(SARAJEVO – MOSTAR – SARAJEVO)
Another day – another adventure.
This time we decided to go to the southern part of Bosnia and Herzegovina to visit beautiful city Mostar situated on the picturesque banks of the Neretva River.
We thought that taking a bus at 9 a.m., will give us enough time for visiting the most remarkable places there. It took us only 15 minutes to get to the Main Bus station from Astra Garden Hotel, despite a morning rush hour. We bought return tickets, that cost only 30 euro for both of us, and had enough time to feed a homeless dog, there are plenty of them by the way, they are like forgotten ghosts of Sarajevo “mahala” (neighbourhood), you can see them almost everywhere…
So, our trip started at 9 am sharp.
We left busy streets of Sarajevo after 20 minutes and headed to the motorway. I will be honest with you, the way to the south was impressive: all that magnificent beauty of green hills and mighty mountains with snow on top, were shining like a diamond in the morning sun, sheep that peacefully gaze on the open meadows, green streams, bridges and tunnels, picturesque villages hidden among blossoming orchards, everything was soooo beautiful, that we did not notice those 2,5 hours. As we were getting closer to Mostar the landscape was changing, now we could see vineyards, sun-scored thirsty land and stones….
Finally, we arrived to Mostar, and started our adventure.
Mostar got its name by “mostari” it means the guardian of the bridge, the other theory – it was named by the towers on the both sides of the bridge “mostare”, where almost 160 people that guarded the bridge stayed. We thought it would be a great start to begin our sightseeing from the Old bridge.
I would like to give you one tip: Never ever take for sightseeing uncomfortable shoes if you want to stay safe and sound, flat pumps won’t be good either, if you are not interested to feel every stone from the Old part of the city under your feet. Believe me I have tried once, and I am not recommending you that.
So, what is the story about Old Bridge in Mostar?
In 1468 the region came under Ottoman rule, as Mostar was situated on strategically important crossroads between Adriatic Sea and Middle Bosna, Ottomans decided to urbanize the settlement. At that time it was named Köprühisar, or the Fortress at the bridge. Long time ago, there was unwritten rule, every town had to have two areas čaršija – commercial centre, and mahala – residential centre, after reorganizing the town Ottomans started to fortify it; this process was quite long – almost 46 years. Suleiman the Magnificent ordered to replace wooden bridge with the one made of stone, according to historians it was erected in 1566. The Bridge was 28 meters long and 20 meters high, it quickly became a real wonder of its time. I am not sure it could have been different: the architect was instructed under threat of death to construct the bridge of such dimension that it would be the widest man-made arch in the world at that time. The builder was the best student of another famous Architect Mimar Sinan and his name was Mimar Hayreddin.
You know, after seeing this bridge from all possible angles, I was impressed by the power and the knowledge of the architect. His bridge is a real masterpiece. Imagine working without all that modern technical support, machines, computers and other staff that help to make such huge constructions possible. So, I share the same point of view of an Ottoman explorer Mehmed Zilli better known as Evliya Çelebi, who travelled through the territory of the Ottoman Empire for more than forty years. He wrote down his adventures in the Seyahatname (Book of Travel), during his stay in Mostar he wrote also about the bridge “it’s like a rainbow arch soaring up 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”.
The Old Bridge stood for 427, until it was destroyed by HVO (Croatian Defence Council) on November 9th, 1993.
After the war, UNESCO, the World Bank, Aga Khan Trust for Culture and World Monuments Fund formed the coalition that was working on reconstruction of the Stari Most from 2001- 2004.
There is a veeery long tradition of jumping from the Old Bridge to the cold green waters of Neretva, since the water is really very cold even during the summer, it’s very risky, and this jump could be done by most skilled divers. There is traditional annual competition organized every year in July but during our visit to Mostar some brave jumpers where showing their courage to the tourist. It is also a way to earn money for local people.
If you have time for coffee, you can sit on the terrace café under the bridge on the bank of Neretva, it’s a lovely place to chill before you go further.
Some 30 meters to the west from the Old Bridge there is another bridge also built at the time of Ottomans, called Crooked Bridge. This bridge crosses the Rabobolja creek, affluent of the Neretva River. It must have been a rehearsal for building the Old Bridge. The arch is a perfect semicircle 8.56 m wide and 4.15 high. This bridge was destroyed in floods of 2000, but the reconstructions was initiated by UNESCO and completed in 2001.
We decided to have lunch in one of the best restaurants in the Old part of the city – Hindin Han. It is a rebuilt historic mill cottage building with two-layered summer terrace located above the river stream. The choice of grilled meat is fantastic and they have huuuuuge portion and what is most important reasonable prices. Try Mostar beer as well, it will go well with all that meat you will have on your plate 🙂
The narrow streets of the old town will catch your eyes with numerous little shops with all sorts of things. Beautiful necklaces, cesves (pot to make coffee, traditionally made of copper) of all sizes and styles, pashmina scarves of all possible colours, paintings and all other kinds of souvenirs won’t let you leave Mostar empty handed.
In 1878 Mostar became a part of another mighty Empire, Austro-Hungarian, and remain within its borders until the World War I. If Ottomans were well-known by bridges, Austro-Hungarians spent lots of money on infrastructure. One of my favourite buildings of that time was definitely Gymnasium. The first half of gymnasium was completed in 1898 it was designed Czech architect Max David, and the second part was finished in 1902 by project of another famous architect František Blažek. It’s very similar to Sarajevo Vijecnica. It is said that Austro-Hungarian desired to promote Bosnian national identity by creating an “Islamic architecture of European fantasy”. No matter how you call the building, it is totally clear that it is definitely another masterpiece. The Gymnasium was considerably damaged due to shelling during the Bosnian War, but renovation was completed in 2009. Right now, this is an example of two schools under one roof, today different ethnic groups have different curriculum.
We were also quite surprised to see the sculpture of Bruce Lee in Mostar Park Zrinjski.
It appears that the statue was created by Croatian sculptor Ivan Fijolic. The idea came from Mostar Urban Movement Youth Group. At first the bronze 1.68 m high statue, was set up in 2005, just around 65th birthday anniversary of martial arts legend. Very soon after that it was vandalized so after repairing it was brought back at the end of 2013 to the new location, where we found it. It’s like town desperately looking for a righteous role-model that would be above all ethnical divisions, who could unite more generations…
Time passed quickly, we were ready to go back to Sarajevo…
I still had mixed feeling about Mostar. On one hand, I admired its “wild beauty”: those stony hills that are so close to the town centre, the beauty of bridges and mighty stream of Neretva river, hidden narrow passages, and breath-taking views. On the other hand, despite all that beauty I felt subconscious anxiety. Who knows why: maybe it’s because of ruined buildings, maybe it’s because of stories from locals about post-war times, maybe because of the whole history…. One thing is for sure though I will definitely never forget that place.
From Mostar with love
While preparing this material I found lovely band. Their music will definitely complete the whole picture. Find out more by following the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0YKBKUiMl6k
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