscapes, ancient viaducts and tunnels, steep mountains and abundant greenery. The train departs twice per day and takes just over two hours.
Drive – Mostar is very easy to reach by car, either from within Bosnia & Herzegovina itself or from neighboring Croatia. If you are coming from the latter, from Zagreb simply drive along the A1 towards Split, and then head towards the border. From there, the journey is pretty much straight on. If you are driving from Sarajevo, it is around two hours’ drive, through the beautiful Neretva River Valley – be sure to stop off for a few pictures as you go, but stay on the paved roads and routes.
History of the Mostar Bridge
The bridge was designed by the renowned architect Mimar Hajruddin and stood for a proud 427 years before being destroyed during the war. After a few years, an international scientific committee was established by UNESCO and arranged a team for the reconstruction of the bridge, along with many parts of the Old Town which were also damaged and destroyed. The Stari Most and adjoining area are an important historical, cultural and architectural treasure to the world worth preserving and fortunately this was recognized by UNESCO and they took action.
In 2004 the bridge reopened, and from that time it has remained one of the most famous and special attractions in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The Bridge Jumping Tradition
One of the best things to see in Mostar are the bridge divers. They draw large crowds who want to see them perform their death defying leaps into the Neretva river below. Now, this is not something you should decide to do willy-nilly, because the waters are dangerous, and many people have been injured or even killed by simply deciding to try it for themselves.
The tradition of jumping off the Mostar Bridge began in 1664. Local tradition says that 16 year old boy must jump from the bridge as a right of passage, but more importantly, it is said that the boys life will be a complete failure if he doesn’t jump. Doesn’t leave you many options, who want to be a complete failure! Since the reconstruction of the bridge the Mostar Diving club have been maintaining records of all those that jump from the bridge.
Whether it is competition time or not, you will often see young men in swim shorts walking around the vicinity to the bridge trying to collect money, and when they deem enough has been collected, they please the crowd by performing an elaborate jump from the bridge, plunging down the 24 metres to the surface of the water – it’s quite a thrilling sight!
As we mentioned, don’t ever try and simply jump off the bridge yourself, but you can buy training from the local jumpers, where you will learn how to jump and how to land, and you will then receive a certificate for your own personal jump! If jumping isn’t for you, however, there is a little beach just below the bridge where many people head to dip their feet into the waters. It’s also a great place to take a photo of the Divers in action.
The Stari Most of Mostar really is one of the sites that you must absolutely must visit when travelling through the Balkans.